Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Jazz Messengers, The Jazz Messengers (self-titled, 1956)

Art Blakey was the bandleader and drummer for the Jazz Messengers. I like the fact that Art is the drummer and bandleader. I like the idea of a frontman leading from the back.

I came across Art and the Messengers through Ted Goia's book How to Listen to Jazz. Goia praised the band for its swing and proposed this exercise. Listen for how often the Messengers miss notes, or one of the players falls out. What you'll notice is the ease with which the players are able to pick up where they left off, a sign of discipline and expertise. Bad jazz bands panic and fill, Goia says. Good bands mind the gaps.

This time around, I confess to being a little distracted while listening to this particular album. I had to run errands while listening. Certainly not ideal.

But what are ideal conditions, anyway? Does the music or the listener suffer? Perhaps the listener does. The best way to listen to anything is attentively, isn't it?

There was something else I was thinking about throughout the day, something that struck me last night before bed. Last night before sleep, I was listening to a podcast where the hosts were talking about how much of politics these days is about criticizing other people's consumption of popular media. I think this is to a large degree true, and it's probably been true for some time. For instance, the cognoscenti listen to jazz and read serious literature; the vulgar watch trash TV. Or so the stereotype goes.

This got me to thinking about the fact that while this doesn't erase a distinction between higher and lower forms of art, there really is no need for a snobbishness about what people like. Apart from public education, which tries to point pupils to better, more edifying works of art, all we can do is explore what forms of art we like, share what we like, and give reasons why we like it. It's no one individual's task to convince someone to like something.

But perhaps the point is so obvious it need not be said. If so, shame on me.

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