Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Even Sugar Free Jazz Couldn't Mess Up The Night

And it's cool and clean as
Sugar free jazz
--Soul Coughing, "Sugar Free Jazz"

A beautiful summer night, the end of June. Monkey and I decided, with no real premeditation to head down to the Sheldon Museum's sculpture garden for the final performance of the Jazz in June concert series. Monkey was going to be out visiting a friend, but she was going to be downtown, so I biked down and met her.

The bike ride was a bit convoluted, as several trail closures resulting from on-going construction and renovation sent me on a few short, unintended detours, but, all in all, it was good to be riding. I haven't done much lately, what with the increased work commute and other physical ailments of the last few months. This evening was a perfect one to be in the saddle. We've had some massive storms lately, and the forecast is for temperatures to push the three-digit mark, so this might be the last pleasant night for a while.

The weather being what it was, the concert was almost an excuse just to sit outside. Neither Monkey nor I knew anything of the performer, so that was not what drew us. It was just a reason to be downtown and to experience a communal civic event.

Long ago, in a city far away, summer meant festivals. Mostly ethnic or cultural festivals. Baltimore was the place to be for the Polish festival, the Lithuanian festival, Afram, the Greek festival, and on and on. There were (and are) other festivals, mostly focusing more on neighborhoods than ethnicity or culture, but the ethnic festivals were the ones that got my family out of the house. It was wonderful to be out amongst people enjoying the heat, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, of all of these civic parties. I loved them. It seems that time is wearing down this tradition back in my old hometown, but some festivals are apparently still hanging on.

Later, in CoMo, a spring/summer tradition was the Twilight Festival, which was a sort of downtown hodgepodge of music, merchants, horses, and kettle corn. I don't think Monkey and I missed many of those Thursday evenings, strolling the streets of downtown Columbia (uh...I mean, "The District"), running into people, listening to this bit of bluegrass here and this patch of folky strumming there. Again, a tradition that died while we were still in CoMo, but it was fun while it lasted.

So, here in Lincoln, Jazz in June seems to have picked up the communal experience slack where time and distance have intervened in my life. So, it made no difference that the music I listened to this evening, in my opinion, basically sucked. It made no difference that the "jazz" that I heard tonight was sort of soulless, clean, simple (syncopated, but simply so). The performance was spirited, as the sax man wandered the crowd with his cordless microphone, bouncing around like some smooth Pied Piper, enticing young and old to embrace the faux-funk that he was spewing. But, for Pete's sake, the crowd was clapping along in 4/4 time...that's not jazz. Not to me, anyway. But, you know what? There were kids bopping around to the funky groove, and people smiling and clapping along. There were people just chatting with their friends, or munching on the ubiquitous Midwestern delicacy...yes, kettle corn. And, even I, a man who takes his music rather seriously, who likes his jazz to swing or bop (neither of which this music was doing), even I had a wonderful time.

And after, as Monkey and I walked my bike to the car so she could drive us home, as the sun was settling in for the night, and as the chimney swifts were fluttering off to hang from there stone-walled perches, I couldn't recall a single lick, one tiny riff I had heard all night, but, at least I got out with the people.


Monkey @ Life Refocused said...

It certainly was a perfect evening. Even with the smooooooth jazz.

La Fashionista said...

When I need jazz to soothe my soul, there's just nothing else like it and in that case I have no tolerance for soulless jazz. However, when it's community that I need, it's freeing simply to let go and be present with other people. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the experience even with the less than ideal music.

Coincidence that you're also back here in your blog "community"?