Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


When the Dust Settles

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I have a friend who is a master of ceramics. When I’m inspired, I take out the teapot that he designed and serve tea to my friends and family. The teapot is an exquisite work of art reminiscent of ancient China. It doesn’t change the taste of tea in any way but it reminds me of the importance of that particular moment and the quality of time with loved ones. It also hints at the intricacy and delicacy of social ceremony in a time long ago.

There are a lot of things in our everyday life just like that teapot—while functioning on a casual level, they offer us a peek at a higher purpose. Familiar songs from old movies and musicals are a good example. “Green Dolphin Street” and “The Days of Wine and Roses” have become classic jazz standards. These songs give us a kick like champagne and accompany us through a variety of emotional moments throughout our day.

In the hands of an inspired jazz musician, these finely-crafted songs can become high art. Check out John Coltrane’s 1961 recording of Oscar Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” (Atlantic SD-1361). Suddenly Julie Andrews’ musings channel the longings of an African-American jazz artist in the turbulent 60s. When you hear Coltrane hit those high notes, he’s talking about some things that have been denied him, not things that he’s experienced. He’s talking about his favorite things to hope for!

For me, art is like windows and doors opening up into other rooms, other places, other times, other memories, other hearts. It reminds me that we are not the only people with the right to live, hope and dream.

In many countries where the government controls what kind of art and music the public can experience, people’s humanity seems all but forgotten. Those countries often promote a level of public brutality that is unspeakable on these pages. Women in those countries are treated like property—they aren’t even allowed an education.

I’m lucky to be in a city that’s erecting a Museum for Human Rights. What other city on the planet is doing that?

Art Blakey said, “Music washes away the dust of everyday life.” I think he’s talking about the dust that obscures our vision of our neighbors. I now have Icelandic neighbors, Jewish neighbors, British, French, and Caribbean neighbors, and more. It’s true that New York has an even larger and more diverse population than The Peg, but here, you get to know the people because they’re less defended.

I especially find indulgence and curiosity in the children. Many of the children of those disparate cultures gather every week at the Monday Night Hang. They offer you their metaphorical teacups for humanity by sharing their musical influences and their own values.

I’ve had the dust washed from my eyes many times since moving here. I can tell you firsthand, the view never ceases to inspire.

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