Saturday, September 10, 2011

Enjoying Jazz

This week I interviewed for a freelance reporting job at a local newspaper in New Jersey.  There's a preponderance of jazz-related writing experience on my resume, and the man I was interviewing with pointed this out.  Most potential employers do.  I expect them to, but I'm never completely ready to explain why, or how, it's all there.

I'm also never really sure what posture to take.  Just because I've done a bit of writing on jazz doesn't mean I know anything substantive.  Should I drop a name?  Go into a little history?  Say which critics I like?  What I do is wait to see what they say.  If they ask me a question, I'll try to answer it.

This man asked me who my favorite jazz musician is.  This is a particularly tough question for me to answer.  I love and respect so many jazz musicians--dead and living--including Lester Young, Oscar Peterson, Paul Motian, Ethan Iverson, Benny Goodman, Al Grey, Jason Moran, Joshua Redman, Johnny Griffin, Red Garland.  I could go on, for a while.  In this situation, I said that, lately, I really enjoy the music of the clarinetist Anat Cohen.  He hadn't heard of her.  I then went on to explain that, although I don't consider myself a jazz critic, I mainly listen to jazz with critical ears now.  I don't really enjoy it in the way that I used to, I said.  

What was that way I used to?  Well, in high school, listening to jazz, for me, was an exciting process in which aspects of the music were revealed by degrees as I continued to purchase CDs and listen and read the liner notes and memorize the personnel.  I wasn't only learning about the music itself; it was teaching me something, about the importance of paying attention, of subtlety and grace and precision.

I started this blog after a summer spent writing and studying jazz criticism with Ben Ratliff, the New York Times music critic.  Also that summer I took a course at the Rutgers Jazz Master's Program in Newark with the jazz historian and musician Lewis Porter.  I was breathing jazz after I'd finished my work with Ben and Lewis.  I wanted to continue thinking and writing about it.  Yet at the same time, I didn't want to lose my innocence, if you understand.  I didn't want to become too conscious of my consciousness of jazz, to make too much of a good thing.  I thought that might make the music less enjoyable.

Ultimately, it didn't, because writing is important to me, and I want to become a better writer; and jazz is important to me, so I write about it, among other things.  I also play the drums, and I'm usually the most refreshed after I listen to a good jazz drummer.

When I started this blog, I wanted to leave some of the mystery of jazz intact.  It lured me in in the first place--I owe a lot to mystery.  That's why I write so much about my life and how it relates to jazz.  That relationship is hard to figure out.

So it's a different kind of enjoyment that I get from this new partnership I have with jazz, and music in general, and for that matter, almost everything.  Yet it's fruitful. 

Sometimes I can't tell what a piece of music has told me, or how it's made me feel, until I sit down to write about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment