I was called for jury duty this week. As I sat and listened to prospective jurors being interviewed by the judge, each one was asked what music they listened to. I was shocked by how many times “jazz” was among the answers. Where are all these listeners? And what do they mean by “jazz”?
I call myself a jazz trumpeter, but I am “classically trained,” and one of the main reasons I like to play improvisationally is that I hate the idea of being criticized or judged for making mistakes, which are so incredibly apparent when playing a classical piece. In “jazz,” if I make a mistake, all I have to do is follow it up with another one, or bring it to a resolution, and it not only sounds OK, it sounds as if I meant it, and sometimes it is quite “out there,” — not always an invitation for scorn in the jazz world.
Jazz to me is any music played creatively, spontaneously, beautifully. Improvisation, in my opinion, when done especially well, uses all of the tools of traditional composition: coming up with an idea, developing it, bringing it to some kind of resolution. A good solo is one in which the original tune is somehow retained and embellished, which is called melodic or harmonic reference.
More than anything, when playing music — jazz — what I wish to do is touch, spark, bring to life, some kind of kindred and friendly spirit in the listener, and I don’t really care whether one is listening actively and intentionally or just casually, where the music floats but is not intrusive or the center of attention. I consider myself to be much more an accompanist than a performer.
Live Jazz, Saturdays, March 24, and April 7 and 21, 6:30 to 9 p.m., Tusk Restaurant, 1736 Route 206, Montgomery. Paul Hofreiter (upright bass), Luke Abruzzo (guitar), and John Henry Goldman (trumpet). For more information visit straightjazz.com or www.tuskrestaurant.com.