Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feelin' A Lil' Jazzy

I purchased a jazz album today, something I haven't done in a while. Of course, it was on iTunes so it wasn't like I went out and bought a big record, though jazz puts me in a mind to do it. I downloaded Vince Guaraldi's "Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus", a record most of you probably haven't heard of. Then again, most of you probably haven't heard of Vince Guaraldi either.

If you've ever watched a Peanuts animated special, then you've heard his music. He, along with Dave Koz, gave the world "Linus and Lucy" and forever matched Charles Schultz's beloved Snoopy with the jazzy theme that fit him so well. Jazz is an elegant, sophisticated style of music I've loved for a long time. I was introduced to it by one Bill Weed, my elementary school music and band instructor. Mr. Weed was the first to open my mind to the possibilities of music and tried to expose his students to everything from Italian opera, classical composers and the Eagles. I fell in love with jazz easily, though I didn't have the funds to start any kind of a collection back then.

What appeals to me the most is the sense of easy confidence that pervades jazz music. That's something you don't find in most other forms. Country has a set mold it fits in and it seems insecure and at times a bit whiny. Rock and Roll tends to be over the top, full of heavy drama and melodramatic lyrics. Pop music is far too drum heavy and repetitive and rap...well with the exception of Will Smith, the less said about rap music, the better. Jazz, however, is simply jazz. You can try to break it down into different categories, label artists as classical or contemporary, but it doesn't change what it is. It goes from one riff to another, effortlessly flowing between songs so that it sometimes seems like the entire album is one long song rolled into one. A jazz tune has its own unique story written among the trumpets and wailing saxophones. My favorites are instrumental simply because my mind finds the melody and flows along with it to wherever it wants me to go. Jazz is in no hurry to be somewhere, feels no need to prove itself or try to be something. It is what it is and that's a beautiful, simple stance in a complex world.

And sometimes, the right jazz tune will remind me of a waterfall. In fact, I was listening to Guaraldi earlier and I started thinking about water and how it flows through a creek, rolling gently from stone to stone, tumbling over the large drops...It's so similar to how he rolls the melody along the piano while the drummer lays down the beat that is the heart of the tune. And as I bounced around the kitchen doing the odds and ends bit of chores I had to do, I realized Guaraldi had reached through time and put me in a better mood. And I wanted to see a waterfall.

So naturally my thoughts went to this blog and my collection of photos. My photo of Roaring Run is a mainstay of the page and while I haven't yet posted a shot of Falling Spring Falls, I realized that wasn't quite what I was in the mood for either. The two photos above are exactly what the pianist asked for, though.

The first one is a cascade outside a small hunting camp on Big Lick Creek. I was part of a three-man survey crew that surveyed a 3,000 acre camp situated on Lake Moomaw back in March of 2008. The scenery was beautiful and remote. In fact, it was a six mile drive across the property just to reach the cabin. The stream had trout in it, but I was more interested in photos at that point. Waterfalls don't have to be big and steep to be enjoyable and this little cascade is a friendly reminder that even the smaller things in life can be beautiful if you take the time to look a little closer.

But I was also in the mood for a waterfall more dominating and expressive. Hence the second photo taken at Blackwater Falls. I made two trips to the falls that time and this photo is from the second trip after a heavy rain. The first photos just didn't quite work because: 1. It was raining and I wasn't acclimated to the ND400 filter yet; and B. There was something on the filter that I didn't discover until later and it ruined the photo. Incidentally, the discoloration of the water isn't from mud in the water, but rather from the tannic acid that builds up further upstream from all the pine trees that drop their needles into the water.

I mentioned in a previous blog how a photograph could remind me of something seemingly unrelated, but music is an entirely different Muse. I write to music and get inspired by it. As much as it sounded like I maligned Rock and Roll earlier, I find very poignant scenes in those guitars. Believe it or not, I've written entire prologues to Queen's "Princes of the Universe" and a grand finale to metal band Saliva's "Raise Up". Inspiration for me tends to be quite a varied part of my life and there's no telling what form it will come in or where it will take me next.

At times I lead an interesting and, more often than not, amusing life. But as one of my favorite bands, Sister Hazel, writes: " know me, I live and die nearly every day. Insanity is havin' its way with me..."

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