Jazz

Standard

One of the highlights of my musical life took place in a small club in Boston where I saw jazz legends Charlie Haden and Joe Henderson play together in a tight little trio. There were only a few hundred people jammed into the small dark club and, for the most part, everyone there was tuned into the performance.

Except for this one guy, a loud mouthed schmuck from Texas who felt he had to let everyone know that this jazz was nothing but crap and he was pissed off at having paid thirty bucks to hear it. I suppose he was talking in a Texas whisper — but since everything is bigger in Texas, you could hear him half way across the club.

In a country bar, it probably would have resulted in a brawl but here the manager came by and offered the entire table a refund if they wanted to leave. Now, the guy didn’t want to stay but he didn’t want to leave either. He wanted to complain. Fortunately, his humiliated wife and his two friends prevailed and the entire group quickly made their way out, leaving the rest of us to enjoy the music in comfort. The musicians, through it all, never missed a beat. I suspect they were so in the groove, they never even heard him.

Still, it was a great lesson to me. I was a relatively recent convert to jazz, having discovered its roots in my last year of university but only becoming immersed in the form in my early thirties. Like all coverts, I was a proselytizer. I was exploring the deepest reaches of improvisational progressive jazz and I wanted to drag my wife and all my friends along. They showed remarkable patience but I suspect they sometimes felt like that loud-mouthed Texan.

It was shortly after that I adopted this motto: De gustibus non est disputandum. (Well, of course, I would adopt a Latin phrase — I was a JAZZ fan). To save you clicking Google translate, it means: There is no accounting for taste; or more precisely: Concerning taste, there can be no arguments.

In other words, people like what they like and while their tastes may change over time, there is nothing you can do to persuade them to like what they don’t like, whether it is Brussels sprouts, fantasy novels or jazz. Dorothy Parker put it a little more puckishly. “You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think.”

Now I’m not saying that people who don’t like jazz are somehow inferior, less sophisticated or intellectually developed (though maybe you should take a nice long look in the mirror) but I am saying that the next time you try to persuade me or anyone else that this book or that film or some style of cooking is the best in the world and you would like it if only you tried — maybe it’s a waste of time.

Some people aren’t for turning.

And that’s ten minutes.

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