Posted by: jevcat | February 27, 2011

All That Jazz

Jazz is an ecstatic art form.  Jazz is Dionysian.  I enjoy moments of flow when they come, but they are a gift; I cannot summon them at will.  Jazz requires a boldness I lack, a willingness to push the boundaries, dare to soar or fall – publicly – that is foreign to my nature.  Bad jazz is truly awful.  But when a jazz musician hits his or her groove – or when a group of them sail together, alternately trading licks and melding, there is nothing else quite like it.

I came late to jazz.  I still don’t know it well.  In my 20s, I visited New Orleans and heard jazz at its source, sitting in the venerable – and, at that time, at least, decrepit – Preservation Hall, listening, enjoying – hey!  I actually like this! – and praying no one shouted fire, or had a reason to.  I also listened to the pat and well-rehearsed jazz from a “name” band resident at the hotel in which were staying and, even in my ignorance, knew the difference.  The jazz in the hotel, a smooth, well-rehearsed ritual, was jazz tamed.  The jazz at Preservation Hall, with its elderly featured pianist playing one-armed after what I guessed was a stroke, was still jazz in its natural state.

I heard a different version of that natural jazz on Friday night, when my brother dragged me to the wilds of Brooklyn, to the non-profit Williamsburg Music Center, a labor of love of jazz musician Gerry Eastman (who played with Count Basie, among others), where on Friday evenings a small group of jazz lovers gathers to listen to him and a few friends jam, spinning off a few sets for those gathered on sofas around, up close and personal.  This Friday it was piano, trumpet, bass, joined later by alto sax, enjoying themselves while we looked on, toes tapping, sipping wine.  The jazz is sometimes rough but fresh, intimate, and real.  On Fridays there’s also a short interlude of stand-up comedy provided by No Name, my brother’s performance entity (which has its own regular shows in Manhattan).

I didn’t have any revelations sitting in that overstuffed sofa listening and sipping my wine, I didn’t become ecstatic, bolder, or more willing to take risks.  But I did relax, and I’ll take that as a start.


  1. Thanks for this post–I agree totally. For a different style of jazz check out Wait for the site to load. There’s several tracks to listen to under music.

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