It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!
I think I’m rediscovering Jazz! I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months reading about and listening to the music of the likes of Sibelius, Haydn and Beethoven. I’ve enjoyed that process enormously and it’s very much ongoing and a work in progress. It’s partly about marvelling at the creative abilities of these very special individuals (with all their human failings) and partly about reflecting on the spirituality that I find encouraged there. That latter is, I think, in some measure about the response evoked in me, the way in which the music moves me and the emotions that it generates but also about a more elusive sense that the “spirit” which enables great art is related to the “spirit” which encourages creativity of all kinds in all kinds of people, enabling ordinary skills, simple acts of kindness and sometimes great acts of self sacrifice.
Two things then happened this last week. First we watched (not for the first time) the Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra film “High Society” which features Louis Armstrong and his band (Now you has jazz!!!!!). Second, having re-decorated the lounge we re-jigged our CD storage in a way that gives a little more prominence to our moderate sized collection of Jazz. Miles Davis is there ….. from the magnificent “Kind of Blue” to the impenetrable “Bitches Brew”; Oscar Peterson in many guises, and Gerry Mulligan with his baritone sax (“My Funny Valentine”) and many others.
Some would argue that a great jazz musician represents the ultimate in musical creativity, basing the music in improvisation and spontaneity – indeed some would argue that jazz should never be recorded; that listening to the same recording of “Kind of Blue” over and again is to lose those essential qualities. I can see the point of the argument, except that as a lover of classical music I can listen again and again to, for instance, the 4th Symphony of Sibelius and be as moved by it, so why not by my recording of Oscar Peterson playing “Georgia”?
Music is music ….. whether it’s the written down product of hours of wrestling with the intricacies of harmony and counterpoint, or the ephemeral brilliance of an improvisation created once on the stage of a jazz club really doesn’t matter. It’s that same “spirit” of creativity at work -and what a gift that is!