My dear friend Eric L. Bronstein, a jazz bassist and Dr., recently shared some thoughts about an interview he had heard on NPR about what the late Ravi Shankar had once said about his music… ” that it was always about tranquility and sadness, as in reaching out in trying to find something, as if to a lover, or to God… “. This stirring passage mirrored exactly what I felt as I sat in a circle of women the other night. The circle was in support of my close friend, Samantha Knowles who was bravely facing a partial mastectomy. She is very open about this life changing process and I know won’t mind me sharing this. In our circle of women, we were asked to pass her wool ball between us. The wool was from Sam’s favorite childhood sweater she and her young son Oscar had carefully unraveled. We each in turn, wrapped the wool around our wrist, several times, as we offered Sam, whatever we needed to share with her, in our poetry, song and tears. Then, we passed it randomly along to another. This eventually created a wondrous web of wool that surrounded her in a symbolic, tangible tapestry of support. We each have this wool still on our wrists, until Sam requests we take it off. This wool reminds us of our connectivity, while representing so many unspoken things, like the powerful wisdom in grief’s vulnerability.
This juxtaposition was also present at the recent Jazz Benefit for Ross Taggart to support his challenging cancer recovery process. A huge outpouring from the Vancouver Jazz community came together in a rich evening of non stop performances and jams while Ross watched from his hospital bed via Skype. An intricate network of connections, near and far were represented that he has created all these years in each composition, gig, and friendship. Over the course of the evening we heard selections from his many bands, with his best friends performing, without him, on his own compositions. Each person wove personal vignettes or offered their exquisite musical expression. From his friends, Master of Ceremony’s Rick Cluff and Margaret Gallagher of CBC Radio to saxophonist and one of the organizers, Campbell Ryga. Each performance including the interplay of Ross’s students and colleagues before and after the concert, enraptured a grateful and emotional audience. The magic web that unfolded around Ross provided a container to express love, joy and saddness in a personal and collective way, in an extremely moving and rich circumstance. I was not alone in feeling the tangible power of love expressed through jazz to heal and lift that night with hundreds of Ross’s friends and fans. Brian Fraser of Jazzthink’s recent ezine ( who opened our evening with Ross with a moving introduction) describes our evening with Ross masterfully, in his recent December issue entitled ‘Real Community’. http://www.jazzthink.com/ezine/1212_ezine.html
Here’s a link to a recent Performance of Bill Coon and Ross Taggart performing~ Four http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_beAcSPNz8
All of us are directly or indirectly affected by cancer these days in one way or another. Many of us have lost family and friends already to it and pray for the safe recovery and remission of so many more. It has sadly, become a global epidemic, that we still do not have a full understanding of all the causes or cures. So we have to rely on our instincts and our ability to rise to the occasion to enfold ourselves, our friends and our families, with whatever naked strength we can muster, even when we feel we may have none. Somehow… we do and it matters, so very much. Through a word, a card, a touch, a song or a trumpet solo.
So much of the kind of music my friends and I are drawn to these days I find, has a certain tonal, chordal relationship that often contain a tension… between happiness or sadness, peace or disquieted angst. A chordal progression for instance may seem to float in a suspension of sonic opposites, that can feel at once, both comforting and yet also sad. It can go so deep inside your heart with a restlessness and urgency that you feel you might possibly explode from all the emotion, yet in the next moment, it brings a portal of deep release and stillness both light and dark. Like the coal of darkness that also has a glimmer of a star. In this space of connectivity between notes, lies the potential for new understanding with a tranquil, sad and utter beauty, that brings a joy, all its own.