Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jazz: Great American cultural gift; Diana Krall

When one is feeling down about our culture, it is tempting to bemoan the seeming paucity of America's cultural contributions to the world. And, I suppose, there may at times be cause for doing so.

But this is not the last word. Jazz music is truly an American gift to the world. And it is a great one at that. I don't think jazz could have originated in any other place on the planet than America.

Speaking of jazz, one of the great contemporary artists whose star is shining brightly in the jazz world now, is Diana Krall. She is originally from Canada. Those familiar with her know that she is one of those rare artists, even among great talents, who bring to their performances an uncanny sensitivity and subtlety. She seems to have a direct line to something absolutely ineffable, yet absolutely captiviating, in the human soul. Music seems to just oooze out of her like honey. She is both a fantastic singer, and, a great jazz pianist. The combination together is quite splendid. She married British singer-songwriter Elvis Costello in 2003; they have twin boys who were born in 2006.

As someone whose life was very centered around music when I was a teenager, I especially love the way great musicians when performing live--especially jazz--seem to "lock in" to each other in a spiritual way where they seem to transcend their individuality and become one, and yet still retain their uniqueness though in a new mode, each as one-among-the-group. It is a sublime coalesence of simultaneious self-transcendence and deepened self-possession. (For me, an intriguing instance of the capacity of human persons for high-level metaphysical "one and the many" experiences.) It reveals something special about the human person, about the capacity for community on a mysterious and deeply meaningful plane. And how community, in turn, gives the person back to himself.

So, if you like jazz, you probably know of her already. Enjoy this clip of her performing live, "Devil May Care." And enjoy the musicians' subtle interaction as they "lock in" and perform together.

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