Bringing Focus and Attention to Jazz and Wine
Branford Marsalis, the great jazz saxophonist and member of the remarkable Marsalis jazz family, is coming to Napa Valley. He along with his longtime pianist partner Joey Calderazzo will play the intimate Napa Valley Opera House on March 29th.
Jazz, like wine, remains largely an experience that is most fully appreciated by a relatively small sector of the American population, despite it being an original American art-form. While I wish more Americans would find greater pleasure in appreciating the intricacies, complexities and inspirations that are inherent in both wine and jazz, I understand the barriers to that appreciation.
What's really interesting about both wine and jazz is that for so many Americans both provide background to other activities, rather than being the objects of attention.
The number of people actually able and willing to sit in one spot for an extended period of time and absorb the chaotic balance of Mr. Marsalis or most jazz musicians from the Bop era forward are as equally small as those folks willing to sit in front of a 10 year old Pinot Noir and let its complexities and meaning flow over them. However, as long as the wine acts as a prop for their unattended hand and as long as the jazz is faintly in the background, most Americans will happily tolerate these things for hours on end…as long as they are not the focus.
I've never actually been able to fully articulate what it is that attracts me to Jazz. Yet I know instinctively that it is the best musical analogy for wine, at least as I and other geeks understand wine. The seemingly chaotic though integrated folds and movements of a wine that strike us at first taste can evolve and change over a short time as that wine is in the glass or as the bottle slowly empties over the course of an hour or two. The same is often true for jazz.
So often when I sit and listen to good jazz I'll find myself chuckling at the music for the way its course and direction can so playful shift in tempo and mood then eventually find an unexpected way to return to its original melodic themes in full force. I sometimes find myself listening and thinking, "Ok, how are you going to get yourself out of this transition and back…?"
There's nothing in the evolution of a fine wine that is so directed and purposeful as the course of a well rendered jazz tune, but there remains that moment of surprise when the wine evolves and takes the drinker down a new path that didn't seem open to the drink when it was originally poured. I like that moment.
Branford is a member of that most remarkable family that includes father Ellis and brothers Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, all jazz musicians of remarkable talent. They serve wine at the concession at the Napa Valley Opera House, but I sincerely doubt I'll have the intellectual wherewithal or skill for dual focus to concentrate on both at the same time. But a concert featuring Brandord Marsalis is no time to focus on anything but the music anyway.