No Room For Squares

I dreamed I was playing a peculiar upright bass. The neck had an off-white binding like a guitar, and there were lined and dotted approximations of fret spaces on the binding. The mostly-conventionally-shaped body was made of carbon fiber composites, and the strings were loose and rubbery, despite being consistently in tune. It had a concave bridge profile which enabled slapping and popping, with still a deep,wooden, rounded tone.

I’ve played upright basses, but not extensively. I’ve been monitoring Craigslist for an upright bass for a while. I woke up and remembered how much of an impact jazz has had on my life.

Jazz was the music of my youth. My dad was a gigging musician when I was born, and I vividly remember being sad when Dizzy Gillespie died. I saw a PBS documentary when I was in 2nd grade about Miles Davis, and it blew my mind like Michael Jackson did a few years before. I wrote Miles a letter which went unanswered. Even then, I knew he was *cool*. I later heard of his legendary dislike for interacting with his public. He was a mean man.  I eventually learned about and loved other music, but jazz was my foundation.

I imagined I’d be a jazz musician by the time I was 30, but the truth is I don’t have the chops. My music theory is more intuitive than studied, and I can’t read charts. I am largely self-taught. I can play rock, reggae, and funk just fine, but more technical pieces are challenging. Every jazz song falls into this category, even seemingly simple songs like “I’ve got rhythm.”

One thing I love about jazz is its adaptability. Jazz is not a museum piece- though it enjoyed it’s biggest popularity stateside 1930-1970, jazz is a living music without much of a stylistic orthodoxy. Kamasi Washington is collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, Esperanza Spalding is winning Grammys.

Jazz started as Black music, became palatable to white folks, was gentrified, and now exists with able performers of all ethnicities and nationalities. It is truly a world music, a mother sauce into which other stylistic elements are cast. True, jazz  doesn’t have the global reach of hip hop or reggae, especially among people under 60, but both forms descended from jazz.

I want to take up my musical education again. I need to play with people who will push me. I have groove. I have funk. I have an ear. I have swing. I just need the foundation to make it all tick.

EDIT: after I posted this, I lost track of time playing my bass for 45 minutes, and was happy as The Giving Tree.


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