Thursday, December 22, 2016

El Paso: Jazz at Sunset

El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016

September 2016

One of the reasons I stay in a place for a year is so I can experience an entire cycle of a community's cultural activities.

Jazz at Sunset only happens once a year, so it won out over some other tantalizing ways to spend a Friday evening in El Paso.

The first things to strike me upon arrival at the grassy venue on EPCC's Valle Verde campus were these:
  1. I need to find some shade; and
  2. Oh look! Mosquito-spray stations set up around the perimeter! Loved this for its thoughtfulness and, upon reflection, its low-cost, pro-active, practical approach to a public-health issue in the era of zika. 

El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016

Having only recently been introduced to the jugular force of the (well-)spoken word, I admired how the Jazz at Sunset organizers made stage space for two poets during each of the band set-ups. The conjunction of poetry and jazz is a natural one.

Jazz at Sunset featured two poets: Ebonee Norris and [why don't I write this shit down when I'm there? and why wasn't he on the program? So let's call him:] Greg.

Ebonee Norris, El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016

The jazz bands included:
  1. Frank Zona & Urban Edge
  2. El Paso Jazz Collective
  3. Billy Townes
  4. Ocean's Four Jazz

I left before Ocean's Four Jazz came on, but I got some film bits of the other three bands.

El Paso Jazz Collective:

Frank Zona and Urban Edge (with a drum solo and a sax solo):

Billy Townes:

Some music hits the spiritual, the emotional, or the physical.

The jazz tonight was like getting a brain massage. I mean, I almost felt the notes get into those wrinkles and crevices of my brain. It felt. Good.

El Paso Jazz at Sunset, 2016

This makes me wonder what jazz does to the brain. Below are some ideas:

In Mozart and Leadbelly, Louisiana writer Ernest J. Gaines says about jazz: 
… I think I have learned as much about writing about my people by listening to blues and jazz and spirituals as I have learned by reading novels. The understatements in the tenor saxophone of Lester Young, the crying, haunting, forever searching sounds of John Coltrane, and the softness and violence of Count Basie’s big band – all have fired my imagination as much as anything in literature. But the rural blues, maybe because of my background, is my choice in music.

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