My favorite scene in any movie of all time can be found in White Christmas. Wallace and Davis (aka Danny Kay and Bing Crosby) have just come to see the Haynes Sister act (aka Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney.) Hoping sparks will fly between the workaholic Wallace (Crosby) and the mother hen (Clooney), Danny Kay and Vera Ellen’s characters leave the dinner table to share a dance sequence that starts on the ballroom floor and works its way outside culminating on the roof of a veranda. In the old movies and the musicals, there is angst and love, friendship and conflict but the emotions are ALWAYS big and you know what they do when they are trying to figure things out? They sing about it!
In jazz there is that element of history—the old movies, the gorgeous evening gowns, the debonair man in the smoking jacket, combined with that “in the moment” improvisation and style—never the same way twice! With jazz, you’re not trying to sound like so and so’s amazing Carnegie Hall recording… you’re trying to give the song what it needs at this exact second. You’re trying to sound like yourselves… and it’s a communal effort. You listen, you respond, you musically converse.
To prepare, rather than practicing a passage over and over again until you can play it exactly like Joshua Bell or sing it like Kathleen Battle, you dissect the song until you understand its very fiber. You explore what could be. Then you take your ideas and you tuck them in the back of your head because everything could change in the moment with the collective creativity of the band, the house, the magic in the air.
THIS is why I love jazz!