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The Journey Begins

By Rob Brethouwer

For a few moments of imagination, let your mind’s eye take you on a journey to a different time and place. The time is somewhere between 1925 and 1953, and the place is a rainy spring evening in Chicago, New York, London, or Paris. Having just finished a lengthy dinner with friends, you step out onto the street into the cool wet air. Your small group decides that it being only 10:30pm, there is time to catch the second set at a nearby jazz club. The relative calm of the big city evening is soon intruded upon, but bright lamps light up the street. The glare of the neon sign co-mingles with loud conversation from those gathering in front of the club. As your group gets closer, the first sounds of the music coming from inside are heard. At first, the low throb of an upright bass and the bright tingle of a cymbal, and then, the flowing melodious lines of an alto saxophone. The barrier between the street and the interior of the building is broken, as this occurs, there is a sense of moving from one world and into another. 

     As your group is escorted to two small round tables, the music surrounds you. The small stage holds four musicians-one each on piano, upright bass, drums, and alto saxophone. The music feels as if it is moving directly through each part of your body. The background of conversation, laughter, and the clink of glasses only adds to the atmosphere. As if out of nowhere, drinks appear on your tables and the next phase of the evening begins in earnest. You may have missed the delivery of the drinks because your attention is focused on the musicians on the stage. You immediately notice that there are two group conversations occurring simultaneously. The first is the conversation happening between the four musicians. How this is happening without words is not clear. The second, and much larger conversation, is between the musicians on the stage and the audience as a whole. A connection exists between those who are listening and those who are performing. Again, how this happens and what it means is not clear. Soon, you feel somewhat detached from the others in your group as you lose yourself in the joyous atmosphere, the smell of smoke in the air, the taste of your second cocktail, and the pulse of humanity in the sound of jazz that surrounds you. This is a world that is unexpected, unplanned, but of momentous and pure harmony.

  As if time has ceased to exist, the musicians move through a series of tunes both upbeat and melancholy. It has become clear that the others in your group have some familiarity with the jazz club and with the music that is being performed. For you, a jazz virgin, you are unfamiliar with the music but know without any doubt, that this is a world that must be explored at length and at a much deeper level. You make a commitment to experience more live music and to listen to the vast number of recordings that you have somehow ignored up to this point. The sound of jazz has grabbed you and will not let go. Your journey of discovery has just begun. 

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About the Author

Coming into existence on a dark winter evening, Rob Brethouwer was born to have a book in his hands and a sarcastic remark on the tip of his tongue. A first career is in its late stages and a second short career as a librarian is in the early stages of training. A former classical music columnist with 151 articles out in the world, Rob now turns his pen towards the world of jazz. Obsessed with big cities and subway systems, Rob does what he can to cope with living in small-town America.