What is Jazz? Where is Jazz going? Jazz is dead! Nobody likes Jazz!
These are all things I hear quite a lot. They’re in magazines, on blogs, on facebook, on twitter (check out Jazz is the Worst for some laughs), and, for the most part, these statements are being made by Jazz musicians and Jazz critics. I think the general public doesn’t care. Not that they don’t care about Jazz per se, but that they don’t care about these intellectual inane arguments. I believe they care about feeling good. They care about going out to have an experience where they come home feeling better than they did when they went out.
That’s certainly the kind of experience I had last week when I went to see Jimmy Cobb at Fat Cat. (If you live in the New York area and you have not seen Jimmy Cobb lately, you should. He is a living Jazz legend / amazingly swinging drummer, who you have probably heard on “Kind of Blue” among other legendary records, and he plays somewhere in this city nearly every week. They aren’t all posh $50-a-person places either. The cover charge at Fat Cat is $3.) I have been going to see Jimmy Cobb play at Fat Cat for 10 years. When I moved to NYC in 2003, Jimmy played nearly every Sunday at Fat Cat with Ilya Lustak and Frank Wess (bass players were on rotation) and I was there, in the front row, nearly every Sunday. I would sit there, listen to the music, and pretend I was in the band, comping along with Jimmy. (Comping, simply defined, is the rhythmic accompaniment that occurs at the piano / guitar and the drums behind a solo). I wouldn’t close my eyes, but I would just watch Jimmy’s snare drum and focus on his response to each solo and each tune. You might think this makes me sound like an obsessive crazy nut job (and maybe yes, a little), BUT I did it because it made me feel good. The rhythm of Jimmy Cobb, comping, ride cymbal and all, can put a smile on anyone’s face.
So if you ever find yourself wondering, ‘What is Jazz?’ Just go find some Jimmy Cobb, live or on record, and hear the answer.
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