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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 anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.