There’s something about jazz that goes hand in hand with travel.
Travel was a major part of the Jazz Age. The greatest writers of history divided their time between New York, Paris, and London.
Kerouac’s On the Road has a distinctly jazz-like rhythm to its prose.
There’s a sort of magic that only occurs when a slamming vocalist, a brass ensemble, and a free-fingered pianist gather on stage. I had the chance to see that magic last night.
Jeff Hedberg performed at Chicago’s renowned Jazz Showcase last night. As I stepped from the quiet streets into the throb of the club, something lay heavy in the air — a sense of anticipation, of excitement.
The average patron was older than me by two decades. Most carried a sense of decorum; suit jackets and polite conversation, the sort of thing Dean Moriarty would be horrified to find in a jazz club.
I ordered my drink and sat down, waiting quietly for the music to start. As Jeff Hedberg took the stage, the conversation stopped. After a few warm up, introductory sets, Jeff stopped his performance and picked up the mic.
“If any of you don’t know this next piece,” he said, “You’re probably in the wrong place.”
He turned back to the stage and snapped his fingers. One, two, three.
When the first strains of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” blasted from the stage, the entire atmosphere of the club changed. All of those suit-jacket-and-polite-conversation men and women transformed.
Heads began to bob up and down. Fingers began to snap. Feet began to tap. The music began to work its way inside the audience, finding every nook and cranny and swarming like locusts through the blood . Those listening didn’t have a choice but to submit themselves to the will of the music.
One of the sax players jumped to his feet, face burning red, his body twisting and contorting as he squeezed every last breath of air from his lungs into the instrument. When the song came to an end, he opened his eyes as if from a trance. The entire venue was on its feet, clapping as the air thundered with cheers.
I spent a week exploring Sapporo, Japan because of its jazz scene. Next week, I plan to visit the Blue Note in New York. There’s something about the sound of a saxophone and the wild, syncopated chaos of jazz that no other music comes close to.