Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


Blur the Lines

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The mechanics of jazz, the ideology, the culture, the genesis of jazz is built from the freedom to blur the lines, break down the artificial walls, and promote a true sense of peer equality while codifying a universal language in the sound of art.

It’s true that some people can realize gifts that others have not. It’s also true that some people have pathways that reveal treasures no one else knew how to appreciate. Then there are those who are just born lucky. They have everything. They were born in the right city at the right time to the right people and they possess all of the right talents. When we place those fortunate ones next to those of us whose talents have been hidden or buried for some reason, we find an opportunity to realize one of the higher purposes of jazz.

Within the spirit of jazz lies not only tolerance but hospitality. In this light, the mighty have an opportunity to make space for the voices normally not heard. By listening, by becoming sensitive, and through curiosity and accommodation, we can hear the soundwaves of voices that are usually muted. It’s easy to hear the bold and outspoken. Now, the sound of the cautious and protected can emerge. They have a message too! Jazz musicians have an obligation to prospect for every hidden treasure in our community. It’s the rare voices, the impossible triumphs, that energize our spirits and give hope to those who feel hopeless.

A quiet person can have tempestuous dreams. The quick can offer the big picture but, in haste, miss a lot. The slow may not cover a lot of ground but they are gathering every detail. Distance and detail can have a conversation of the highest magnitude!

The communion of ideas, tastes, thoughts, talents, and imaginations create a social imprint that is unique to a region, a city, a neighborhood. I think that the lean of jazz is to convey through music what mix of people are inhabiting a particular area. The sound of the Northern Prairie—our sound—is unique to the world.

Jazz may seem old fashioned to many but its culture is far ahead of our times. I wonder whether we have the sensibilities to appreciate what jazz is offering?

The stage is like a sanctuary that invites the participants to leave their socio-political constructs at the door. The questions to ask yourself when engaging on a jazz bandstand are: do you know the music? Do you know the instrument you are playing as though it were another mouth? Can you hear what the other musicians are offering? Are you selfless when accompanying? Can you answer them musically without breaking the continuum? Do you have a beautiful secret to share? Each question is of equal importance.

We speak often about tolerance as a goal but I say it is a very low benchmark. The question is: are we hospitable? Is diversity welcome? Is nuance celebrated? A jam session is where the tenets of love and hospitality are practiced as a form of art. I hope to see you there someday.

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