The coolest damn thing

(Brick’s Picks, LA Weekly, 2006)

Sometimes it must seem like we’re rattling off the same names here week after week, but what so special about jazz (or any improvisational music) is that you’re never seeing the same thing twice. That’s the whole point of the stuff. A player might call out the same damn tune every week, but it won’t sound the same as it did the week before, or the week before that, or the week coming up. And more than likely several players across town are calling out the same damn tune on the same night, but once past the head (that is, the patch of melody at the beginning that you’ll recognize) it’s all unexplored country. A more educated writer could explain how and why, but we’ll just say that while you need to know that stuff to play the things, you don’t need it at all to hear it, and to dig it. Just listen as a soloist spins a story through his horn. It might be the prettiest thing you ever heard, or the bluesiest, the saddest, the strangest, the most romantic, the most visceral. But if you listen to it, and then feel it…you’re on to something. You’re on to digging what is to be a jazz fan, and just how good it feels to me moved by a solo, or be amazed at how players—the people on piano, bass, drums, the horns—make interweaving patterns, vibrant dynamic things, sounds you can almost see unfolding before you, and how they all come back together again at the head, that is where the melody of the tune suddenly reasserts itself. And that is the coolest damn thing.

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