The Beloved is very proud of me and what I do, something I treasure. And in this spirit, she will often introduce me to someone she’s just met who has expressed an interest in music, and say of me, “This is the Sweetie: he has a jazz blog.”
I smile at the person after this identifying statement and wait patiently. Sometimes the reaction is, “Oh, you like Miles?” and I can then explain that my heroes are Louis, Lester, and their living friends. But more often than not the response is polite silence. And a fixed look often comes over the other person’s face — somewhere between puzzled, being struck dumb, having nothing to say, wishing the subject had never been brought up, feeling ignorant, feeling threatened.
I think it has something to do with the ominous, oppressive word
which for a variety of reasons seems to leave people with nothing to say in return.
I am willing and often able to converse on other subjects: the deliciousness of the food, the delights of Northern California, the other person’s interests, where the good places to eat are, how lovely or horrid the weather has been . . . the usual run of non-threatening conversation.
But simply introduce JAZZ into the conversation and the room falls silent. Is it that people don’t like it, don’t understand it, and are thus reluctant to talk about something so esoteric, so outre? Really, I have no intention of holding forth about, say, an alternate take of an unissued Jabbo Smith 78 I have found after decades of searching. I am not going to lasso the New Person and force him or her to listen to me play THAT’S MY HOME (badly) on the cornet, or compel him or her to watch my latest YouTube clip.
But someday I am going to try an experiment, and ask the Beloved to introduce me as a) someone who collects rare books; b) builds harpsichords; c) flies model airplanes; d) has a Lionel train setup in the basement; e) is learning the tango; f) rides an adult-size tricycle everywhere; g) just came back from a trip to Wisconsin . . . and see if the petrified stare comes out in the same way. I wonder what it is about JAZZ that produces such silence?
Note: I have not written this post as an inducement for the cognoscenti to tell me how we are live in a cultural wasteland; how Americans are so stupid; how no one knows anything. Ranting about a current offense to taste is, to me, tedious. I don’t encourage angry contemptuous bashing here, and hope I have not been guilty of it myself.
But it is — a la Yul Brynner — a puzzlement.
May your happiness increase!