Friday, April 30, 2010

Flash in a Pan

Improvised Jazz makes you itch. It makes your fingers tap and your limbs spasm. It makes you want to come unglued from your skin and fly around the ceiling. It makes you uncomfortable where you sit.

Other times you want to shout out. Emote some loud crystalline sound which isn't yet a word but should be. It makes you want to melt into a pool of quivering jelly. To return to an amoeba. In the nurturing, chaotic oceans where our multi-celled brethren evolved, I'm sure jazz was playing. Desperate, frenzied, improv jazz.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: last night my friend Thomas took me to see Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten perform as the Drake Trio. Here's a Hamid Drake Solo. Now throw in a legendary sax player and a virtuoso upright bassist and you have last night's show.

It wasn't even the music itself which made last night's experience extraordinary. It was how the musicians disappeared into the music. It's like the music poured through them, and they, as individual human beings, ceased to exist. Even the audience seemed to disappear. A spell was cast, a trance, where nothing existed except mad, furious sound. Sound which spoke everything and nothing at once. If this seems like nonsense, go see a show like this. It's hard to understand until you've experienced it yourself.

Drawing and improv jazz are similar. When I look at the drawings I'm most proud of, I see a common thread. I didn't draw any of it. Meaning: I wasn't self-aware or thinking at all. I didn't even have a concept beforehand or even desire for a final product. I was simply there, allowing it to come. For me, this is a difficult and fleeting state to be in. I found it inspiring how these musicians could remain in this state for two hours. If I can learn to do that, "Oh, the Places I'll Go!"

Last night's performance also made me realize how there's something rare and immensely beautiful about art created with no commercial consideration. It exists for it's own purpose, and what better purpose is there?

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