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GOD BLESS AMERICA

It seems like one of the great  pastimes of Americans is denigrating this country. We even have a genre of music called “protest” that is dedicated to criticizing all of the injustices in our country. It seems like everywhere you turn, you hear of some new problem between races, between religions, between the political parties, between the sexes and between different economic groups. So many of the people that I connect with on Facebook are constantly putting up notices attacking people that hold different views than they do.

What does this have to do with music? Well, one of the main reasons I got interested in jazz was because I got tired of all of the nihilistic and negative lyrics in rock and folk songs. They either glorified bad behavior or stated some problem in the world without offering a viable solution. I felt I had to get out of that music just to save my soul. As the the wisest man in the world, Solomon,says in the Bible, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Truer words were never laid upon me. I eventually dumped all of my albums (did I REALLY need a Rolling Stones album titled “Her Satanic Majesties Request”?) and delved into songs without words. Melodies and rhythms served by Horace Silver, Herbie Hancock, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Art Tatum created such life affirming sounds that I felt a healing come over my nervous and vascular system. Music does has the power to heal!

By the time I was finally ready to add lyrics back into my musical repertoire, I got into the songbooks of Ella Fitzgerald and the Tin Pan Alley pieces delivered by Billie Holiday. Has there ever been a more cheerful voice than Ella as she sings about the need to “Accen-tuate the Positive” or early Holiday that (as my dad loved to point out) had a laugh in her deliver on pieces like “Mean to Me” or “If I Were You.” These songs had a cleansing quality, as opposed to the feeling of needing a bath after being deluged by the grunge of negative music.

Then  came bebop! What a sound of excitement on marvelously maniacal pieces like “Our Delight” or “Bouncing With Bud”! I felt more alive with each exposure to jazz. Then, when my friend Ted took me to a jazz concert for the first time, I was amazed that instead of feeling tired and drained by a rock concert, I actually felt MORE energized by the music and in fact felt like going out to do something afterwards. I NEVER felt that way after seeing Jethro Tull or The Eagles. It was like taking in a sonic fountain of youth.

What does this have to do with you, the fan, or you the musician? Please remember the reason people originally listened to and played music; it was to worship God, get people into a celebratory mood and lighten people’s hearts. Music was meant to inspire.

Therefore, don’t waste your time with negative lyrics or sounds. That doesn’t mean that the music has to be simple and only major chords. The songs and interpretations should make you think of the classic three criteria for judging music; beauty, truth and craft. Does the music you listen to accomplish that? Does the music that you are trying to perform fulfill this purpose?

Try to remember why you are here on earth. As The Apostle Paul wrote “Whatsoever is true, noble, righteous, pure, loving, acceptable, excellent and of good report, think of these things.” Not a bad guideline for what you dedicate your time to allow to come into your ears or out of your hands.

Similarly, in our country, we “enjoy” ripping it apart. Try looking at all of the positives that come from America. When I was in Egypt earlier this year (on a medical mission), I met an Egyptian who went to medical school in Boston. I asked him what he thought of America and Americans. The most poignant thing that he didn’t understand was “Why do you Americans put down your country so often? It’s such a great place, but I never heard anyone talk about how great it was to live there. I loved it there!” Try to see the positive in where you live, and write a song about it!

***FEEL FREE TO GIVE FEEDBACK***

Here’s the latest…

Hi George-

Ahhh you went to Lola’s?! That place is so good.  Punch is one of my favs too.  This is really a good, comprehensive guide for some who hasn’t been here, or for someone who LIVES here.  I haven’t heard of many of the places you mention.

If/when you come back to Minneapolis, Pig Ate My Pizza is another really good pizza joint, in the northwest metro, kinda long drive from Stillwater though.  The potholes are fun to check out near Stillwater too, if you haven’t taken that little excursion already.

 

Ryan Dawes

Hey jazzweekly,

I’m reading this from the blue whale d=]

Frances Gioffrion

Hi George,

 
Read and enjoyed your review in Jazz Weekly. If I knew anything about jazz I would have enjoyed it more. You’re quite a writer.
Jean Hoefling 
Hi George,

I saw your review, and of course, am disappointed that the album
didn't 
resonate with you.  But I respect your candor, and appreciate your

having given it a listen.

All best,

Denny Zeitlin