So, I'll get straight to the point. Today is International Jazz Day, and it's always celebrated on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. That's one thing the two days have in common, but for me, there's another, much more personal connection; my Dad was a staunch jazz fan, and a retired veteran, so this is an ode to him.
As some of you know, I'm a Daddy's girl. I was a tomboy growing up, and preferred to hang out with my Dad while my sister went shopping with my Mom. He had a way of embracing every part of my somewhat dichotomous personality. All I had to do was ask and he'd sneak me sports gear while my Mom wasn't looking, and even taught me how to throw my first football. In addition, he never missed one of my volleyball, softball, or soccer games, and he attended my track meets with pride.
On the other hand, he embraced my "girly" side just as readily, attending my piano recitals, building me a custom doll house, and secretly measuring my first keyboard - an Ensoniq - to build a custom stand and storage bench (he was a building contractor who specialized in carpentry).
As for International Jazz day, my Dad instilled in me a love for jazz that will last a lifetime. As a child, I was chatty, and nearly talked him to death when he got home from work. He worked as an insurance agent before breaking away from the long hours of working for others and building his own carpentry business, and he needed privacy and quiet to do bookkeeping for his job.
One day I sneaked into his office while he listened to soft jazz playing in the background and worked on his books. He looked up and offered me the usual endearment, "Hey, Suga." As soon as I started my prattling about whatever little girls chatter about, he put his forefinger to his lips and "shushed" me.
"Suga, if you're gonna stay in here and keep Daddy company you're gonna have to learn to listen."
He nodded toward the record player as the 33-1/2 continued to spin around slowly, and I listened. From that day on, I joined him in his office and we listened to jazz together - Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Chuck Mangioni, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Billie Holiday, just to name a few, and as I said before, there began my love for jazz and my introduction to the art and value of listening.
International Jazz day was first implemented by D. Michael Denny, a bandleader in New Orleans (considered to be the birthplace of jazz). The American art form had become internationally known and celebrated for its unique blend of styles and cultures. A combination of complex African rhythms and European style, jazz is known for impromptu jam sessions, and as a musician, I've had the pleasure of participating in a few! For me, jazz offers musical freedom that can't be found in any other genre of music, and because of that, its uncanny ability to continuously evolve will keep it relevant for every age.
There's something to suit every taste, so be sure to sit back with a glass of wine (or whatever sets the stage for relaxation) and listen to some of your favorite jazz today. Thank you is not enough, but to those who gave their lives in service to this country, sacrificing to keep the rest of us safe, thank you.
Do you have stories related to jazz or Memorial day? Feel free to share in comments :-)