“4802 N. Broadway, please,” Jen told the driver as Erin and I joined her in the cab. We were dressed to the nines in our “below the knee” pencil skirts, darted blouses, high heels and, of course, red lipstick. It was our weekly “girls night” out. Always on Tuesdays. Always to Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. Always to enjoy a martini while we listened to Jimmy Sutton’s Four Charms and the Mighty Blue Kings, two of the hottest jazz/soul/rockabilly bands in Chicago.
The Green Mill is over 100 years old and was Al Capone’s favorite speakeasy during the prohibition era. (In fact, the trap door is still behind the bar and is still used to get to the tunnels where they store bar inventory.) When you walk in to “The Mill”, you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time. The decor is authentic. The patrons are dressed in their 1940’s best. And everyone is swing dancing. And we would dance each Tuesday night away until the early hours of Wednesday morning. These Tuesdays are some of my happiest memories of Chicago.
So when date 25 asked if I’d like to go see Michael Bowie perform at Blues Alley, I eagerly said, “YES!” I was pleasantly surprised to find out that date 25 is a musician himself (drummer) and is extremely knowledgable about the blues/jazz/old school funk scene. His enthusiasm was contagious! You could tell that he was really in his element listening to the music. I loved that he took time to share his knowledge about the instruments. The differences to listen for in tone/sound. Information on song structure. He was excited to educate me and I was excited to learn because it allowed me to listen more critically, actively – growing my appreciation for the complex sounds that were combining together to form such a perfect, simple, harmony on stage.
As I listened to the music, I thought back to date 7 and my night of blues dancing – two people moving simultaneously, but, ultimately being themselves even when dancing together. What I love about jazz is that musicians, many of whom haven’t played together until the performance, come together and create this collective work of beauty that is composed of each musician expressing themselves individually. But, this cohesion doesn’t just “happen.” Musicians, no matter how good they are, have to speak the same “language” of music – be it funk, jazz, rock or hip-hop. If they don’t speak the same language, they will have difficulty working together as one. Especially jazz.
As my friend, Keith put it, “Jazz is about learning the tendencies of another player and learning to dance with those changes, even if those changes were not planned out. It’s about listening, giving each other turns and group discovery. It is incredibly difficult and is a life long learning process but when it works its amazing.”
Jazz is complicated but, when done right, produces a simple, beautiful, sound. The same can be said about relationships. I know that this held true for Aces and me. At the end of the day, we just didn’t speak the same language. We had different communication styles and neither one of us truly ever tried to learn the other’s. We were both playing beautiful music side by side, but, collectively, it was off-key. We just weren’t able to work together as one.
Two people can want nothing more than for a relationship to work, but a barrier in language, in communication, will never let them become a cohesive couple. They key to becoming a great musician is the key to building a strong relationship foundation – just listen. Once you master listening, you learn and once you learn you feel free to discover. With both partners comfortable to express themselves, they support each other and move together as one. They become two different sounds combining together to create a beautiful harmony.
“Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.”