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Jazz Stories: 2017

Michael Ricci By

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I love jazz because it is so free. I can think, feel, and dream to jazz, and it allows my mind to flow and expand, musically and otherwise. I also love jazz because it, much like other forms of music, allows opportunities to bring people from all walks of life together. What makes jazz more significant to me, though, is its historical significance; that is, how jazz served, in part, as a method of bringing communities together, a cultural/social/spiritual conduit.

From Torben Westergaard

I love jazz because of it, to me, combines craft and creativity in a way that both challenges the soul and touches the heart.

From Jay Epstein

The best show I ever attended was: The John Coltrane Quartet with McCoy Tyner, Jimmie Garrison, Elvin Jones at the Guthrie Theater Minneapolis 1964. I was a high school jazz musician, but totally unprepared for the astounding, direct communication I received from the Quartet. It was as if Trane knew all of my life's feelings, joys, sorrows, angst, ecstasies, regrets, & spiritual searches and was saying to me,'Yes, I know you, Jay, we are alike as brothers.' I had an epiphany that night that has carried me through my life.

From Roy Prinz

I grew up in an environment filled with music. Our family owned a resort hotel in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. Music from the twentieth century played at home from New Orleans jazz, swing, big bands and the resort featured performers in the styles of the day ranging from Dixieland, swing, folk, blues and rock. Summertime in the Berkshires offered a plethora of live performances from modern jazz, rock and classical. As a small child I played piano but that eventually changed to guitar influenced by the popular era. While attending the University of Massachusetts I participated in the jazz program where my music/jazz education accelerated with classes and workshops taught by Dr. Frederick Tillis, Max Roach and Archie Shepp. The inspiration from those beginnings remains and I've been an enthusiastic student/player ever since.

From J. Robert Bragonier

I love jazz because I can still remember how it made me feel the first time I heard it. This love of mine dates back nearly 65 years. I can't remember exactly where I was, but a woman, accompanied by a pianist, was singing. I was like someone who had previously seen only in black-and-white, who suddenly saw the world in Technicolor. Having mostly only heard church music (with piano or organ accompaniment), I remember thinking, "Oh, my god! Listen! She's singing, but he's not playing what she's singing. He's not playing any of the melody! And, they're not even together; she's lagging way behind him! (Oh, wait; there, she just caught up.)"

"And, listen to those chords he's playing: they're gorgeous! Where have those chords been hiding on MY piano? And, the rhythms: how can he play such different rhythms with his two hands and not get mixed up? And, look: he doesn't even have any notes written on his music! Just notations, like, 'G-7,' 'F-7,' 'EbΔ,' 'A7b9,' 'GbΔ,' 'Fsus,' 'Eb-7,' 'Bbsus,' 'Bb7,' 'EbΔ.' (These are notations for the chord changes in the first ten measures of Wayne Shorter's "Infant Eyes.")

My parents both sang in college, and my mother continued to sing in church choir; she played the piano a little as a child, but neither parent listened to music in the home. They started me with piano lessons at age 4 and were supportive of my talent, but they actively discouraged my interest in jazz; I think my mother actually believed that jazz's influence was evil, in a religious sense. My piano teacher was rigidly classical in orientation, and the notion of jazz lessons was totally out of the question.

My first three LP records were jazz: I distinctly remember that they were Kurt Edelhagen's Jazz from Germany, The Four Freshmen and Five Trombones, and George Van Eps' Mellow Guitar. I was an exchange student to Sweden at age 17, and all the way over (10 days on the MS Seven Seas), I hung over the shoulder of Del Cummings, a student bound for Germany and the best young jazz pianist I had ever seen play, soaking up his every riff and nuance. During my senior year, after I returned, I played trombone in jazz big bands and combos whenever I could, but I remained frustrated at my inability to progress, untutored, in playing jazz piano.

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