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Where is the jazz?

18 Jul

A lone man stands against the wall, one foot up on the wall, knees supporting the saxophone in his arms. The next instant, a haunting sound floats out of the instrument.

The scene is so common in New Orleans that it has become one of the cliche images that represents New Orleans jazz in illustrations, paintings, and movies. It was a new experience, however, when I first encountered the sound as a 16-yr-old. I lived less than ten miles away in a suburb but New Orleans was a different world. The sax, the man, and the sound pervaded my senses and became my first memory of this city.

Jazz was also a different world. I filed away the man and his music until college where I briefly dated a trombone player who played in a jazz band, I went to all the touristy jazz places in the city with my fellow students at Tulane University in New Orleans, and attended sporadic live jazz and blues concerts. Yet, the spirit of jazz did not enter my music consciousness. I was obsessed with the poetry and angst of The Smiths, the danceability of New Order, the artistry of Laurie Anderson, the craziness of the Talking Heads, the other-worldliness of Cocteau Twins…

Over the years, I continued to participate in jazz but only as a social activity, never with any authentic passion. Recently, I was listening to a jazz orchestra at Yerba Buena Park in San Francisco. The music reminded me of New Orleans and brought back memories that I had not realized I had collected. I find myself intrigued, finally, by the sounds that blossomed only ten miles away from my childhood home but did not find a place in my heart.

Thus, I’m exploring jazz here for the next few weeks and approaching it with a beginner’s mind…

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Posted by on July 18, 2011 in jazz, listening, memory, New Orleans, sound

 

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