Jazz: A New but Enjoyable Experience

December 2, 2008
By
If I hadn't noticed the iconic neon logo in their window, I would have continued to walk past Birdland yet again. Birdland is located in a quiet nook just around the corner, an extreme difference compared to the bustle of 8th Avenue, where people were packing up and closing shop after a day-long street fair. Before this concert, I had never been inside a jazz venue. Birdland was surprisingly cozy and intimate. I was mildly peeved by the venue's dim lighting prior to the concert but these feelings evaporated as soon as the music started.


My view of the stage was pretty good, aside from the column that occasionally obstructed my view of the left side (my right) of the stage which was to be occupied by the drummer and saxophonist. The Dave Holland Sextet is another spin-off of Holland's jazz groups. This current band is made up of Holland, the bassist and bandleader; Antonio Hart, saxophonist; Eric Harland, drummer; Alex Sipiagin, trumpeter; Mulgrew Miller, pianist; and Robin Eubanks, trombonist. Throughout all the pieces performed, it was very apparent that the musicians are very good at what they do and they enjoy the music immensely. Approximately five pieces featuring extensive solos were performed, though it was hard to keep count and I did lose track because I was very absorbed in the music.

I only have good reviews for all the musicians. I feel like the rhythm section (bass, drums, and piano) is sometimes overshadowed in jazz but I was really delighted to see that the rhythm section was allotted solos. I got to see and hear a bass solo, another of my firsts of that evening. I enjoyed listening to Holland's bass' throaty and soulful groove. As I had never really seen a bass player "groove," I was pleasantly surprised to see Holland getting in to the music, swaying with his bass. Hart had given us a preview of his playing during class but it was nothing compared to his solo during the concert. Hart described the ultimate playing as being a conductor to the divine and he looked that way during his performance: he was so immersed in the music that it did appear as if he was possessed, serving as a filter to a source from above. Harland's solo was impressive. I would have never thought it, due to my lack of exposure to great jazz drumming, but the audience, including me, was held in rapt silence throughout his solo. Both Sipiagin and Eubanks demonstrated their musical prowess; they played their respective instrument in a way that I would have thought impossible prior to the performance. I could not even begin to understand how they were capable of producing notes so effortlessly and fluidly. Among the rhythm section, it was easiest to identify Miller's playing. During the other musicians' solos, his playing was the constant support but he didn't play the same, staid and repetitive music. He was continuously improvising though it was more expressive than fancy, and the same may be said for his solos. The other musicians moved off-stage or further away from the soloist during the solos but I loved that they still appeared to be tuned to the music, listening attentively and enjoying it rather than using the time to do non-jazz things.

It was hard to tell how many people were actually in attendance but it appeared that Birdland was serving a full house that night. I immediately noticed a stark difference in audience etiquette at a jazz concert in contrast to a classical concert. Applause is more liberal at jazz concerts; it isn't about the volume of the applause, because performers are well received at both types of concerts, but it is about the appropriate moment for applause. While concertgoers refrain from clapping until the very end of a piece at classical concerts, even during the brief breaks in movements, it is the very opposite at jazz concerts: it seems that every solo and reintroduction deems applause. The applause is not a distraction at all and the performers look very appreciative of the commendation they receive.

I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and it is a start for me. I do not see this as the only jazz experience that I've had but a prelude to the prospective jazz concerts that I will attend. I would like to do away with the shame I have for not being more acquainted with this truly American music. After all, I am eager to experience the music in other venues, as well as see and hear other jazz artists because I like being pleasantly surprised.





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