Second to Silence

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Jazz is night music. Its color is a warm dark hue of indigo or a buzzing red neon light filtered through a hazy blue smoke. Its unremitting solo’s meander above the cacophony of whispers, clinking glasses, hoots, hollers and howlin’ laughter. It smells musky and sweet like jasmine perfume on a women’s heated body, its flavor the mixture of Juicy Fruit gum and nicotine on her warm damp breath in my ear. It’s mysterious and sensual, fueled by the improvisation of a moment, that moment.

Jazz knows no age, unlike rock and roll with its youthful angst and rebel demeanor. Rock reincarnates itself every generation, its thundering three chord progression rattling the walls of the established rules of convention. Its devotees are dressed in black trench coats or multi colored tie-dye. Some wear skulls and cross bones, while others sport rainbows and peace signs. Its sound is loud and angry. It’s impatient and shockingly rude, and then it will suddenly render a tender love story about first love, lost love or no love at all. The lyric’s demand a change to the inequities of this sad life, its practitioners opening their chaste new eyes and ears to the atrocities of their parents, boldly pointing out their inexcusable mistakes and follies. And that drumbeat keeps thrashing away on beats two and four of each measure.

Gospel and blues come from the same place. They speak with the voice of the soul, from worship and praise to misery and sorrow. It can be heard in the rapturous choir shout of one slain in spirit, as well as the grave moan rising from deep in the throat of a sullen bluesman or a share cropper singing from his sagging paint chipped porch to a field of cotton that refuses to grow and to all the women who’ve wronged him and that boss man who don’t give a damn how he suffers in the dust and swelters under that blistering delta sun. Its angst distilled by that wretched dominate seventh chord and ladled from the devils caldron itself, then coaxed out of a bedraggled guitar by a merciful calloused hand. It’s in the god forsaken growl of a B-3 Hammond organ, the shake and rattle of a jubilant tambourine, and everything of heaven and hell, the sacred and the profane, choked on and spat out.

Classical is a concoction of swirling violins, sawed cellos, surging brass and woodwinds with the fracas of timpani, drum and cymbal in close tow. Its fragrance blows in the breeze like the scent of pine needles on a warm July Sunday afternoon. Classical is an extension of nature, its suits, chorales and movements seem to unfold from itself, like galaxies of stars that go off into infinity, breaching the void with unimaginable beauty, stretching across eternal light years, making time and distance meaningless . And the moment is always present, all is one, and one is all. Its color is the refraction of light through a prism. I don’t know how it works, but its miraculous to behold, like God or Zen thoughts, which are no thoughts at all, its composition is only second to silence.

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