Jumping on the ‘jazz wagon’

Published 9:57 am Thursday, August 31, 2017

As silly as it sounds, there’s a quote from an early episode of SpongeBob Squarepants that always sticks in my head. I don’t really remember much from the episode except that SpongeBob and his friend Patrick are trying to think of things to make them seem more like grown-up adults.

At one point, Patrick says “you must acquire a taste for freeform jazz!”

And then the two of them stand still, looking a mix of perplexed and intrigued as jazz music plays in the background for a few seconds.

It’s a really stupid throwaway joke, but it makes me laugh every time I think about it. And it makes me laugh even more now that I, as an adult, have finally actually acquired a taste for jazz music.

Recently I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, so to speak, taking a break from my usual favorites to shake things up a bit. Plus I’ve found the radio station that plays jazz music all the time, so I never run out of new things to listen to.

I won’t pretend to be able to talk intelligently about the genre. I’m still new to it all. I can’t name more than a handful of famous songs and musicians. The ones I do remember have fun, memorable names like Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie. I also can’t talk about music theory and composition either, having never focused on the inner workings of jazz when I used to take music lessons.

I simply like listening to it.

Some people might find songs that stretch on longer than the average four-minute pop tune to be a bit tedious. Others might prefer songs with lyrics, particularly in that familiar structure most singers stick to.

But I like getting lost in the melodies, never quite knowing where the tune will end up once it starts. The upbeat ones in particular are the most exciting because listening is like a rollercoaster. You start off with a simple tune, recognizable as the main theme of the song. And then all of a sudden you flip that tune, twist it up, turn it around, spin it around, throw it every which way, out of control. It’s unpredictable until, in a flash, you’re back at that simple melody you started out with.

It’s a wild ride.

Another thing I really enjoy is how jazz is a collaborative effort between all the musicians, each getting a chance to shine within the song, to display their own instrumental talents. The song becomes one solo after another. Each instrument interprets the tune a different way, like a translation into a different language to gain a new perspective on the original.

Last week, the library in Winton hosted a live jazz performance by a local band. I went, not as an assignment for the newspaper, but just for fun because I don’t often get a chance to see live music very often anyway.

The performance did not disappoint! Getting to actually see the musicians play their instruments added another element to appreciating the music. I’m definitely looking forward to future jazz night events.

There’s so much jazz music to explore, and I’m playing decades-worth of catch up. If only I hadn’t waited until adulthood to dive in and appreciate it.

Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.