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Over the weekend we went with our friends Nancy and Glen to see Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. It was some sweet jazz, I gotta tell ya.

Now, there are a lot of ways to appreciate Jazz.

Back in 1975, I went to see the Thad Jones/Mel Louis big band at Ohio State. They were like this tight, smooth jazz machine. Pepper Adams played this groaty old Selmer bari sax, with lacquer peeling off of it. But he made the thing hummmmm. And they had a second trumpet player named Cecil Bridgewater. I have often wondered what happened to him, and here he is. He played what looked like a gold finished benge or maybe a schilke. I had never heard anything like it. Just pure sweet tone, mostly middle register, and blistering speed. And the sax section sounded like Basie. Well, I missed hearing Basie live. But it sounded like Basie on wax.

I thought I would never get excited about a big band performance again. Then, last year, Megan treated us to Jazz at Lincoln Center…Wynton Marsalis and this virtuoso, all star New York jazz band. A soloist on every chair. These are the kind of cats that could sight read the phone book. They did some seriously amazing things with rhythm and edgy harmonies. And the solos made you cry.

I’ve heard some awesome small ensembles. Dizzy. Charlie Byrd. Herb Ellis. The best evening of music I ever experienced was Oscar Peterson…all…by…himself. He didn’t just play the thing, he picked it up and walked around. He stirred the keys. It was hypnotic. Sarah Vaughn opened for him. I think she was awesome, but I honestly don’ remember. Tony Bennet was cool a couple of times.

And I will never forget the time I saw Bobby McFerrin open for the Wynton Marsalis Quintet at the Ohio Theater. Back then, Branford was still playing with Wynton. I thought it would be a jazz night to remember—like history in the making. Got there and Bobby McF. just owned the audience. Then, they took a break, and out came the quartet. After Bobby, it was like having some professors lecture on jazz. So Wynton says, “Bobby McFerrin is back here, and he has some serious ears. I’m going to ask him to come out and sing with us.” So Bobby came out and sang a sax part with the quartet. I was without socks.

So. I’m jaded. And Friday night, we have dinner, and mosey over to…yawn… hear some jazz band from New Orleans.

These guys were awesome. Almost two hours with no intermission. They loved us. They loved the music. They loved each other. They played tambourines. They sang through their axes. The perfessor bit his reed and made ethereal sounds come out of the tenor. Little dude made me like the clarinet—after 50 years of hating the thing. They raised the roof. Weren’t as tight as Thad. Weren’t as virtuosic as Wynton. Weren’t as cool as Bobby. But the word is…what is it…joy. Yeah. That’s it. Joy.

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