The Hook of Jazz


I find it difficult to pinpoint the hook of jazz. Its not pop music where the hook is everything – but then maybe ‘the head’ is the hook. Mingus describes the various levels of jazz thus:

Good jazz is when the leader jumps on the piano, waves his arms, and yells. Fine jazz is when a tenorman lifts his foot in the air. Great jazz is when he heaves a piercing note for 32 bars and collapses on his hands and knees.’

Perhaps its not even about the hook. Maybe just a moment that cuts to the bone, a beatific couple of bars that hits the spot. The rest of the time, I reckon we hang around, enduring over indulgent solos and relentless beating.

I have, very rarely, been transported to a kind of jazz heaven where notes, tones, have meaning. Somehow, mixed with the subtle effects of alcohol or some designer intoxicant (coffee?) it all conspires to make things better, mend your marriage, bless your job and generally make you merry.

But it is never music alone that elevates us beyond the mundane – music is often the catalyst, often the accompanist to wondrous experience.

That’s what ‘festival’ is about. Festival is an amplification of potential. We magnify the moment of possibility where we can enjoy something life changing, we oil the channels with good drink and fine food, we relax into the realm of magic portent and hope, pray, that our stars can engender that transcendence.

Okay, yes, we simply have a good time!

That’s one famous reason I love jazz – 90% dross, 9% solid, 1% magic – you only need 1%!!