Jazz: A Few Definitions

Jazz: A Few Definitions
CreditPHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERTS / BIPS / GETTY

What is jazz? No single definition can suffice. Jazz is all around us.

Jazz is gently laying your piano-key tie in a drawer, staring at your sombre, black-tie-wearing reflection in the mirror, and whispering, sadly, “Sometimes, it’s the notes you don’t play . . .”

Jazz is balling up your fist and just punching a keyboard a bunch of times.

Jazz is when you’re about to turn into what you thought was an empty parking space, only to find that a Mini Cooper is already there.

Jazz is a struggle, like when a handsome white man really wants to open a jazz club, but has to settle for being a very famous and successful musician instead, and then also eventually opening a jazz club.

Jazz is hitting every green light on the way to work but stopping for a minute at each intersection anyway.

Jazz is when your cat walks across your computer keyboard and somehow blows up the screen-view to three hundred per cent, and you can’t figure out how to shrink it back.

Jazz is about tension rather than resolution, like when you’re in a group of fifty people and someone says, “Something smells like gasoline,” and not one person says, “You know, I actually like the smell of gasoline.”

Jazz is being at a famous art museum and saying, “Wow, isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?” But, instead of pointing at a painting, you’re pointing at a regular old water fountain.

Jazz is seeing a homeless man smile and realizing that it was you who was homeless all along, but then realizing that, no, wait, you have a house.

Jazz is going “Beep boop beep boop beep boop beep boop” until someone writes an article about you.

Jazz is when a dirty boy in overalls runs down a sidewalk alongside a metal fence with a stick, making it go clank-clank-clank, but then he turns a corner and—bam!—runs straight into a marching band playing jazz. (The marching band playing jazz is the jazz in this scenario; the boy with the stick was just a nuisance.)

Jazz is when your mom says that all she wants for her birthday is a nice card and you can’t help but chuckle, because you know you aren’t even going to do that.

Jazz is when you’re on a date with a girl who says that she likes jazz, and you ask whom she listens to and she says something dumb like Kenny G, and you roll your eyes and grab her by the hand and say, “That’s not jazz—come with me,” and then you drag her to a nondescript brick building down the street, and you kick open the door and triumphantly say, “THIS is jazz,” and gesture wildly to the elderly black men inside, who, for the last time, are just accountants.

Jazz is when you dump a bucket of forks and knives down the basement stairs and then frantically look around, yelling, “PLEASE tell me somebody got that!” But no one did, because the sound guy was sitting in the basement, appreciating the moment for what it was.

Jazz is saying, “It’s NOT the crap they play in there,” while gesturing toward the closing elevator doors, not realizing that, inside, the elevator operator is sadly putting his violin back into its case. But do you know who that elevator operator ended up becoming? President of the Elevator Operators Union. So, it just goes to show you.

Jazz is when you’re tutoring a young musician and you give him a very large textbook called “Jazz Information” and tell him, “Everything you need to know about jazz is inside this book,” and he opens the book, and guess what’s inside? A mirror.

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