All that jazz

What is jazz? For the most part it’s music that people don’t like. The beat, its free form structure or its improvisational style, the creative activity of the moment, grates on a lot of people, like nails on a chalkboard.

Maybe it’s the trading of lead parts when no one wants to hear a bass or drum solo.

But there are also many layers of jazz. Blues was once considered jazz, especially on the Mississippi Delta where it began. New Orleans jazz grew out of Delta Blues with a little help from the freedom of African and European. Guys like Django Reinhart and his Gypsy jazz melted with the bayou blues played by musicians such as Robert Johnson.

The combination of African and American music created opportunities for variations on a melody or developing new tunes in accordance with a set progression of chords and scales.

“Throughout the Medieval times, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, improvisation was a highly valued skill. J.S. Bach, Handel, Mozart,

Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and many other famous composers and musicians were known especially for their improvisational skills,” wrote Andrew Gilbert in “Jazz Inc.”

But I digress, jazz has a lot to do with the way we lead or live our lives. It’s a metaphor for being able to roll with the punches and throw a couple ourselves. In jazz, each player plays off the other in a call-and-response manner. He hears, especially in improvisation, the direction the other players are going and he follows suit. As a jazz tune becomes popular, the audience wants some semblance of the original song structure and melody.  But even in a popular jazz tune there are typically a number of bars that allow for improvisation.

What’s all this jazz talk and how can it relate to our lives other than listening or playing. Personally my newest grandson is named Osiris Coltrane – John Coltrane being one of the greatest jazz players of all time. I can’t help think about jazz.

We all want sameness in our lives. We want security as well. We hesitate to try something new, that’s why we see the same restaurants at every major interchange on the expressway. The closest thing we see to home cooking is a Cracker Barrel. What if there was a family-owned restaurant that offered the same menu next to the famous eatery. I’d give the family restaurant about six months before they closed their doors.

It’s something I just can’t get my head around. How we don’t consider trying something new and different. Before we try a new store (privately owned) or a new restaurant (owner operated) we have to hear, read or see advertising assuring us that it’s OK.

I’m not being  judgmental, I’m just telling you about myself and how I change as I get older. I want to try new things. I’m running somewhat short of time and my bucket list is overflowing.

I also think we hold ourselves back from digging into that bucket list. There are so many experiences to enjoy in the world.

On Saturday I was at a farmer’s market, south of here, and one of two bakers baked his bread in an open air oven in his backyard, yet had all the health permits he needed. His company name was Wheatley Lane Bread. I bought a loaf that was covered in poppy seeds, not my favorite seed, but I was encouraged by a friend to buy it.

All organic wheat flour, leaven, local hazel nuts, sultanas, currants, citrus peel, sunflower seeds, sea salt, local honey, olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, polenta dusting and, of course, poppy seed. The best bread I have ever eaten. It would suffice to say it would lend a jazz note to cold cuts, honey, any type of cheese or toasted and coated with a great spread and shared with a favorite wine.  

But if I hadn’t been a little adventurous, I wouldn’t have enjoyed this manna from heaven.

If we search out the ordinary, that’s what we get – ordinary.

Never have I met an ordinary person. Everyone has something different to offer. If you dig deep enough, you can find an interesting piece of them, which seems simple to them and allows them to be unadventurous and ordinary. But are they really?

Just as the jazz player riffs along with his band partners and improvises to make his bands sound more interesting, we have a chance to add a little more improvisation in our thinking and actions.

Sounds like preaching, but for me it’s something I am discovering later in life. Being open to new things, find adventure in far-away places, right in your home town or with your family – don’t sit still. Please don’t let your life pass you by, it does go by so fast. Have adventures and grab for every last piece of life that you can.

Can’t afford far-away adventures? Make your life more interesting at home. Television is not an adventure. Getting out and watching your kid play ball is better, and eating at a new locally-owned restaurant is a step in the right direction. Then get involved locally. There’s a lot of satisfaction in local participation.

Improvise; let the jazz come out in you. Live a little. Explore what you used to enjoy and gave up for a career or a new family. Take your turn and get in on the call-and-response of your life, and try something different. Jazz it up.


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