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My favorite bumper sticker of the 1980’s read “But Is It Art?” Adopting that as my motto for most of the following two decades, I wondered, “But Is It Jazz?” about the music I was listening to. Applying a Rorschach ink blot test to the new release by bagpipe musician David Watson leads us to varying conclusions. Some relate to suitcases and furry bunnies, but I’ll stick to the music. Finding bagpipes with percussionists, saxophones, didieridu, and a harp wasn’t a crash of an international flight as much as it is jazz! Think of jazz as blues. Then came Dizzy adding a Cuban sound, Miles’ fusion, or Coltrane's Eastern influence, jazz has always been a creative mix of cultures. Listening to Skirl one hears the bagpipes as John Coltrane’s alto from “Impressions,” or the on “Pneumatic” beating out a march not unlike a Gambling College marching band parade. As you release your ears to the compositions, the interplay between Balinese drumming and sounds reminiscent of Harry Partch’s unique instruments or the Japanese Koto drumming all mixed with the ever present bagpipes works. Maybe not on paper, that’s why these things are sometime better left to you ears.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.