Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Make Something Up - Part 2

"Crap," John said. "Make something up."

The three college students were getting antsy--one of the girls stood up to leave but was coaxed back onto the couch by the other two. John had promised them I would play some real jazz if they came over to the party.

Except... John was a country boy from Corinth, Mississippi, raised on grits and country music, and nothing made him happier than music that allowed him to clap his hands and laugh and stomp his right foot. He didn't have a clue about jazz, and neither did I (other than I couldn't play it).

He and I would go to big bluegrass parties on Wye mountain, with guitar players and banjo players and fiddle players in the big back yard of our friend's house. John was the master of ceremonies, the person who told jokes and yelled things like "Hot damn" while we were playing. At the time I was learning to play bluegrass fiddle. I wasn't particularly good, but I'm pretty sure that John didn't realize this. Music was just music to John.

Purists, on the other hand, have a different mindset--they are on a mission, and it doesn't matter what has captured them: sound systems, motorcycles, jazz, wine. They can be a little... critical. These three students were jazz purists. I had listened as they argued over the relative merits of Bud Powell and Bill Evans, and I had shrugged my shoulders as if anyone knew who was best, when in fact I didn't have a clue.

I was boxed into a corner. Who knows, maybe I could play something that would entertain them. I did know a jazzy version of "Someone to watch over me." I moved toward the piano bench.

Here's Art Tatum playing Little man you've had a busy day.

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