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The Cortex and the Booty-by Steve Provizer


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This is Your Brain on Music

The brass band I play with has been talking about the Asphalt Orchestra. In their videos, they seem to be having a great time, engaging the crowd, playing interesting, offbeat music (apart from New Orleans stuff, arrangements of Zappa, Bjork...). On the other hand, a band-mate saw them on the plaza at Lincoln Ctr. over the weekend and described them as “appealing more to the intellect than wanting to make you dance."

Meanwhile, back in Boston, I was sitting in on trumpet with a friend's rock band. I only knew one song we played: The Weight, by The Band. The others were songs that I'd either heard once or not at all. I was “the horn section," which is how trumpet or sax is thought of in that context. In each song, the band made afew bars space for me to solo- I liked being forced to think in bite-sized chunks. Otherwise, I just played little back-up riffs. It was Rock, people danced to it. I loved the response. So, Rock and the Asphalt Orchestra; music leaning toward the body or the mind, with one organ still waiting to be put in the scenario. Right. The heart. Where does that little muscle fit? What's the delicate balance between the cortex and the booty that needs to be achieved so that each gets the orgasm it deserves?

Probably the moment of most intense musical mind/body fusion for me was a show I heard in the 19?'s with Pharoah Sanders at the Village Vanguard. After a while, you just stopped listening and surrendered, as Pharoah pulled you at 90 miles an hour down a sandpaper highway. The more you released, the more joyous the trip. The energy of the audience was raised to the point where the only thing we could do was start pounding on the tables, howling like banshees. I know that some construct of “mind" must have been present or my body would not have responded-I'm too hard-headed (or too “schooled")-but it's the response of my body that remains vivid. Why is that unity so elusive? In the pursuit of complexity in harmony and form, what, if anything, has jazz sacrificed in terms of its appeal to the body?

Is “swing" just another word for the right balance?

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