[JPL] Speaker knows the language of jazz
drjazz at drjazz.com
Wed Jan 28 12:33:59 EST 2009
January Series speaker knows the language of jazz
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
*The Grand Rapids Press*
GRAND RAPIDS -- Most lectures at The January Series of Calvin College
end with thoughtful questions from the audience.
Monday's program at the nationally known speaker series all but began
with its presenter asking a random member of the audience what he had
had for breakfast.
Pop-Tarts, it turned out. Brown sugar-flavored, to be precise. At about
10 a.m., which was good for chuckles from early risers in the audience
in Calvin College's Fine Arts Center.
"That was an improvised conversation -- about breakfast," explained jazz
pianist Xavier Davis.
Jazz, at its core, is an improvised conversation between musicians,
"What we're doing up here is talking. We're just using a different
language," he said.
The Grand Rapids-born pianist and composer, now living in New York City,
was the featured lecturer and entertainer for The January Series.
The one-hour talk, "The Language of Jazz," was part of Calvin College's
three-week series of free lectures and discussions. The award-winning
series of 15 weekday programs concludes its 22nd season today.
Just as English and other spoken languages have nuanced meaning, overt
as well as subversive, jazz carries its own meaning on several levels.
"It comes out of the African experience, but anyone can play it," said
Davis, 37, who grew up near Ottawa Hills High School but graduated from
Interlochen Arts Academy and Western Michigan University.
Familiarity with the language of jazz helps musicians meeting together
for the first time on the bandstand, said Davis, who has worked with
such jazz artists as vocalist Betty Carter, trumpeter Tom Harrell,
vibraphonist Stefon Harris and the late, great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.
"If they play certain things, I can relax because I know they've
listened to the same recordings I know," he said.
Davis was joined by the Xavier Davis Trio for the program. The trio
includes his brother, Quincy Davis, on drums and Ugonna Okegwo on double
The trio played four pieces, two by Xavier Davis, one composed by Quincy
Davis and a fourth tune by Thelonious Monk.
"I don't like to talk as much as I like to play," he said early in his
talk, "but I am going to talk a bit."
*Send e-mail to the author: jkaczmarczyk at grpress.com*
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