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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jazz Appreciation

Dave Brubeck

My dad loves jazz. Hence I do. We got to see Dave Brubeck, one of his favorites, when I was little at Pepperdine University in Malibu. When I learned how to play the piano, "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk" were the challenges I took on from a book of Brubeck sheet music. Jazz is hard to play. This month is taken to appreciate it.

Structured improvisation. Jazz is amazing because there is a magical balance between the written music and what the performer contributes. Space is provided. Discussion is expected.

Musicians live in the moment. I paint a portrait and, yes, do lose track of time, but then the painting persists. The moment of creation has left an artifact. Musical performance, even if recorded, doesn't really leave a trace. The vibrating air that carried the creation of the performer to you is still there, but bears no mark of having been involved in the art produced.

Jazz takes this a step further as each performance is created uniquely by design. This connects performer and audience as memory is truly the only record of each concert. In other genres of music, it is the solo which offers the performer the opportunity to express the moment as they connect to it. I love when Stevie Ray Vaughan or Carlos Santana or John Bonham or Gregg Allman spread out and let it rip.

Thus my favorite recordings are those which provide the structure of a written composition with the chance for play.

So when Dan Davis of the local news channel asked me to pick an album to play on camera, what did I grab? My vinyl copy of "Time In". It can be heard in the background of my news interview.

Who do you think strikes that balance best between structure and improvisation?


Dave Brubeck 04/01/09

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