I had the pleasure of attending a show at the Jazz Gallery last night. Yesterday morning, I received a text from the Blogger Supreme that he’d be in the city checking out Ambrose Akinmusire‘s quintet there (Gerald Clayton, right, played especially well — more on that later.) The suggestion couldn’t have come at a better time, because I was in need of an excuse to get out of my apartment. So I rounded up a couple of friends and met him at the show.
I’ve lived in the New York City area for over eight months now, but I’ve only made it out to hear live jazz a couple of times in that span. Part of it has to do with the fact that I’m a cash-deprived graduate student, part of it has to do with the fact that I didn’t have a group of jazz-loving friends to see shows with at first, but I think most of it has to do with my own unwillingness to experience jazz from the perspective of the audience member. Slowly, that’s starting to change.
Much of my love of jazz comes from the fact that it has always provided me with a community. Whether that was with my middle school lunch-time jazz combo, high school big band, the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra, college jazz and party bands, or a pioneering Chilean big band, I’ve always been closest to those with whom I was playing music. And in those relationships, I was always a musician as well. I’ve rarely been the most musically talented or accomplished member of these musical communities, but I’ve been in them as a musician.
Writing about jazz has changed my perspective on the music in subtle and complicated ways. As Chris Kelsey and Chris Albertson have recently pointed out, the relationship between musicians and non-musicians in the jazz community is fraught with complexity. I’m no longer a part of the community of musicians in every situation — but I do have a reason to be there as a writer and listener. Just because I am not a good enough trombonist to hang with the likes of Akinmusire and Clayton doesn’t mean that I can’t still enjoy the experience. That is a liberating thought, one that I hadn’t allowed myself before.
(A random aside: I actually did spend a week with Claytotn at the Port Townsend Jazz Festival back in high school. Even then, he was one of the most-sought-after players for jam sessions, as well as a lot of fun to hang out with and/or to beat at poker.)
Note: I originally published a concert review as a part of this post; that has been moved here.
The experience certainly left me with a good vibe, especially as a reminder that I don’t have to practice trombone 40 hours a week to be able to enjoy the music that I love. The challenge, of course, will be to figure out how my various “jazz hats” can compliment one another … but that’s a topic for another day.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend … and check out Gerald Clayton if you haven’t already! This guy is the real deal.