Dave loves jazz like he loves a good 6-mile run.
My Jazz Story
Published on: 2016-04-24
The first jazz I experienced was the Modern Jazz Quartet on the old "Today" show with Dave Garroway. I was maybe four years old at the time, and I vividly remember being utterly transfixed by the music and by Connie Kay and Milt Jackson in particular. A few years later, my older brother brought Gary Burton's "Lofty Fake Anagram" LP home, which I instantly loved. A few years after that, in 1972, I heard "Slow Change" off of Bobby Hutcherson's "Now" album - this was on the radio during a car trip from Philadelphia to Florida - and I KNEW that this was the music I loved. Interesting that all three of these very pungent memories involved the vibraphone.
My brother exposed me to a bunch of interesting and exciting music: Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, the Yardbirds... and my mother used to play Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" on the stereo a lot. They both had great taste! I think that really set the stage for my own passion for music in general and jazz in particular. But we were definitely not a musical family, except for my brother who still plays rock'n'roll guitar. I started out on drums, but as a kid I was much more interested in baseball, science and girls (in roughly that order and much to my parents' relief). I played some in the high school band, bought every Mahavishnu, Miles and Weather Report LP I could find, and took drum lessons from a wonderful teacher who turned me on to guys like Billy Harper, Tony Williams, and Gil Evans. My parents did not encourage me to play music, and the mere thought of pursuing music as a profession was simply not in the cards. Out of the question.
Oddly, this is what lit the fire in my belly for jazz. After years of self-torture and anguish about who i could have been, I bought a drum set. I was in grad school but started playing again anyway. I was lucky (and persistent) enough to get in a band playing Real Book tunes and some originals. I am still at it decades later. It's been a fun struggle.
What is it about jazz that's so profoundly satisfying? What is the itch that it scratches? It is the sound of rebellion, of invention - constantly revitalizing itself. Though it constantly mutates, the musical and personal values it extols represent a sort of archetypal ideal to me: the 'best self' as musician. The scientific method applied to music. To participate as a player or as a listener / fan, one must experiment, one must constantly think on one's feet and be ready for the unexpected. Mobile intelligence. Listen and be transformed. Find a place in the now of music.