To me, jazz is an unexplainable mystical phenomenon of humanity, that ultimate art of improvisation.
Can you imagine going on stage (if you can imagine it at all!), without really knowing what is going to happen? Yes, there is a program, something like a list of songs or tunes, as they call it in the jazz world, and a preliminary agreement between players not to step on each other’s time, and a plan as to who plays solo after whom and for how long… but the rest is in God’s hands.
Now imagine for a minute that you are a classical musician, and you are about to go on stage… You have a memorized solo program, at least 90 minutes long, that ideally you’ve performed for many years; your photographic memory leads you from one page to another as you embark on a story telling journey, this is a story that was written by great master, not you, but it becomes yours as you adopt the piece over countless hours, and sometimes years. You start living with this music and it becomes a part of you. You become an actor, the medium that connects the composer’s thoughts with the audience, and your goal is to be true to the original composition and to use your talent to communicate the piece to the best of your ability.
I am a great admirer of the unique improvisational ability of jazz musicians to communicate their immediate thoughts, which will not be repeated twice the same way. It is a form of art that exists only at one given moment. Jazz musicians develop their own distinct language, which is instantly recognizable. When a group of great jazz players in the moment, starts to communicate with each other through their musical thoughts: it becomes pure magic!
Subtle nuances of intimate conversation… unanswered phrases with question marks hanging in the air… mindboggling complexity of rhythm… individuality at its best, fantastic sensitivity in ensembles, and giant finales! The jazz world is so vast, encompassing indigo blues, sunny ragtime, red bossa novas, brassy big bands, sophisticated waltzes, wild and crazy modern fusion, all incredibly complex, like my favorites the Yellowjackets, and the almost classical Chick Corea. This is one HUGE world that lives a life of it’s own, a vibrant, colorful life on a different planet, called JAZZ!