On Jazz Concerts and Coming Full Circle

I know next to nothing about music; I can't play an instrument or read sheet music, and I only kind of understand the difference between pitch and key and chords and notes. I took a class at the University of Oregon called "Understanding Music" and it helped a little. Mostly I just know what sounds good to me: James Taylor, Sam Smith, Billy Joel, Adele, Maroon 5, John Legend, Jimmy Buffet, some pop music, some lighter alternative music. My friend Greg, who has forgotten more bands than I will ever know, has tried to introduce me to a wider selection of artists: Moon Taxi, Troye Sivan, Future Islands, Petit Biscuit. 

One thing I know for sure is that I love jazz. That being said, my relationship with jazz is wide but not deep. La La Land is far and away my favorite movie of all time. I have listened to Miles Davis nearly every day of this term -- my go-to music for studying and getting in the zone. I also root for the Utah Jazz during non-Blazer games in the NBA. That all counts, right?

Last night, the Stanford Jazz Orchestra, directed by Michael Galisatus, had a concert at Bing Concert Hall. I ended up getting free tickets with a friend of mine, so we went. We got there early to get some work done, and ended up getting the best seats in the house: dead center, a few rows up. I was really excited because it was a relaxing night out; we'd listen to some cool music and have a good time.

I was also excited, though, because it's important to me that I'm experiencing things at Stanford that are unique to this place: it's why I'm taking a d. school class called Creativity and Innovation, why I'm doing an internship with the Stanford Life Design Lab, why I took a weekend trip to Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco. A free jazz concert by talented musicians in a gorgeous (and expensive) concert hall at Stanford University. I was happy.

Then, we got the programs. We learned that Alan Ferber was the "guest artist." Ferber has been described as "one of the jazz world's premier composers and arrangers" by All About Jazz; he has worked with Paul Simon (who I love), Harry Connick, Jr., Michael Buble (!!!), and Dr. Dre. He's the real deal. Talented, accomplished, well-regarded by his colleagues -- we all sort of hope to achieve in our fields what Ferber has achieved in his, I think.

Watching Ferber direct the orchestra was literally amazing to watch. He was passionate and engaged and moving all across the stage and shaking his hands and pointing to artists and once in awhile would grab his own trombone to play alongside the students. What a treat it must have been for them to play with this legend of the jazz world; what a treat it was for us to hear it and watch it unfold. 

Before they played the last song, Angel's Landing (a song composed by Ferber and inspired by a hike in Zion National Parking, "a treacherous climb that leads to a breathtaking view"), Ferber said a few words to the audience. When Ferber was a 14-year-old kid, without the resume and acclaim he has today, he went to his very first jazz camp. That jazz camp was at Stanford University. Today, he has a bunch of CDs under his belt, magazine reviews affirming the quality of his work, and collaborations with some of the biggest names in the business. Coming back to play here, he told us after thanking Galisatus for the invitation and opportunity, felt like he was coming full circle. 

When the night was over, I couldn't help but smile; not a moment of the previous two hours was spent thinking about school or responsibilities or stress. For a couple hours, I forgot about all the essays and readings and assignments coming up. Instead, I watched a bassist have the time of his life. I watched four trombone players play "Get Sassy" under Ferber's direction. In a sea of baggy black suits, I watched a saxophone player in a cool, tailored navy blue one, with a skinny black tie, stand up and blow the audience away with an amazing solo. I watched Alan Ferber come full circle, back to where it all began as a wide-eyed 14-year-old kid at Stanford jazz camp. The whole time, my toe was tapping, my program slapping my knee, my head nodding to the beat. I was in a different world.

Remind me to go to more jazz concerts.