I’m a jazzhead. Nah, not really–I’m not even sure if that’s a real term. I had some stuff in my library, Dizzy and Miles, but no real listening background to refer to; I’m an R&B girl, that’s what I know. But I have been listening to my friend Dan Bennett play saxophone at the Elks Lodge on Sunset and other venues since last spring, and lately all I want to hear is jazz.
I came to Dan because he is the boyfriend of a close friend. But there is a tremendous underground jazz scene in Ann Arbor right now that reminds me of the early- to mid-eighties, when we had so much local rock ‘n’ roll talent (thinking the Watusies, especially). There is something really special brewing in our community, and I feel privileged to witness it.
Dan might be a genius. Like I said, I’m a novice, but by reputation, and by my own ear, he’s the real deal. Though I don’t really know or understand jazz, I feel the music when he plays. I can close my eyes and be in a different place and time, or just more realized in this place and time. His playing resonates in my bones and soul. Dan is also a great bandleader, and his lineups always include the best of the best. He loves what he does and is as much a fan as a player. He is dancing as he is playing, and he is crying and laughing, too, all at the same time. It echoes among the entire listening audience.
Jazz is so much more approachable than you might think. The whole clapping after every solo thing? It used to feel silly to me. Now it’s natural. In fact I was at a classical music performance recently where it felt unnatural not to clap after the solos. Live jazz is a community activity. The members of the audience are looking into one another’s eyes during the playing, appreciating the music together, acknowledging the shared references–love, hard work, God, internal suffering, hope, all of it. It’s different from rock ‘n’ roll; we’re not just an audience, we are all here together, and the musicians are playing our feelings, right at this moment we are collectively experiencing them. And if you don’t clap after each solo, nobody cares; it’s come as you are.
I’ve talked to Dan after shows. Sometimes he is exalted, sometimes he feels he’s done poorly; he’s an artist. To me, though, it’s all the same: a musical experience of the highest order, something that touches my soul and brings me in, exactly like real life when I’m really present. I personally am so grateful for my recent encounters with live jazz in Ann Arbor. I’m a tremendous fan of live music–it’s where I regenerate myself. Jazz is a different language than I’m used to, but it’s accessible, and fulfilling in the best way that live music can be.
Dan Bennett plays at the Elks Lodge every Thursday evening and Rush Street every Sunday night with a varied group of amazing musicians.