One thing you can count on: Life is hard. And it just gets harder. So you want to find ways to climb around and find some joy—do something fun, just for you.
Playing music. That’s how the people in a book I’m working on faced life. Although their lives are different, this is what is common among them. They all use music to get through.
Dave, Sharon, Jeff, and Dean get together as often as they can, blowing horns, pounding drums and pianos, singing away bad days, celebrating good days. Amy is mildly autistic. She lets music remind her that she can do something well. Jim is a doctor and a sax player who wants his music one way only: pretty and sweet when he is feeling ugly and rotten. Rosetta spends her working days waiting for the evenings when she looks her nightclub audience straight in the eye. She forgets about her sister’s death and her painful past. Geri plays piano in a jazz bar where the audience becomes her family, taking turns singing and dancing. Rhonda wants her students to feel important through the music they can make. That’s what she did. Dr. Hurlbutt is an old man whose dad told him to be a doctor first. Then he could play piano, which he does every day. Not one of these players would consider life without music.
Music is a language. Instead of words, players use notes and rhythms and chords to express their feelings. If a set of sounds makes an angry feeling for the player, it may bring up happiness or joy for the listener. Getting the same feeling from the sounds is not necessary, but saying it first with music is.
That’s why jazz music is never the same twice. The sound says who the player is at that moment. Little notes flicker by, but most of the music comes straight from the heart. After a while, the players feel like they are being played by the music, not the other way around.
My book explores how jazz feels at the deepest level where life rhythms and the pitter pat of heartbeats meet. Down where life and music come together. These players want you to know how it happens for them. Then they want you to find a way to say your words and create a place to put your heartbeats too. Might be music. Might be something else.