I have always taken pride in the fact that I appreciate many types of music. While my musical preference has always rested in the country field, I also love the fun oldies like The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Jay and the Americans, the Motown artists, doo-woppers, Neil Sedaka and others within those genres.
Back in the 90s, I worked for a public radio station owned by Miami University (Ohio), and discovered a deep appreciation for big band and jazz. It was from that experience that I first became acquainted with the broad definition of the term “jazz.” The musical genre’s origins are rooted in the late 19th and early 20th century in the African-American communities of New Orleans, where it sprung forth from blues and ragtime.
When charged with the task of programming a musical format of big band and jazz, I discovered that often both genres were intertwined as much of the big band tunes from Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and others are also considered jazz, as well as the Louis Armstrongs and more improvisational artists and styles.
For those readers I am about to lose in this bit of musical dribble, hold on, because there is a point to all of this.
Last week was my wife’s birthday, and she perhaps has an even greater, broader appreciation of music than I do, so I wanted to surprise here with a jazz concert. In doing so, I discovered that Branford Marsalis and his quartet was appearing in Cincinnati, so I captured tickets right away.
I didn’t know a lot about Branford, but I was somewhat familiar with his brother Wynton and his music, and I thought dinner in the city and a night of jazz would certainly rank me among the heroes in her world.
In all fairness, let me say that after having experienced the Branford Marsalis Quartet, I admire their artistry, their precision and their mastery of the art. Being a musician, I know that if I played 23 hours out of a 24 hour day, I could never perform my art with the magnificence of Marsalis. However, we learned a very valuable lesson from attending this concert. That lesson is, while one should always explore new things and push the boundaries of comfort and taste, there are limits – and we found ours.
When I realized during the encore that Patty was heading for the exit, I knew that at least dinner was a hit (I think).
The walk to the parking garage was rather quiet, and the sound of laughter that broke out when I asked, “Well, what did you think?” was rather telling. Oh, the laughter was not in disrespect to the artists we had just spent the musical evening with, but it was for our feeble attempt at pushing our cultural boundaries. Again, trying new things is good, but sometimes you discover that, well, you are who you are.
To be clear, the Marsalis Quartet was outstanding, but very improvisational. A style that is less about melody, and more about precision, and an acquired taste. And while they excelled at their art, we only recognized one tune, which I have not been able to get out of my head.
All is not lost though. In making future concert choices I know that almost anything inside the outer improvisational jazz boundaries will be acceptable. I’m already looking at how close to home Alan Jackson or Garth Brooks are going to be next year around this time.
Well, so much for culture and all that jazz!
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at www.HerbDayVoices.com.