Stephen Kessler | Live from the grand reopening at Kuumbwa Jazz – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Using my laminated COVID-19 vaccination registration card for the first time, wearing my favorite mask to match my beret and cashmere scarf and my Italian blazer – so chic that I will probably dress up again. at the reopening of the Symphony – I’m ready for the reopening evening at Kuumbwa Jazz with the Joshua Redman trio. Before the 9-hour show, tenor and soprano saxophones, double bass and drums take a rest on stage as the crowd arrives, old friends cheerfully greeting each other for the first time in a year and a half, a major cultural occasion that we ‘all that celebrates is if he comes back from exile.
I promised to record the concert for a friend who had to cancel at the last hour because she had too much fun with her grandson, but the recording is forbidden, so this primitive instrument, the pen and paper, must be sufficient to approximate the sounds of music without success. For now, it’s the chatter, the laughter, the cries of joy that people recognize, even through masks, that light up the late summer night with animated bliss.
Music of course cannot be translated, it is a way of expressing the inexpressible, which is only suitable for these inexplicable pandemic conditions, the bald head of the conductor glittering under the lights and the running notes of his horn playing with the drummer and the bassist’s backlines, angular melodies that come and go like a rugged runner, like a cornerback returning an interception, delighting fans in the stands, which in this case is a club to two-thirds of its capacity, and the space is more spacious but pleasant and full, a house sold.
Do these songbirds suddenly fly away from the tenor bell? Or was it just a synaesthetic hallucination born from a mimetic sound? I told you it was indescribable, but I have to bring back all I can because the leader takes the soprano saxophone to launch his lyrics at a higher register difficult to transcribe in his slippery improvisation without whistling, not the kind of song that you hum when leaving the show, but the air then turns towards a charming sinuosity of snake as if to draw a snake out of its large basket to brush its split tongue while rhythmically imitating the turns of the horn.
All three musicians are thin, nervous dudes whose energetic engagement burns calories quickly and means they never need to hit the gym. And so the sound continues to elude all that can be said about it. How do music critics do? I mean say what they heard without fooling readers with words that are nothing like what they are describing? But this is not a criticism, more a chase of notes that would otherwise disappear into the cool night air, like the siren of the police car outside which whistles briefly and then falls into silence.
Inside, we remember how live music is heard with the whole body, not just the ears, whose drums pick up every vibration, but the muscles register the waves of larger physical phenomena, as if they are being massaged. everywhere by invisible hands. This is why we have to be here in the flesh, not pixelated on disembodied screens where hardly a mockery of ourselves manifests in the absence of the current one. A screen is a mask, and a mask is a screen through which we can barely speak and be understood, which is why writing can come close to some kind of comprehension.
“Never Let Me Go” is the first standard of the ensemble, which I recognize, an updated ballad of old-fashioned sentimentality with fresh riffs of the soloist’s current signature, the essence of jazz, and it follows this with an original blues which has all the heads of the house dancing to the rhythm, the knees bouncing, the feet tapping, all the bodies then standing to thank the performers with long applause.
It feels good to be back.
Stephen Kessler’s new book of poems, “Last Call,” is available locally at Bad Animal Books and Bookshop Santa Cruz. His column appears on Saturdays.