Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hard Bop

I had a most unexpected experience recently. It was a couple weeks back, April 3rd to be exact. That was the night I saw the Terence Blanchard quintet play live here in town at Skidmore College. I have certainly appreciated jazz in the past. I have a few cd's. I enjoyed the Ken Burn's "Jazz" documentary a few years back. But in truth I really never reached for my jazz cd's when I wanted to really, well... get "jazzed". I am more of a rock and roll kind of guy. But for some reason, about half way into the Blanchard show I had an epiphany. I suddenly "got it". I realized the awesome power of jazz.

Maybe it was because I was sitting in the very first row and had a trumpet going off about 4 or 5 feet in front my face.

But I think it's more than that. There is something about seeing a top flight jazz combo live that is unlike anything else. Something primal. It's hard to find the words. It's like something hit me in my spine. Like fireworks. I know it sounds weird.

I am sure this would not have happened if I was sitting at home listening to a cd. I think it must be a"live" thing. But then again I have seen live jazz before and it never hit me like this did. It has even had some kind of lasting effect. I seem to hearing in different way. To test this I pulled out some of those aforementioned cd's and they sound different to me. They sound fresh. Vital even.

I have also done some exploring into genres and I have discovered that the recordings that really grab me are in a style that's called "Hard Bop". This is a category in which Blanchard is often placed. Coincidentally (or not) the seminal early combo in this movement, Clifford Brown and Max Roach, also occupy a place on my shelf with their 1956 offering "Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street". It's also probably not another coincidence that the one other jazz show I really remembering digging was the 1992 Bright Moments Jazz festival at UMass Amherst featuring....Max Roach. The late great Max Roach.

Another happy effect of this growth spurt of mine is that I now will also be of help to our flagging economy as I have to beef up my paltry Jazz collection!

Next album in my sights: "Mingus Ah Um" by Charles Mingus

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