The Jazz Metaphor

I love and have always listened to many different kinds of music – from rock to  Broadway to swing to blues and R&B – even some rap.   When I started taking voice lessons at 16, the standard fare was classical music (think “Caro Mio Ben”).   I also sang and performed a lot of Broadway ingénue-type songs and roles, and I actually liked that a lot.  But jazz was my holy grail.  Years into my vocal journey, I’m beginning to understand that my pursuit of jazz is more than a musical quest.
Growing up in Connecticut,  I wore pearl earrings, fair isle sweaters and Bermuda bags with removable covers.  I got straight A’s and played by the rules.  In short, I was wound pretty tight.  I continued to play by the rules for years.  I was corporate, suited, and always wore a watch.  Born in Boston, I’ve progressively moved to warmer climates, slowly defrosting.   Eventually, I moved to Miami, where the weather literally made me shed layers.  A couple of years later, I started studying and singing jazz.  I learned to sing without vibrato.  I stopped being corporate.  It wasn’t hard to see the parallels, but I couldn’t quite define the metaphor.  Until this month.
I found this YouTube video of Rusty Mason artfully explaining the difference between swing and jazz.    “Jazz means not playing as written,”  he explains.  The metaphor is clear now.  Jazz, by definition, means making each song, each story  your own.  It’s being spontaneous, taking risks in real time – every time.  It’s risky, but it’s never boring.   It’s authentic, and it’s how I want to live.  If you're one of those people who thinks you're not "into jazz," maybe it's worth another try?

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