#12) The R.P.M. Jazz Trio and the Joshua Bell factor

Yesterday (Sunday, May 8th) I attended a jazz performance by a friend of mine, drummer/producer Paul Tavenner, at a church in Santa Monica.  It was the first time in a while I really sat and listened to live jazz, and it was very enjoyable.  Bassist Matt van Benschoten turned in a solid performance on his electric upright, and 17-year old jazz virtuoso Rachel Flowers brought the goods, mainly on piano, sometimes on flute, and simultaneously on one song.  She played with a mix of traditional influence and originality that is unusual, especially for someone her age.

The group played a nice variety of standards, including Coltrane’s “Naima”, Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island” and “Dolphin Dance” and more.  When I saw a toddler bopping up and down to the music, it reminded me of another story I heard about the famous violinist Joshua Bell.

In January of 2007, Bell dressed anonymously and stood in a Washington, D.C. subway station during rush hour and played for 45 minutes.  Most people walked by; some stopped and listened for a little while but soon were on their way.  Apparently, several children showed some interest–just as the little girl in the church did–but their parents hurried them along.

The point of the article was that virtually none of the thousands of commuters had any idea what they were listening to.   Another parallel between the violinist and the jazz trio occurred to me: while this performance was attended by probably close to 100 people, most residents of Santa Monica, and indeed the greater L.A. area, probably had no idea that on this Sunday afternoon, they could hear some great jazz.  Perhaps some might even have walked right by the church without knowing what was going on inside.

Even musicians themselves might learn a thing or two: many (certainly myself) are guilty of bemoaning the current state of the music business, especially jazz, but closer looks reveal that the art is alive and well.

For a video of Joshua Bell’s subway performance, click here.  For an article about Rachel Flowers, click here.

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