Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.


We all have our indulgences. They’re hard to hide from at the best of times. And at the worst of times, they can cripple you. When you’re depressed you’ll consume pints and gallons of chocolate – at it doesn’t matter if you’ve been on the Atkins Diet (or the South Beach Diet or whatever is in these days). Indulgences have a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. And before you know it, the indulgence has become an obsession – and kaboom! You’re shoveling chocolate in the bathroom/kitchen/trial room like a crazy person.

I used to listen to jazz once in a while. When I felt quiet, when I felt in need of inspiration, when I felt like dancing up and down just to forget. It was a monthly fix, and I was instantly cured. But, before I realized it, I was spending all the money I had buying jazz as fast as I could. I forgot about buying shoes, going for movies or even buying books. All I could think about was feeling Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong etc over and over again.

Jazz isn’t easy to understand. You can’t sing along to it. You can’t quote it. You can just listen and feel whatever you feel at that moment. The first time I heard “In a Sentimental Mood” by John Coltrane, I felt well, sentimental. The second time I felt like skimming stones Amelie-style. The third time I felt like owning a Polaroid camera and taking sepiatone photographs. And listening to it right now, for the n-th time, I feel like taking a very long walk – despite the fact that it is now 3:35am. You never know what you’re going to feel next. First you think it’s a happy song, and then it’s a sad song. Then it’s an angry song, and next, it’s a love song. And on it goes. Like Beiderbecke once said, “One thing I like about jazz, kid, is that I don't know what's going to happen next. Do you?”

On the album cover of “Kind of Blue”, it is written : If this is your first encounter with Kind of Blue, be forewarned that it is likely to become an indispensable part of your life. This is true. It took me 4-5 years to track down the album and hold it in my hands. It is most definitely, an indispensable part of my life. Kind of Blue has been described as something you just have to own. Something you never knew you had clicks into place and makes perfect sense once it belongs to you, and you hear it over and over again and you know, that every meaning and every feeling you get each and every time you hear a song, is yours alone.

You can’t study jazz. Or define it. Or categorize it. It’s a feeling that you cant explain. Like your first kiss, or rain after a heat wave, or seeing twinkly lights on a cranky day, or finding that book you’d always wanted in a rickety secondhand bookshop, or seeing live the artist/band you’ve loved and understood half or most of your life. It’s not a theorem to be understood, or a subject to be studied. It’s an inherent feeling, and you just…know. Louis Armstrong summed up my struggling prose perfectly : If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.

***
I can’t explain jazz, but I CAN recommend albums that are guaranteed to stir or evoke some emotion:
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (a must, but not the easiest to find, especially the remastered version, with all the songs perfectly on key) and Milestones ( a more aggressive sound, just as perfect)
John Coltrane: The Paris Concert (if you find this, please get it. Its some of the most beautifully energetic and intense music you will ever hear) and Coltrane for Lovers (This isn’t mushy or sappy, it just flows and before you know it, the album’s over and you’re playing it all over again)
If you don’t have the patience for the Davis, Coltrane, Parker or Monk, I suggest you ease into it by starting off with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday etc, who are easier to understand but encapsulate the beauty of jazz to the T.
***
Don't threaten me with love, baby; let's just go walking in the rain.
Billie Holiday

3 responses to "A verb called Jazz."

  1. lovely..makes me want to actually listen to jazz...for a change...

    MaHiMa

  2. Good :D that was the point.

    Kyra

  3. And she does it again.

    Harry

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