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Jazz Stories: 2017

Michael Ricci By

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My advice to new listeners is to keep an open mind. Jazz is an experimental form of music. So you must open your ears and accept the artistry.

From Danijela Milic/LeitmotivArts

For me jazz represents more than music—it is a form of dialogue that knows no boundaries and unites people of different cultures, religions and nationalities. To me jazz represents freedom of expression and tolerance, spontaneity and improvisation. Its beats are recognizable and yet, like the world around us, jazz is ever changing and evolving. Jazz draws on different national and local music cultures, it honors and respects the past while at the same time provides room for innovation and creativity.

From Kevin Davy

I love jazz because of the music itself, and how it has touched me over the years. I was first informed of jazz, through seeing and listening to Louis Armstrong in movies and hearing his trumpet and singing. I was also informed by listening to my dad's old records, which included a lot Jamaican ska, and rock-steady tracks, many of which had horn sections, and jazz soloing incorporated into the tracks. This took me into deeper interest later on, and from there, it actually inspired me to want to play jazz myself.

From Theo Pywowarczuk

The best show I ever attended was Pat Metheny during his "Secret Story" tour in the '90s. I was blown away at the synchronicity of this large bunch of fabulous musicians and vocalists. It was spellbinding, and remains in my top three ever concerts.

The first jazz record I bought was Weather Report's "Mysterious Traveller."

My advice to new listeners follow the trails: find an album you love, then listen to what the individual musicians have done elsewhere. It's an extremely rewarding journey!

From Nelson Gonzalez-Torres

I love jazz because it is spontaneous use of notes, and infectious rhythms, with split-second thought. It is like playing a sport at high speed. I first remember hearing it played in a public broadcast television station in Puerto Rico where they were playing post-bebop jazz with a bluesy style that surpassed what some rockers were trying to do in the late 60's. A friend also played "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," Jimmy Smith's organ and big band album. It blew me away. I was hooked.

From Nat Seelen

So I remember being at the Regattabar Jazz Club, in Cambridge. I must have been fifteen years old, something like that, and my parents brought me to see Branford Marsalis and his quartet. That was when Branford was touring with Tain Watts, Joey Calderazzo, and Eric Revis, and they were playing "A Love Supreme." We had the original on LP back at the house (I know -this was in the early 2000s, but we still had it on LP!), and Branford's band was just killing it on stage. Anyway, Watts was doing his best Elvin impression in "Pursuance" when Branford gave his colleagues a sly look. Watts's eyes were closed! As the energy in the room pushed higher and higher, Marsalis, Revis, and Calderazzo quietly left through the side door. The Zildjians erupted with the touch of Watts' sticks and as we hit the climax of his solo, Watts' eyes blinked open to find himself alone, on stage, flipping lightly into time in front of two hundred lucky guests. Oh come on!

From Laura Ainsworth

I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinetist, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto saxophonist they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.

He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.

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