Writing the words “my band” is not anything I ever expected to say in this life and I still feel like I’m a bit of an imposter daring to use those two words. But having just performed our 10-Years-Together Anniversary Concert to a very small group in a hall I rented, I do feel some encouragement to step forward more confidently into those two words. The “my” part feels off because every single one of these four musicians is at a higher level of jazz experience, virtuosity and expression, but it feels spot on when it comes to putting those talents to a different use than background music in the club, my vision of music’s power to create community and to include kids in that community. Truth be told, I left the concert a bit depressed about the way my own playing is always “a reach that exceeds my grasp,” but after beating myself up a while, a closer reflection narrowed the issues down to soloing on fast tempo tunes and there were many other inspired moments I had that I need to honor.
But that’s not interesting to anyone else. The letter I just wrote to the band might be closer, another look at this always emerging vision of music, soul and community that is a big theme in the 3,000 plus blogposts I’ve written and thus, worthy to be included here.
I don’t know how you felt about it, but leaving aside my own nagging self-doubts about my playing, I thought we hit a new peak yesterday—we ain’t just a band for little kids! Every single one of you was killin’ it! The combination of hard swingin’, soulful blowin’ and deep listening turned that room into a church/ dance hall/ ritual space where I could feel the Ancestors peekin’ in to check it out. As Karen confirmed in her comments, the range of the musical expression was far beyond the ordinary jazz concert. From the bottom of the belly to the height of imagination, from the gentle and lilting to the shouting and proclaiming, from the whimsical and humorous to the profound and deeply serious, we covered a lot of territory. Add to that the unique mixture of body music and the call-and-response singing, the 70 yr. old and the 13 yr. old, the blues and the bossa, the fast, slow and in-between, the solos/ duos/ trios/ quartets/ full group , the pre-arranged and wholly spontaneous, the virtuosic and the simple (but musical), all of which gave the concert the shape of a larger piece of music with connection and contrast far beyond a collection of random tunes. If, as Coleridge says, “every object rightly seen (every music rightly heard) unlocks another faculty of soul,” there were a lot of doors opening in that room!
The audience was almost all people who don’t ordinarily go to jazz concerts and I do think we’re worthy of an audience who does. But it’s also a great service we’re performing in our ability to draw anyone in regardless of their interest in jazz, be they kids or adults. Obviously, we’re not exactly hitting on the formula to “monetize” it, to carve a clear niche and fill it, but luckily we have our day jobs!
I do think the universe conspired to bring the five of us together in this way and to keep us connected for 10 years and I, for one, am grateful for it all. Here’s to the next 10—and beyond!
Love you guys!