Last night in my cinderblock studio home, the all too familiar sound of a trumpet traveled up from my landlords apartment. In some past life he was a DJ or producer, maybe both. One can really never be certain about someone one in Los Angeles, but I like to make a guess.
Tonight we are listening to the echo of a Spotify soundtrack, all things Jazz.
“I live in a dream for a moment,” she sang. And in that moment I surrender to Sarah Vaughan’s voice and laid down in bed with the lights off and listened to Dizzy Gillespie speak to me through his trumpet. “Interlude.” There is something about the cord changes that give that song a unique and mysterious feeling. There is something about Jazz in general as a music category that speaks directly to the heart.
In the wake of the COVID-19 viral pandemic, like so many of my friends in the restaurant industry, and countless others, I was laid off.
I spent 75% more time on my phone last week as the outbreak became an epidemic, and later a pandemic with ‘shelter-in-place’ orders being enacted. I couldn’t tell if it was more panic or fear that made me want to keep the lights off. Jazz was born in the wake of ‘The Great Depression,’ although I think we are going to make it look like an ‘ok depression’ after this all settles. But Jazz is the perfect music for us to be listening to at this time.
You see, you can’t be sad and dance at the same time. When those notes, chord changes, and progressions, jazz fills your heart can’t stop it from moving and being moved.
Jazz has its own spirit that goes on tangents and doesn’t stick to the written sheet music. It is born in a brotherhood and a synchronization of the musicians who often ‘smoked tea’ before playing to help them experiment with this new form of music. “Using marijuana, (jazz musicians) are going to work in about twice as much music in between the first note and the second note.” – drug prohibitionist, Harry Anslinger
These extra notes, Jazz up the singular sheet music, giving it life. At its core Jazz as a genre of music that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for cannabis. Cannabis simply makes music sound better. It fills in the holes, the gap between notes. Sure there are scientific explanations* for the time delay perceived by smoking cannabis that could effect how music is heard, but there is something magical that happens after dosing up. The entire experience is enriched because the notes resonate with the heart.
And that’s exactly what we need right now. We need a little life as we are held up in our concrete studios looking out at the beautiful weather as days pass us by ‘sheltered-in-place.’ We need a music that speaks of overcoming the great depression, that knows how to fill in the gaps because we don’t have answers for when it will be over, or what our jobs will be when we can return to work.
Jazz has been down the road of desolation and emptiness. Jazz can speak to our hearts encouraging them to dance because that is what will beat the blues.