The first time I willingly thought about jazz was after I encountered odd printer names in a computer lab. Sure, I had heard of Miles Davis, but who they heck were Dizzy, Bird and Mingus? My dear friend explained to me that these names were but a few of the jazz greats that had affected his musical and artistic development so much that they spilled over into his duties as a computer lab monitor. "Jazz is life," he’d say over and over again, as if that explained everything. All I could ever say was "Oh, I don't really get jazz."
But he didn't let my attitude stop my jazz education. James subliminally subjected me to jazz bits whenever I drove in his car, went over to his home, or even walked down the street with him scatting away to an odd, unknown beat.
Last night, however, after my first live jazz concert, I finally realized what he meant. Jazz is life: it's the backbeat, essence, and building block of everyday life. When I hear the sound of traffic - horns, squealing tires and rumbling engines all blended into a seamless cacophany - I'm really listening to the sounds of an upright bass. As I wash dishes, pans, and silverware, I hear the syncopation of the percussion bumping and sliding along the bottom of the sink. Even as I type this, I hear a piano following the stacatto of my typing and a horn picking out the dogs barking outside.
Trite, yes. And not novel as far as epiphanies go. But, like any recent convert with the scales newly removed, I can hardly believe that I never heard any of this before. What planetary alignment had to occur to finally make me realize what jazz could mean? Was it the cool breeze and eerie sunset? The festival’s free Starbucks coffee? Or maybe the large quantities of wine and cheese my hepcat friends and I devoured? I prefer to think that James was with me in spirit, finally able to show me exactly what he meant all those years ago.
Hoo-ha! I finally get it!