Friday, December 30, 2016

Wrapping up 2016: perceptions about jazz

The first post on Kind of Pink and Purple was entitled Reasons Why I Love Jazz and dates back to December 29, 2013. Since that first post, I have graduated high school and I am now in my third year of college.

Thelonious Monk.
Painting by Grace-Mary Burega.

My perceptions about jazz have changed since then. In my aforementioned first post, I wrote a rather controversial opening:

As a teenager, I often feel alienated by my love of jazz. I live in a world of swing and bebop, yet my friends seem to be repelled by the name "jazz". Somehow without ever truly listening to it, they can hate it.
You know, when I was a bit younger, I didn't listen to the radio. I felt like pop music was fake. But, by being surrounded by my friends, my peers, my generation, I can say I really can and do love pop music. Not all of it, but I can find meaning in it. Some songs really speak to me. Across all genres there are songs or artists that really speak to me. By living with it, I have come to love it.
So I wanted to blog about why I love jazz, because I think people my age should try to listen to it, and try to love it. Sometimes I think that teens hate it because they have this misconstrued perception of what it is. Well, I can't truly define it, but I'll give you reasons why I can say jazz is my life, and I wouldn't want to live any other way. 

Now that I am twenty, and settled in college, rereading these sentences takes me back to this headspace that is a bit too negative. Do I still think everyone hates jazz? No. I feel that jazz is not adequately taught in public school education, even though it is integral to American history. I feel that jazz, when make affordable and available to the community, is in fact widely loved.

I have experienced this sense of love and community at the Detroit Jazz Festival, for example, which is the world's largest free jazz festival. I have felt connected to jazz history through my work as the editor of JazzBoston's newsletter, where I write about Boston's immense history and interview members of the music community about festivals, venues, and more.

Ron Carter at the 2016 Detroit Jazz Festival.
Photo by Paul Burega.

Do I still have reservations about pop music? No. As a film composer, every type of music is valid depending on the circumstances. As a musician living in America, I feel that it is disconnected to not open my ears to all types of music, people, countries, etc. I will always love classic jazz albums, and artists such as Miles Davis, but that does not take away from what else is out there to hear.

I have experienced opening my eyes and ears in such places as the Montreal Jazz Festival, which hosts international musicians and artists.

Art from the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Do I still feel that jazz is my life? Yes. And no. Jazz is integral to my life, and is something I work on, practice, play, listen to, compose, analyze, read about, etc. However, lately I feel that life is so much more than a genre of music. I have experienced that jazz elevates my life, but music represents all that is in the human experience. The end goal of jazz is not a goal of creating great music or art, but rather a goal of sharing perspectives on the human experience, and celebrating community.

A picture from previous travels to New York City.

To end my first post I wrote,
Maybe jazz won't become your life, but maybe you'll find some new music that speaks to you. And isn't that the goal of all music - to speak to you?

As I continue in the path of a professional musician, I know that I am privileged to say I found something that speaks to me, that I am passionate about, that I have the utmost privilege to study. As we wrap up 2016, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and all best for what's ahead!

The Subject is Jazz was a television program that aired on NBC in 1958:

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Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

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