I first fell in love with jazz in the mid-90s with that first CD I bought at a flea market. I hadn’t been introduced to the legends yet. As a teenager, John Coltrane and Charlie Parker weren’t even on my radar. I was into more contemporary stuff like Kenny G and Dave Koz. I was one of those kids who always had a cassette in the stereo. I’d tune the radio to the only station in Philly that had Sunday jazz brunch – live from Zanzibar Blue. You could hear plates and glasses clanking in the background. People laughing; bits of conversation. Then applause as someone took the stage. There have been many; Grover Washington, Jr., Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Chuck Mangione. And even though I was listening over the airwaves and not seated at one of those quaint tables, there was a sense that I was still very much a part of the experience.
Jazz has this uncanny ability to be different things to different people. For me, it gave me the chance to dream, to realize there was more to life than what existed inside the four walls of my childhood home. It helped me realize it’s okay to march to the beat of a different drum, whether one has a choice in the matter or not. So, listening to those Sunday morning brunch sessions at Zanzibar when I should’ve been studying was my way of flipping the bird to the status quo (who needs algebra anyway?).
I’m grown now with kids and a job and bills. Dreaming these days often takes a back seat to necessity. I spend so much time in the rat race that I often forget to take a step back and chill out. But when I do, nothing takes me back to that safe space like the music. It might be Eric Darius’s “On A Mission” while I’m cleaning the house or Kyle Eastwood’s “Songs from the Chateau” while I’m cooking dinner. Every once in a while I might just pause for a minute and let the music wash over me. Before I know it, I’m a teenager again on the floor of my bedroom, cassette loaded, finger on the record button.