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Jazzy Nights and Splendid Days

May 26, 2013

I just got home from a wonderful jazz concert with my parents. I mean it, it was positively delightful. Great timing too because I have been feeling a little under the weather lately with all the things currently on my plate, i.e. school, school, school.

Today has just been superb. I spent the morning in bed reading Jeannette Walls’s The Glass CastleIt’s my second time reading it, and I still love it just as much as I did the first time around. The first time I read it was around late December when I had received it as a Christmas gift. It took me a day to finish the book. This time around, it took me a day-and-a-half.

At lunch time, I went out for a walk. I then got take-out from my favourite sushi restaurant and came home to eat it. After lunch was more reading, but this time, in the garden. It was cold out — 12 degrees, I believe, but it was sunny and the birds were chirping. I couldn’t resist the temptation of sitting on the back patio with my hot cup of fresh mint tea. With that, I wrapped myself tightly in my blanket and went outside. You know, I always thought it was sort of cruel to swaddle your baby; I mean, it just seems so uncomfortable! But when I was wrapped tightly in my blanket cocoon — my own swaddle — I discovered why babies love it so much: most comfortable thing ever. So anyway, the next couple of hours went like that. Just me, my book, my mint tea, and the birds. Oh, and the squirrels.

(Sidenote: I saw a squirrel hanging upsidedown from a tree branch today for the first time. He/she was way up high, so when I looked up at him/her, it seemed as though he/she was hanging from his/her tail — like an opossum! But then I later realized that he/she was clutching to the branch with his/her toes. Very interesting indeed!)

We arrived at the venue where the concert was being held at around 6:30 p.m. and was served a very scrumptious dinner. My family is a close friend of the man who organized the whole thing, so we had an “in.” It was kind of nice actually. After dinner, we were ushered into another hall to hear the likes of Sophia Perlman, the Mike Field Jazz Quintet, and Bryan Toner Jazz Quartet play. Boy, was the music good.

No, it was exquisite.

Lately, I have been really getting into jazz music. I was always the occasional listener; most of the jazz music I had ever listened to came from the stereos of the local cafés. I’ve always loved that kind of jazz; y’know, the Ella Fitzgerald Cry Me a River kind. But with the other kind of jazz… well, I had always thought it was too noisy.

Well, maybe that other kind of jazz — the foot-tapping, head-bopping kind — is an acquired taste because seriously, I LOVE it now. My dad recently introduced me to real jazz. We were in the car a couple of weeks ago, driving somewhere, when my dad turned to me and said, “Hey listen to this. I found this great radio station; it’s wonderful. So relaxing.” He turned up the sound and of course, you can see where I’m going with this: it was the local jazz musical station. I opened my ears but still dismissed it in my mind as just another one of my dad’s latest obsessions. I couldn’t understand why he was changing over from classical to jazz. For as long as I could remember, we had always had the car’s radio preset to the classical channel. My friend even once told me that whenever she was in my car, she felt as though she was at a dentist’s office.

But after a couple of days of riding in the car, I started warming up to that jazz station — so much so that I started listening to that jazz station on the radio in my bedroom. Today’s concert was the crème de la crème. Even though I had attended a jazz concert back in November where Sophia Perlman and The Mike Field Jazz Quintet had also performed, and even though I had enjoyed that concert too, this one was different somehow. It was like something clicked in my mind.

There is just something about jazz music that makes it so much more special than other kinds of music — perhaps even more special than, dare I say it (?), classical music. Coming from me, that means a lot. Jazz music makes me want to get up and dance, no matter what the beat is. The loud, in your face, trumpet sound would have gotten me plugging my ears just a couple of years ago. Now, all I want to do is get up and start waving my arms about and snapping my fingers this way and that. It also makes me want to start scatting too although I’d probably be horrible at it. The soft, quiet, almost whispering kind of jazz songs make me want to get up, wrap my arms around my body tightly, and sway in the moonlight. Jazz has the power to, at times, make me want to open my arms up and want to embrace the world, and at other times, make me want to withdraw into myself. These polar extremities that I experience is not something I experience with other kinds of music. Sure, I love classical music; I really do. And up until a month ago, classical music was all I lived for. But classical music is not the same as jazz music. Maybe I’m not saying that one is better than the other; I love them both so much. I just love them in different ways.

Classical music makes me feel as though there is a world beyond this one — a universe that exists outside of us. When I listen to Dvorak’s Symphony no. 8, Allegretto grazioso or to Rachmaninoff’s Symphony no. 2, Op. 27, AdagioI feel as though there must be another magical world that hovers just above us — a world in which everything is just perfect, peaceful, and filled with happiness.

But it’s different when I listen to jazz. Classical music takes me to a place where everything is transcendental, contemplative if you will. Jazz brings me back down to earth. Jazz brings me down to what I know. The foot-tapping, head-bopping kind of jazz reminds me of that feeling I get when I’m so incredibly happy to be with friends, when I’m laughing so hard that my stomach aches all over, and when everything works out just the way I wanted it. That kind of jazz makes me feel happy to be me. The other kind of jazz — the achy withdrawal kind — makes me feel incredibly… weird. It makes me feel alone; it makes me feel like a wounded animal. A sad jazz song will make me feel as though someone is scooping the insides of my heart out to display it to the world. It makes me feel exposed; it makes me cry.

Jazz music is so raw. It’s a hands-on kind of music. I wish I could play in a jazz band; imagine how much fun it would be! Jazz music is not only a joy to listen to, it’s also such a joy to watch. There’s just something about the way the instruments come together; it’s so damn beautiful. The clicking of the piano keys, the thumbing of the bass, the soulful tunes of the saxophone, the blaring melodies of the trumpet, and the tapping of the drum…. That is music my friend. That is music.

The video clip below is the perfect example of the in-your-face kind of jazz I was talking about. The clip features Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong’s jazz band from the excellent movie High Society (staring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Grace Kelly).

I heard Chet Baker for the first time on the radio the other day. His rendition of My Funny Valentine made me want to curl up into a ball on my empty bed — no pillows, no blanket, nothing.

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