Now you must develop a taste for free-form jazz – Patrick Starr
I guess, as this is my first blog post here, I would like to start out with saying somethings about myself. How do I start with that?
For starters, there’s that old exercise that every therapist has given me, “If you could go back in time and talk to the 17 year old you, what advice would you give him?” This is a question that I never knew how to answer, no matter how much though I put into it.
But thought putting into it, I did. Um, that kinda sounded very Yoda there without even trying.
This morning, at peace while driving into work, it came to me. Charles Mingus started playing on my phone’s music player. I knew who Charles Mingus was for so long now but up until a couple months ago I don’t think I could have picked him out from any other jazz artist. That’s kinda changed. Then again, so much in my life has changed. I’m doing so much differently from how I was doing things for the last 20 odd years or so. Underline the word ‘odd’ in that sentence. I see that now after having a year of sobriety, starting a new job and falling in love then getting married. All that came before was just odd, off from what my life is now that it feels right. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I can look in the mirror.
My life gives comfort now.
But I digress. What is it that I know today that I would tell stupid, drunken, stoned, teenage me to enlighten him and send him down the correct path, the one that I’m on now, sooner than I took?
It would be this, “Listen and enjoy more jazz”.
Not the jazz that they play in jazz band in high school. That’s bullshit. That’s not jazz. It’s structure and old people wanting to make you listen to the sappy music that came before rock n’ roll because that’s what destroyed music as they knew and were comfortable with. Swing jazz in high school is even worse. Don’t let that keep you from jazz.
Run from that every chance you can.
Also, I know you’ve had a problem with your father’s jazz. Truthfully, you’ll find out that jazz isn’t so bad but that’s not the path to jazz you should take. You should find a “jazz of our own choosing”. You know the idea of all that guitar riffing and improvising you hear and love, take that and apply it to jazz. Look for that, seek that out. It’s out there. It’s been out there since before you or even your father were born but you it won’t come find you, it’s not mainstream. You’ll have to search for it but not very far.
On a side note, past self, you don’t need to hold onto jazz. That is, you don’t have to have a copy of every song you hear that you think you might like. That’s just going to make you grow weary of jazz. For seventeen year old me, that means vinyl, CD and tapes. I’m not going to explain to past me why those things don’t matter right now and that I’m not talking about physically holding onto jazz recordings while I am talking about collection them. The idea of a interconnected network or computers that hold digital versions of songs might be a bit much to get your head around.
See the forest for the trees. Jazz is really good. Jazz makes you happy to listen. Random jazz really surprises you in a good way when it’s good.
So yeah, after years of soul searching and pretending to answer the question when it was posed to me in a way that was supposed to help me have a ‘break through’, I’ve finally done it. While I don’t think this would have cause seventeen year old (and slightly older than him but younger than me) me figure out all of my defects and helped them (and by way of proxy me) avoid all the issues of my life, I do think there are a lot of way it would have illuminated corners of my life that I’m noticing until now.