Last night I saw Barry Harris at the Village Vanguard with Leroy Williams on drums and Ray Drummond on bass. I’ve seen Barry so many times since moving to New York, but it’s been a while so I was glad I could make it out.
I love his touch at the piano, his chords, everything. Last night he was in fine form and moving seamlessly between tunes. His version of ‘Round Midnight was really moving. I admire his complete freedom at the instrument; his harmonic creativity is really exceptional (and reminds me of Erroll Garner, at least conceptually. They both seem to be able to make any chord resolve to any chord).
Since I started seeing Barry live he has always given some cultural or human advice during his concerts and shows. Sometimes he speaks about New York and how it’s people are special, but often he talks about Jazz and how it’s being perceived by the media or the world at large. Last night was no exception. At the end of the second set he started talking about David Letterman’s show. He said he was watching the show and during Dave’s walk-on the band played a Jazz tune. When the band stopped and Dave began his monologue he asked the band what the song was, and when the band replied it was a song by Monk, Dave said, “Don’t play it again.”
Now, oddly enough, I remember seeing this too. At the time it rankled me, but I didn’t think about it too much.
Then Barry continued to talk about another TV show: The Office. He specifically mentioned the episode where Angela and Dwight are talking outside and Dwight says, “Jazz is stupid.”
He described this scene in COMPLETE DETAIL. I also remember seeing this and finding it mildly (and randomly) offensive, especially because that week Parks and Recreation also ran a somewhat Jazz-bashing scene.
So, first of all I’m surprised that Barry watches TV (and we watch the same shows), but I’m glad to know that these scenes didn’t sit well with him. It may seem a trivial thing to be bothered about; I know they are just TV shows and really these scenes seem inconsequential, but why does the media make fun of Jazz? Why is it funny to people?(Anchorman’s Jazz Flute, anyone?) Should it be offensive? Is it offensive to you?
And so we don’t end on a sour note – my favorite Barry Harris cut of all time:
UPDATED 5/24/13: read this response from fellow blogger @BirdIsTheWorm
Also, I want to say that I think these instances mentioned in my blog ARE, for the most part, funny. Some offended me (The Office scene) but Jazz Flute is hilarious.