The second week of October has brought warm days again to the North Country. Our windows are open again at night and we wake in the dark mornings listening to the sound of the wind playing in the changing leaves. October as it was meant to be.
It was a summer of biking and jazz and experimental writing… and watching my youngest go. The end of one season of life and the beginning of another. It has been a difficult change for me. Much more difficult than I even expected.
Jazz is making the transition easier.
In addition to hours of listening to Lester Young, I have been reading a number of books about Jazz as well, including:
- Ted Gioia’s History of Jazz
- Ted Gioia’s Birth and Death of Cool
- Dave Gelly’s excellent biography of Lester Young (Being Pres)
- Ralph Ellison’s Jazz Essays
- Milt Hinton’s wonderful coffee table book, Bass Line
Jazz, like poetry, takes time. The deeper you go the more your appreciation grows.
What I am finding I admire most about Jazz is the fearless nature of the jazz artist in the face of finitude. Painters and sculptors work to get a work of art “set in stone.” Writers work and re-work to get each word in place exactly as they want, like a word sculpture. A poet may revisit a poem again and again, but it is always with the idea of creating something as permanent as stone.
Not so in Jazz. Listening to albums of Lester Young, for example, you can hear two studio performances of the same song done back-to-back and hear that very little is the same. It is the art of a single, transitory moment. It is in that way more like life itself. The emotion of a living soul expressed in the moment, beautifully. To quote Yeats: “whatever flames upon the night, Man’s own resinous heart has fed.”
It will soon be time to take the next steps into the next season of my life. I have been on a holding pattern long enough. I must start forward again. I only hope that I can take the fearless spirit of Lester Young and Jazz with me.