There’s something to be said about live jazz music and the way it transforms a space. Sure, I’ll be one to speak up, though I’m massively unqualified to do so: with just about any combination of sharp brass, a steady beat, and hands that know their way around a guitar, even the most dull venue can become a lively hang out for the cool and groovy.
Jazz is technicolor.
When I was a little girl, my mom would take me to listen to live music. It was a privilege to be there, at venues like Sweet Fanny’s, a restaurant-turned-bar after hours. I was an honorary guest of the Piranha Club—the self-named group of cheeky women that my mom was part of—sharp-witted, a little sarcastic, artistic ladies that are as supportive as they are fun.
Lesa, one of the Piranhas, regularly invited the gang to watch her partner, Kevin, play music. And so, on a weekly basis, I went along with the girls. My dad usually came, too, and my brothers. And there I’d be, sipping on a root beer float past my bedtime, wishing my feet could reach the floor, so I could tap along too.
When we moved to Colorado and away from the Piranha Club outings, my relationship with music changed. It still existed, but in a different context, especially as I entered the world of dance. Live concerts were soon replaced by a scratched CD in a studio, where firm counts of eight were more common than a riff or scat.
As my dance career came and went, so too did my conscious relationship with melodies and rhythm.
Back to the Groove
I thought it’d stay that way, until nostalgia came knocking. Nearly 17 years after listening to his sultry sets at Sweet Fanny’s, I was driving Kevin—Piranha Club member by proxy and career musician—to a breakfast place in Grand Junction, Colorado. He was the guest guitarist at the college’s jazz festival, and Chad and I were acting as faux-hosts for the weekend.
“We saw Steely Dan perform at Red Rocks,” he was telling us. When my husband and I exchanged guilty looks, we didn’t need to admit anything. It was obvious we didn’t have a clue who Kevin was talking about.
Back in college, I wrote several CD reviews, though I was often uneasy about it. I felt like I didn’t know anything, and so publishing my opinion alongside a piece of art that someone poured their heart and soul into, felt cheap.
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but somewhere along the line, I decided that my music taste is trash. I like songs and artists that hold mass appeal—like pop hits and radio countdowns, rather than musical talent or edge. If some music listeners are snobs, I’m the opposite.
For You and Me
It’s taken me a while to realize that there’s no reason for musical insecurity. It doesn’t matter that I love Taylor Swift’s catchiest songs, or that I stood out at Kevin’s performance like a sore thumb.
I went, I listened, I loved. My feet were tapping and my heart was happy. A bunch of college kids with brass instruments and a beyond-talented family friend transformed the auditorium into a vibrant scene, welcoming even to me.
I’m grateful for this experience and the ignition of a personal revolution.
You don’t need to know anything about music to enjoy it. I discovered, right there on the Colorado Mesa campus, that there’s a lesson in every song. I don’t know squat about playing pretty—about keeping time or reading sheet music or composing anything other than written words on a blog. Hell, I didn’t even know it was Steely Dan behind those classic radio jams like “Do It Again.”
But here’s the deal: when you go listen to live music, whether it’s jazz or bluegrass or folk rock or pop-synth or classical, you are better for it. When you find the beat, don’t lose it.