When I was growing up my dad had a yellow Musicians Union sticker on his instrument case that said Keep Music Live. It always puzzled me slightly but as the years passed I have begun to understand how important this is. I never fail to feel inspired when I hear live music. This can take all sorts of forms: admiration of musical skill; happiness in seeing the audience enjoy themselves, satisfaction that the performer got up and actually managed to perform their piece despite nerves or challenges, enjoyment at learning something new (information or tunes), dancing, memories that music may trigger, the collective feeling you get from being part of an experience. Perhaps the alienation one may feel too, which is not pleasant but makes you question yourself and others and that is always a useful thing.
With jazz music I particularly have fallen into wanting to experience it live. I do listen to recorded music but one of the things I love about live jazz is that very often the artists talk to the audience. Sometimes a story about how they composed something, or the history of a tune or the context of a song. Hearing this heightens my experience and sharpens my listening experience. When I go to see the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra sometimes they have a chat with the artist before the main event. It is always worth going to.
The beauty of hearing an instrument played and the visual component of seeing all the instruments is another reason I love to see music played live. I like photography and one of the best things to take pictures of are the instruments and the players. Lighting at live music gigs can sometimes provide a challenge but when you get it right you can get the best pictures. I have seen musicians play instruments in ways that I never knew were possible and I would certainly have never known about from listening to a recording. Seeing Paulo Vinaccia play his percussion instruments is a joy I will never forget (amongst others). Getting a great shot of a curvy acoustic bass, lights reflecting off a sax or the beautiful lines of a piano can be so satisfying.
It has taken me a while to get used to the etiquette at live jazz concerts but that has been part of the experience. Often I have felt a bit like the odd one out, younger than many and female but I have never felt uncomfortable going to anything on my own. Audiences I have experienced when on my own have always been friendly.
I remember asking my dad what kind of music he liked best and him saying ‘Good music. I will listen to any kind of music as long as it is good’. Listening to live jazz is a great way to hear ‘good music’. Now I can understand some of the reason’s why that Keep Music Live sticker was on my dad’s instrument case.