Thursday, December 28, 2006

Xmas Jazz...



The holidays have been filled with some magical moments. One was when Jimmy Spencer sauntered into Charlie O's on Christmas Eve in a silver suit and zig-zag tie. Another was when he got up on stage with the staggeringly great Karen Hernandez Trio to sing a couple numbers and proceeded to dedicate "Route 66" to our group (a gesture I can only assume was inspired by this earlier post). Wow... Then, imagine our collective thrill when Jimmy came over and introduced himself and gave us two copies of his new CD "Shades of Blue" (which is fantastic). Thank you Jimmy, Karen, and everyone else at Charlie O's... You really made our night!

Hopefully, there comes a moment in your life when you "get" jazz music. For me, those moments were a long time coming. I was a tried and true psychedelic-electro-ambient-prog-rock-head-up-his-ass-kid-in-a-band, and the "hyper" sounds of jazz were something we used to make fun of. I remember my great pal and bandmate, Ted Meyer, decked out in his Syd Barrett frippery, with hair up to the sky, stratocaster hanging by his side, scatting Mel Torme-style to the fifteen drunk punks who suffered through our faux-lysergic space-rock act in the seedy bars of Greenwich Village.

I believe it took the solid, subtle, chunky, funky, confidence, courtesy and style of Karen Hernandez and her amazing band mates to really open my eyes to the living sculpture that great jazz can be. She has an effortless and eternal command of the piano (never forced or studied or by-the-numbers) that opens divine passageways deep in the brain (and a few other chakra zones as well). Toss Jimmy Spencer into that mix and you've got the secret stew recipe that will always win the County Fair.

Admittedly, there's enough bad jazz regularly pumped into the world to make anyone give up the search for the truffles. So much indulgent noodling, aimless riffing, ego-driven solos, and bland arrangements that fail to capture what should be a beautiful conversation between wide-eared musicians. The best jazz finds individual talent hard at play with other individual talents. The worst is a yawn festival of spotlit showboating and dribbling notes.

Back to the holidays, I believe I have successfully replaced the old "guilt" visit to church on Christmas Eve with these excursions to live music venues in the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere in greater Los Angeles. I consider myself a religious person in that I spend plenty of moments trying to understand the nature of my soul and exactly how it wants to connect with the rest of the universe. I find churches and temples and mosques (while generally beautiful places) are often too political and too formulaic in their worshiping patterns to really engage me. There is something in live music, when it works, that gets much closer to what it is I'm looking for in a religious experience.

(Photo: "Jimmy belts one out..." by Paul Gachot)

1 Comments:

Blogger Babycakes said...

I concur!

4:02 PM  

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