From The Onion Book of Known Knowledge:
JAZZ …did you hear that? Listen again. Hear it? C’mon, now, you’ve got to really listen…there—there it is. That right there, my friends, was a beautiful quarter-note rest. Music to my ears. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Man, I didn’t hear anything. What’s that got to do with jazz? Turn up the volume, for Pete’s sake!” Well, believe it or not, that’s exactly the point—and volume ain’t got nothin’ to do with it! You see, just as important to jazz as the notes we hear—the audible melodic, harmonic, and percussive elements that really make it swing—are the spaces between the notes, the notes we don’t hear, if you will. Without these silences, jazz would lack definition, texture, mood; in a way, jazz would be robbed of its very essence! Completely blows your mind when you stop to think about it, right? It’s a total yin-and-yang thing, like what negative space is to art, but in this case the canvas is silence and notes are the paint. Nothing is actually everything, and vice versa. Get it? And if you want to break it down further and get really philosophical, a genius improviser like, say, Clifford Brown was actually consciously thinking about what he wasn’t playing just as much as he thought about what he was playing. It’s wild, man. Just totally wild. You know, John Coltrane is actually the perfect example of how crucial silence is to jazz music, and before you say, “Oh, brother, not that Coltrane guy again!” just hold on a second, and this will all make sense. Now, we’re all familiar with Coltrane’s virtuosity and the sheer cascades of notes he would produce early on in his career, the whole “sheets of sound” incarnation that we’ve already discussed at length. But it wasn’t until he became more influenced by modal music and, consequently, the immense value of space and silence, that he really reached his full potential and began composing these incredibly affecting jazz soundscapes, arguably some of the best music of his tragically too-short life (heroin is no walk in the park, folks, take it from someone who knows), and yes, I’m aware that ’Trane died of cancer, but the point still stands, okay? Anyway, with that in mind, let’s be quiet and listen again…and don’t be embarrassed to close your eyes, like I’m doing…now, let that sink in for a minute…pretty cool, huh?
SAMPLINGS FROM THE ARCHIVE:
Five-Disc Jazz Anthology Still Unopened (6/11/03)