Jazz: just a word?
Oct 21 2007. I played a concert last night, a forty-minute impromptu collection of extemporaneous renderings, for about 400-plus people. They were as fine as an audience can be: attentive, quiet, respectful, and reactive.
It was one of those "automatic nights" for me. I love these kinds of concerts, where the Music is running so strong in me that I need DO very little. During one passage, I marveled at the way my body felt. It felt young, rejuvenated, and able to execute any twist or turn made necessary by the demands of the Music.
At 60, we may get unexplainable and transitory aches and pains, and feel not quite right, for no reason at all. But 60 isn't old at all. And, with Music pouring through me and all those hundreds of people drawing it out of me and being nurtured and healed by it, I felt like a child again.
[And I noticed that I really do play better by sitting low (17 or 16 inches off the ground) and having a chair with a back to occasionally lean into. The chair back isn't for relaxation. It's to keep me balanced when I lean backwards to execute really fast passages or when I glance up at the ceiling during periods of that much-sought-after intoxication, the feeling of agape and amazement that comes with profound inspiration.]
This experience, this grand and intoxicating inspiration happened during a reading of "Japanese Folk Song". It came out sounding positively "Spanish" but that's okay because we're talking invention here, not nationalist politics.
This happens more and more, the cross-pollination of forms and styles, so that it's really not "jazz" anymore. It's my Music, it's my Ministry, and it's about the Truth and the Beauty and the People. I can't stop this from happening and I wouldn't if I could.
"Jazz" as a purist entity is going away for me, but all of the true greats, like Garner and 'Trane and Monk and Miles, they're all still here with me and in me, and here they will STAY. Except that now I have Glenn Gould in the mix too, and all of the new sounds that I've been hearing in my head and making, home alone, at my piano and on my synthesizers.
I'm influenced - again - by Paul Simon's Graceland, and by Annie Lennox and Joni Mitchell and Sting. I'm influenced by the realities of 21st Century life on earth, and what my eyes see and what my heart feels and what my brain thinks and what my values tell me is wrong or right about this world.
And I'm literally CALLED ON to do the right thing, and to follow the lines, and to listen to my inner voice.
The beginnings of a new vision are upon me. I have a clear message now, and I'm about to deliver it with as much devotion and clarity of purpose as I can marshall. It won't cure the world's ills, but it will make the world a little bit better... and, as I've written in a previous recent article, that's something I need to do.
[Recently, a friend told me that she had tried to get her co-workers to attend one of my concerts. When the folks asked what kind of music I played, and she had replied "jazz", all of her co-workers - without exception - had replied, in varying degrees of distaste, with a metaphorical "Ick!" And then there's my "YouTube experiment." This is the one where I removed every single incidence of the word "jazz" from my YouTube page, and, in the first week of "testing", received double the page views.]
So I'm leaving the word "jazz" behind. It derives from the words "jis", "jism", and "jissom" (from that old jellyroll) , and the connotations are as pejorative and as self-negating as the jazz business itself.
NOW'S THE TIME for me to bring every single talent I have "to the table", a time to integrate all of the gifts that I've been given by the Creator, a time to use these gifts in ways that I never thought possible before. I'm a musician, and a pianist, and a composer. But I'm also a thinker, a writer, and an innovator.
[This last claim may be hotly disputed by the jazz cartels, but they constitute about 1/10,000th of one percent of the music lovers on this planet. So I'm understandably not too overly concerned with their assessment of my contributions. Their racist diatribes and journalistic doublespeak have made us all a little crazy, and those of us who still know exactly who we are are well-advised to ignore their bleatings completely.]
Being a THINKER means NOT buying into the hype, NOT accepting the party-line, and NOT allowing what's in vogue or what's hot today to influence what we believe or how we achieve our goals. Part of the hype, the party-line, the in-vogue and politically-correct lie that has ruled jazz for way too long has been that women and minorities and white folks are not qualified to play "genuine jazz music."
Debate away. No one cares. My audiences love my Music, and they love Herbie Hancock, and they love David Sanborn, George Benson, Keith Jarrett and Diana Krall. They loved Miles Davis. You've trashed them all as sell-outs and turncoats. And no one cares.
As we get a little deeper into the 21st, things become clearer. It's not about others defining us. It's about US defining OURSELVES. Don't tell me who I am. Look to yourself and figure out who YOU are. I admit it: we, as a nation, are a little (okay, a lot) lost right now. Politically, morally, socially, ecologically, and spiritually lost. But I know this:
"Trashing" other people and putting them into boxes, stereotyping other people and other races and other beliefs... that kind of 20th Century "thinking" is OVER. It's ineffective as a weapon against Truth. It will no longer serve you, should you still be using it - and you know who you are if you DO still use it. This is the time for CHANGE, and we do that on a personal level, by changing the things within ourselves that no longer properly and positively affect us and our world. If it hurts the earth, get rid of it. If it kills people, it's not a good thing. If it causes pain, it's a losing proposition. If it's based on deceit and treachery, greed and sloth, it's a no-go. If it works against the world, it's working against you. If it doesn't bring all of us closer together, it's divisive. If it hurts your body (the place where the real you lives) then it's wrong. If it hurts the earth (also the place where the real you lives) then it's equally wrong.
It's all simple stuff. It's common sense. But there's not a lot of that going around these days, so it needs to be hammered home. Stop killing us. Stop making lame excuses for being empty inside. Stop attacking those who are successful and free and beautiful and alive. Be fully alive and let every single thing that you are just BE. And let others do likewise!
Stop buying into the lie that "we have no power" as either a political force, a spiritual consequence, or a singular person. The world is always changed, and it's usually by the ideas and dreams of one person or one small group entity. The world is created by our will, and it is changeable to the extent that we believe it can be changed. Let's change it for the better.
If you save yourself you're also helping to save the planet!
So the Music doesn't die, it changes. For me, "jazz" is over (remembering that line by Paul Simon: "who am I to spit against the wind...") but Music is just beginning.
Last night, Overton Berry, a beautiful musician, pianist, and gentleman... who I hadn't seen in years... said to me, "the piano loves you, Jessica Williams." That is so true, Overton. Thanks for getting that.
And thank God I live here and now and get to be a part of this!
- Believe in America again, and love each other - JW, 10 07