Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reasons why I love jazz: part 3

April is Jazz Appreciation Month, and International Jazz Day is April 30th. Based on my previous posts, "Reasons why I love jazz" and "Reasons why I love jazz: part 2", I wanted to celebrate jazz again in the same format as my first post, "Reasons why I love jazz".

Bill Evans

There is so much negativity in the world, but I love jazz because it brings beauty to my world everyday. So I wanted to dedicate an entire post to the beauty of jazz by including songs that I find simply beautiful.

Reasons why I love jazz: part 3

1. "Never Let Me Go"...Bill Evans

Because the world can be falling apart and anxiety takes over my body, but within a second of hearing this everything is finally okay. Because no matter where I go lately, all I want to hear is the reassuring sound of Bill Evans on the piano. Because it's melancholy yet hopeful. Because the lyrics are: "never let me go/ love me much too much/ if you let me go/ life would lose its touch".

2. "Ruby My Dear"...Thelonious Monk

Because I can feel Monk's intensity as if he's standing over my shoulder. Because it's flowing, and free, and lovely. Because I can hear him trying to change the world - that sort of need to be playing. Because I feel like I am right there, next to his piano, with the clarity of the sound. Because Monk can lift my day when nothing else can.

3. "Look For The Silver Lining"...Chet Baker

Because this song is so positive. Because 'Chet Baker Sings' is my go-to album. Because it makes me feel carefree and lighthearted. Because I can sing along to everything. Because when I'm doubtful, I can be reminded of the silver lining in life.

4. "The Koln Concert"...Keith Jarrett

Because from the first note I'm there, there, anywhere but here. Because it's beautiful without reserve. Because it's creative and human. Because I can hear an entire orchestra worth of colors in one solo piano. Because it's improvised and in the moment. Because this sort of beauty wasn't planned, it just came to be.

5. "Darn That Dream"...Miles Davis

Because it's one of my favorite ballads. Because when I play this song, I try to practice emotion by living through this song. Because I think about the lyrics: "darn that dream/ and bless it too/ without that dream I never would have you". Because sometimes all I need is introspective music to feel like myself again.

6. "Misty"...Erroll Garner

Because this song makes me feel like I am in a hot air balloon, flying among the wispy clouds with no worries. Because Erroll Garner plays with such simplicity and nuance. Because it's relaxing and keeps such an integrity to its melody. Because there is no rush in this song to go anywhere, it just lets everything happen.

7. "Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk"...Charles Mingus

Because I can hear such lightness and love in the melody. Because I feel a dancing sway each time I hear this. Because Eric Dolphy is such an inspiration to me. Because Mingus adds so much texture and attitude to the piece. Because every Mingus composition seems to be a destination - it goes beyond music to become a method of transportation. Because suddenly I start to see a novel unfold, full of the most enigmatic characters.

8. "Solitude"...Duke Ellington

Because when I am feeling alone, lonely, isolated - I know that I have this music. Because music does so much to uplift people and bring people together. Because Duke Ellington doesn't even compose - he sets instruments to colors as if to paint a canvas. Because I can feel like I've lost every friend, and then hear this in strength. Because even in my own solitude, I am not too alone after all.

9. "I'll Get By"...Billie Holiday

Because some days all I want to do is play standards for my family, and this song is one of the songs I play for them the most. Because I could listen to Billie Holiday sing the phonebook, she has such conviction. Because it has such comforting lyrics: "I'll get by/ as long as I have you/ though there be rain/ and darkness too/ I'll not complain/ I'll laugh it through".

10. "I Didn't Know What Time It Was"...Charlie Parker

Because when I listen to jazz I don't hear musicians playing instruments, I hear everyone as friends just talking to me. Because Charlie Parker has such a body of emotion, inflection, and passion behind every note. Because the combination of saxophone with strings is lush, lively, and creates a cloud of sound. Because I hear charisma and jubilance.

Final Thoughts:
Jazz means a lot of things to a lot of different people, but during this Jazz Appreciation Month I have really come to appreciate the fact that if everything in my world is bringing me negativity, I can turn to jazz for a bit a beauty that sparks positivity in my day. And this beauty is really what makes jazz speak to me.
Duke Ellington

I encourage anyone that is new to jazz to seek out some jazz songs they find beautiful, and just qualify them as how they make you feel. Because at the end of the day, what makes you feel best is the music for you.

"Reasons why I love jazz" was my first post on this blog published on December 29th, 2013. I am very grateful that over a year later I have kept on writing. Many things have changed, but sharing my love of jazz in any small way will always bring me joy.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday.

Why do you love jazz?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The power of passion

Last Sunday, April 12th I had the pleasure of going to see Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea play duo at Boston Symphony Hall.

This concert was incredibly special to me. The tickets to this show were my 18th birthday present (I'm turning 19 next month, so I've been waiting a year for this concert!). Also, I just knew it was going to be a special night. I've seen Herbie at his Harvard lectures, the Boston Book Fair, and at the Newport Jazz Festival. I've seen Chick at the Wilbur Theater and at the Newport Jazz Festival. But, with this duo, two heads were definitely 'better than one'.

So with this profound experience, and Jazz Appreciation Month, I wanted to share some lessons that I learned that I think can apply to anyone.

My sketch of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea (L to R)

The power of passion

1. Herbie and Chick taught me that improvisation is a culmination of life experiences.

The concert started out with a completely full house at Symphony Hall. I go to see the Boston Symphony frequently, but I have never seen the hall so packed. When Herbie and Chick came on stage, the entire audience erupted in applause. Herbie went to the mic, and said that they didn't plan what they were going to play: they were going to improvise. So, they both went to their pianos, and with a chuckle they did just that: they improvised. 

This moment of the concert made me reflect on what improvisation really is. And I think seeing them just improvise is what inspired me so much: I wasn't just hearing that moment, I was hearing a culmination of their life experiences! Their choices in that moment were informed by their previous choices and so on.

Watch Herbie and Chick play, "Someday My Prince Will Come":

2. Herbie and Chick taught me that intuition guides us all. 

At one point in the concert, Herbie and Chick were just improvising, and then all of a sudden everything turned into a song, as they played, "Easy to Love" by Cole Porter. This amazed me, that they could both be complimenting each other, then a song could just form. 

This moment of the concert made me reflect on how jazz is really an intuitive art form. Musicians may obsess over their technique, and how they want to sound, but at the end of the day intuition and listening is what makes jazz interesting. Herbie could play one note that knocks me out of the park because it was the right note at the right time: you have to feel it. 

Listen to Billie Holiday singing, "Easy to Love":

3. Herbie and Chick taught me that taking chances is necessary to move forward.

Both Herbie and Chick are known for their contributions to jazz fusion, and electric music. With this history, both had keyboard synthesizers next to their grand pianos. They brought us all into 'space and beyond' with the combinations of synth sounds and the grand pianos. 

This moment of the concert made me reflect on how music has grown and changed, yet always stayed the same at heart. Herbie and Chick took chances to make music what it is today, and their influences can be heard everywhere.

Listen to Herbie's recording of "Rockit":

4. Herbie and Chick taught me that joy is what brings people together. 

The night of the concert was actually Herbie's 75th birthday! As a surprise Chick joked around and said, "I hear something in the air", as he started to play "Happy Birthday". Soon after, the entire audience joined along in singing to Herbie. Then, both went into a duo rendition of "Watermelon Man" followed by "Maiden Voyage". 

These moments in the concert made me reflect on why I love jazz. I find joy in jazz, and I think that's how music brings people together. To hear such famous songs played by the masters brought jubilance to the entire audience, and though the venue did not allow it, you could feel a dancing heartbeat throughout the hall. 

Listen to Herbie's recording of "Watermelon Man":

Watch Herbie play "Maiden Voyage" with Wayne Shorter:

5. Herbie and Chick taught me the power of passion.

I think the biggest takeaway from this concert was the complete passion both Herbie and Chick have for music and life. The night ended with an encore performance of "Spain". This encore reminded me a lot of videos I've seen of Chick playing with Bobby McFerrin because of the level of audience interaction. At one point, Chick told the audience he was inspired by this one chord, and he taught each section of the audience a different note so we could sing as a choir. Also, Chick and Herbie would play phrases on top of the chords and the audience would sing them back. I can't think of a moment more fun than singing back what Herbie and Chick were playing!

This moment of the concert taught me about simplicity and passion. Chick and Herbie would play simple phrases that we would sing back, and there was never any reserve about it. They played what they wanted to communicate, and the basis of that all was the feeling of passion. 

Watch Chick and Bobby McFerrin perform "Smile" with audience participation:

Listen to Chick's recording of "Spain":

Final Thoughts: 
The more I reflect on this concert, the more I realize that this was a once in a lifetime experience. I am so grateful for the lessons I learned from just experiencing their music live. During Jazz Appreciation Month I urge everyone to go out and find jazz you love to listen to! 

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday. I also include jazz music and artwork, so stay updated! This week inspired my poem, "I wanted to change the world". 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jazz Quotes

In honor of Jazz Appreciation Month, I wanted to share some quotes and music to lighten the week. Hopefully, when you read the quote and listen to the song, you can find a connection between the two that relates to your own life.

I included ten artists, ten quotes, and ten songs. If you are new to listening to jazz, any of these songs or musicians would be a great way to start listening!

Jazz Quotes

1. Charlie Parker
Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But, man, there’s no boundary line to art.
Listen to Charlie Parker playing, "Laura": 

2. Thelonious Monk
You gotta dig it to dig it, ya dig?
Listen to Thelonious Monk playing, "Ruby My Dear": 

3. Charles Mingus
Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.
Listen to Charles Mingus playing, "Peggy's Blue Skylight":

4. Miles Davis
Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself. 
Listen to Miles Davis playing, "Round Midnight": 

5. Duke Ellington
There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.
Listen to Duke Ellington playing, "Single Petal of a Rose": 

6. Dizzy Gillespie
It’s taken me all my life to learn what not to play.
Listen to Dizzy Gillespie playing, "A Night in Tunisia": 

7. Billie Holiday
I never sing a song the same way twice.
Listen to Billie Holiday singing, "Yesterdays": 

8. Louis Armstrong
What we play is life. 
Listen to Louis Armstrong playing, "All of Me": 

9. Wynton Marsalis
Invest yourself in everything you do. There’s fun in being serious. 
Listen to Wynton Marsalis playing, "What a Little Moonlight Can Do": 

10. John Coltrane
You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere. 
Listen to John Coltrane playing, "Naima": 

Final Thoughts:

During Jazz Appreciation Month, I would really like to connect jazz to words, stories, people while also sharing the music. I like so many kinds of music, but what makes me love jazz is the connection I feel to people. There is something so special about being at a jazz concert, surrounded by so many different people, and absorbing all of that energy.

My sketch of Vijay Iyer from a recent concert

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! I also include artwork and songs on that blog, so stay tuned. This week inspired my haiku, "Energy".

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I started this blog because I wanted to show how jazz is a music that can relate to anyone. April is Jazz Appreciation Month, so I wanted to share some inspiration found from jazz musicians to illustrate that when I talk about learning about jazz I could be talking about learning about anything - it is all transferable.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra at the 2014 Newport Jazz Festival


1. Practice

Recently I read this article by Wynton Marsalis: "Wynton’s Twelve Ways to Practice", which inspired this post of mine. In Wynton's article, he shared to seek out instruction, write out a schedule, set goals, concentrate, relax and practice slowly, practice hard things longer, practice with expression, learn from your mistakes, don't show off, think for yourself, be optimistic, and look for connections.

It sounds like a mouthful of things, but what I noticed is that all these things apply if you're a musician, a dancer, a scientist, a teacher, an accountant - whatever you want to be!

2. Authenticity

In the following video, "Great Advice from Musicians for Musicians", jazz musicians share a multitude of advice. What it all comes back to, in my opinion, is the idea of being authentic to yourself. Wallace Roney shares, "I played this music when people didn't want me to play this music." This idea of doing something because you need to sheds light on authenticity.

3. Respect

It's amazing to me to see the respect jazz musicians have for one another. In a JazzStories Podcast with Wynton Marsalis, Wynton talks about that he liked jazz because he always saw jazz musicians hugging each other.

Another example of this respect is Sonny Rollins's letter to Coleman Hawkins. In this letter Sonny tells Hawkins,
For you have 'lit the flame' of aspiration within so many of us and you have epitomized the superiority of 'excellence of endeavor' and you stand today as a clear living picture and example for us to learn from.
This kind of eloquence and humility doesn't have to be between two jazz masters - it can be between family members, friends, teachers.

4. Honesty

In the following video, "Learning from the Masters", guitarist Russell Malone shares different life experiences and advice from Jimmy Smith to Kenny Burrell. The advice he shared all echoes at this idea of honestly between yourself and others.

I think best advice I've heard this past year has been that you can't just play or do something for applause. I heard this advice from Herbie Hancock, Wynton echoed it in this article, and Russell Malone shared it in this video. Whenever I am feeling down, I just think this to myself.

5. Passion

Meeting Dr. Lonnie Smith at the Montreal Jazz Festival was probably one of the most inspirational moments of my teenage life! We talked for a while about life, music, and soul. And through all this, his passion for life and beauty shined through. In this video, Dr. Lonnie Smith talks about how his passion comes across as electricity throughout his entire being.

Final Thoughts: 
No matter your age, occupation, gender, anything - jazz can relate to you!

During Jazz Appreciation Month, I hope to share more inspirational posts, and would love any input or suggestions.

Please visit my jazz poetry blog, "Without a Poem", where I improvise a new poem everyday! This week inspired by haiku, "patience".