Looking at Each Other

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There’s a light breeze, the sun is dancing with the clouds, the water from the fountains is soft, steady.

I hear the tat, tat, tat of the percussion, and the bom, bom, bom of the bass even before I see the instruments. Sounds forming a loom, a frame for the jazz we have come to hear. The guitar, the keyboard, and the saxophone are both the shuttles and the yarn, weaving in and out, creating patterns, texture, design.

These songs they play, Bill Lancton and his band, The Coalition, they were composed by someone. They were written down and played before by these musicians and others. But tonight, it’s like they play them brand new, too. This murmuring of this audience, the swishing of this breeze, the trickling of these fountains adding other layers of texture to their rich sound.

I like hearing jazz music, but I love watching jazz, love watching the bended knees as the notes go low, the tilted head and squinting eyes as the notes go high, the sway, the bobble, the rotating hips as the notes go up and down and every which way. And I love the way jazz musicians look at each other.

Musicality and collaboration are not unique to jazz, though they are performed in a degree that no other style seems to match. It’s the improvisation, the syncopation, the return of themes, exploding again and again in surprise that make the musicality and collaboration different in jazz.

And again, it’s the way those musicians look at each other.

Just a nod, it seems, and the guy on the sax knows it’s his turn to shine. Just a step back, and the gentleman on the keys takes it from there, adding the “dubba, dubba, dubs” that are also unique to jazz. They turn, they look at the audience, they look at each other, they acknowledge the applause. They play together, they play alone, they weave in and out, creating something beautiful.

The melody I heard when I first arrived at the concert is repeated throughout the evening, at least once, maybe more. It’s familiar, it’s classic, it’s jazz, though I don’t know what it’s called.

I actually don’t know a lot about jazz. When they announced they were playing a Duke Ellington song, it sounded vaguely familiar. The name John Coltrane ran through my mind throughout the evening, though they didn’t actually play any of his music. I heard bars that I thought sounded like Gershwin, but they weren’t.

I don’t know much about jazz, but jazz knows something about me. Jazz knows that I long to create beauty with other artists that way, to collaborate and work together, while having space to do my own thing at times, too. Jazz knows I need creative people stepping back and saying, “Look at her,” but it also knows I can’t do it without the nods, the turning, otherwise I’ll come in too soon. Or too late.

Jazz knows I need other artists around so that we can look at each other.

I just don’t know what it will sound like yet.

Photo by Renzo Ferrante, via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.

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Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.


  • Cheryl Smith ,

    Oh, I know what it sounds like. it sounds like beauty and fluidity and the sound of your words stir emotions every bit as much as an Ellington or Coltrane tune!

    • Nancy ,

      My boy has some mad jazz piano skills–I have no idea where he got them. I tell people, he plays music with his whole body. You really captured what it’s like watching him play with other musicians–the watching, the waiting, the nod, the intuition–the magic. Do we make magic like that here in internet world? Lovely piece, Charity.

      • Ann Kroeker ,

        “Hey, look at her!”

        You’re groovin’, Charity. This sabbatical is giving you the space you need to process and produce. This is good stuff.