May I offer a six-minute escape from the world that at times weighs so heavily upon us? You know that world, defined by medical lab tests and inescapable bills, news of ungentle acts. I could wear out your eyes and sink us all into gloom describing that world.
But there is another world, always alive if we can remind ourselves of it: the world of beauty and creativity, of joy and generosity.
This offering of Beauty was created on April 25, 2014, at the Atlanta Jazz Party, a musical cornucopia. The exalted participants are Rebecca Kilgore, vocal; Duke Heitger, Bria Skonberg, trumpet; Bob Havens, trombone; Dan Block, tenor / clarinet; Allan Vache, clarinet; Rossano Sportiello, piano; Paul Keller, string bass; Bucky Pizzarelli, guitar; Ed Metz, drums.
The song, ninety years old, is the Isham Jones / Gus Kahn THE ONE I LOVE (BELONGS TO SOMEBODY ELSE) — a simple melodic line built on a two-note pattern but one of those songs that takes up residence in your brain until it is chased away by external forces. THE ONE I LOVE is also a sacred favorite of mine because it plays a part in one of the great meetings of the cosmos. Earl Hines said that he was at the Chicago musicians’ union playing a new tune (yes, that one) and a cornet player introduced himself and started to play in duet with him. Yes, that cornet player. How would the course of Western Civilization have been different if Hines had been practicing scales or was standing outdoors with his cigar?
Instead of a dim memory of 1924, the real thing in 2014:
I find everything about this performance endearing, from the cinema verite with which it begins (Becky offering everyone a lead sheet, facing an overexcited microphone, setting the tempo by singing the title). Maestro Sportiello enters and the rhythm section joins in: I find myself relaxing, all tension replaced by happiness, in forty-five seconds. “Safe in the arms of Joy,” I think.
Listen closely, please, whether you play an instrument, sing for your supper, or are simply a devoted fan — to the beautiful singularity of the individual voices here: Becky, Bob, Bucky, Duke / Dan, and Becky returning. Each one is completely different but allied by a love for the melody and a respect for the rhythm.
And PHRASING — the way Ms. Kilgore fluidly offers lines of prose and individual syllables so that the meaning of the simple lyric is enhanced, not lost, but that the words aren’t rigidly tied to the beat. Imagine the sheet music, which delineates a metronomic relationship between notes and words, and hear Becky’s intuitive elasticity, seconded by the horn soloists, elongatinf a phrase here, compressing another, emphasizing a few words and offering others with sweet conversational casualness.
And even though no one is “doing repertory,” the whole performance feels as if Basie and a few of the fellows just stopped by to play one. That simple propulsive riff at the end — Basie, but reaching back to Louis. Believable, natural, uplifting music.
This is high art — it takes lifetimes to know how to sing and play like this — offered without pretense. I feel better already.
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May your happiness increase!