Because we are saturated with music in so many forms, we might take it lightly, perhaps for granted. “Oh, that band did that song well.”
But how many understand what’s involved in these performances?
Like any other art, music stirs feelings. It makes us feel at home in a community of people who understand beauty; it makes us feel joyous or melancholy; it sends its messages to our ears, brain, and heart.
The singers and musicians give us the gift of their art — an instant message of love.
But “making us feel” is not so simple. It’s not a matter of simply announcing what emotion you want your audience to feel, and then expecting them to supply it from their own experience. “Being at one with the song” is easier proclaimed than accomplished.
Great art is also a matter of technical skill (ask anyone who’s attempted to sing in public, to keep time, to stay on pitch), and matters more subtle: taste, restraint, knowing what not to do, what will be appropriate to the mood of the song, understanding the world in which the song exists and doing those very subtle things to send the message — intact — to us.
When everything is in alignment, something miraculous happens. We might not be able to describe it or why it moves us so, but we know we have witnessed something far beyond the ordinary “good performance” of a “nice song” that we “liked.”
I offer this recent video-recording of a live performance as evidence, a reminder of what is possible. For me, it is also telling that the artists here couldn’t retire for the day, having created a small wistful masterpiece: they had to go on to the next song of the set.
This remarkable performance took place on September 22, 2013, the closing day of the 2013 Jazz at Chautauqua party. The chosen text was a tender 1929 ballad by DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson — JUST IMAGINE — its premise being that the singer cannot have the person she loves in reality, so that she creates the fantasy of his being there: a delicate poetic notion, that the dreamed-for ideal is far better than despair at one’s inability to make one’s dreams take tangible form.
The song has Beiderbeckian associations, through a post-Bix Victor recording by the Jean Goldkette Orchestra. But enough history.
The masterful musicians onstage are Rebecca Kilgore (song), Andy Schumm (cornet), Dan Barrett (trombone), Rossano Sportiello (pian0), Frank Tate (string bass), John Von Ohlen (drums):
I am so grateful to Rebecca, Andy, Dan, Rossano, Frank, and John for their beautiful delicacy — quiet music with intense feeling that lands in our hearts and stays there. And I am delighted to be able to send this small musical miracle to you. In notes, words, and pulses, these six artists send love.
May your happiness increase!