HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
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MAKE ROMANTIC MUSIC SOUND EASY
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Like Christmas, greeting card companies came and swept away the true essence of February 14th. The day was originally a holy day dedicated to Saint Valentine of Terni, who lived from around 173 to 276. As tradition tells it, Valentine was under arrest in Umbria by Judge Asterius. The judge tested Valentine’s faith by challenging the Christian to heal his blind daughter. When Valentine did this, he not only freed the saint, but gave him a free wish, which was to destroy all of the pagan idols, free the Christian prisoners and be baptized. All of which happened. AH! The good old days!
Later, under the leadership of the Roman despot Claudius, a law was passed that forbade soldiers to married, under the assumption that “women weaken legs” (as they say in Rocky). Defying the government, Valentine secretly married couples. For this, and for refusing to worship pagan idols, he was beheaded, but not before writing letters to the young lady healed from blindness, by which he signed his communications “Your Valentine.” How’s that for “religion” standing up against tyranny? Does it sound familiar?
What does this have to do with jazz? ARE YOU KIDDING?
I was recently talking to a major jazz festival promoter, and he brought up an interesting point. A generation ago, the ratio of songs about “I Love You” versus other topics was about 80-20. Now, it’s 80-20 with the main topic about “ME” or “I WANT TO DEBASE YOU.” The lyrics, unfortunately, are also reflected in the style of playing, as notes are now attacked instead of caressed and wooed.
I’ll never forget at a jazz club Betty Carter was singing a gorgeous ballad and faded away to allow the young saxist to solo. He was going to aggressively and Ms. Carter simply advised, “Make love, baby” and then shook her head, “Oh, the young.”
Music was originally intended to express the emotion of love. The first recording of a song is in the Bible, in the book of Exodus, the Hebrews are singing a love song to God. In the New Testament, the first song is Mary singing the “Magnificat” another musical devotion. When I worked in Israel in the early 80s, I was amazed how many folk songs were about water! You always sing about what you need and want more of!
However, music can also be pointed into the wrong direction. Abraham and Joshua found the same Hebrews singing to a false god of a golden calf. And just like there are songs about true love, there are also songs that glorify infidelity and debasement.
A great philosopher wrote “there is no neutrality.” Every song is loving something, either truth and beauty or falsehood and ugliness. So, when you’re playing an instrument, what are you trying to show that you love? The beauty of God? A woman? Of music itself? Of God’s creation?
Music is supposed to tell a story. Make yours one of love.
The same goes for being a music fan. Develop an appreciation for lyrics that speak about love in clever ways. The guys like Berlin, Porter, Mercer and Kern were geniuses about it. My monthly No One Asked My Opinion list a partial canon of standards that every self respecting jazz fan should own. Check it out, and become an expert on love!
KEEP WRITING US. HERE ARE SOME RECENT COMMUNICATIONS…
I guess my Label sent you the CD. I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to my music.The word you used really resonate with the way I perceive my music.
Thank you very much.Take Care
Funny enough after I was summarily fired from Verve Records back in ’97 I cooled my heels to get away from it all and moved to Sherman, CT. The real estate broker told me, ‘do you know Tommy Lipuma?” He’s your next door neighbor!” It was the house + barn where he recorded “Unforgettable.” Tommy had not taken over at Verve for another couple years and we somehow lived in peace, as he heard me in the distance banging my drums and driving my Ferrari at top speed (very loudly) on our rural roads in horse country. Super nice man. Love him. We even had Llamas next door too.
Thanks for the article,
I tuned in here to your writing to read a review of my latest disc, but instead I found an article on giving thanks, faith, and perspective. I been struggling in near every area of my life for nearly a decade. In my tight little family I faced cancer, drugs, lost faith, Alzheimer’s, and the prospect of supporting us on a musicians wages. I have been overwhelmed with my loss and how complete it seemed. Someone can say right thing to you at the right time and suddenly your life can seem so much better. Thank you for the article.
You inspired me to write the Thanksgiving Song !
Very good article, thanks
Dear Jazz Weekly,
I ran into your 2014 interview with Larry Carlton. I’ve been a Steely Dan fan for 35 years but never knew anything about Larry. I loved hearing that Larry is a man of faith, even after the gun shot incident. Thanks!
Really great work, George. That was one heck of a conversation with Kirk Whalum!
Peace, Love and Joy,
thanks again for this great review!
Great article. Thanks. I’Il share with the boys!
Philippe Saisse (Al Di Meola Band)