Excerpts from the book

Introduction, Now That’s Jazz:

It took my father about a half hour to drive us into New Orleans, to the empty lot where Mr. Barker’s Fairview Baptist Church Brass Band was rehearsing.

There we met an old man whom I presumed to be Mr. Barker. He was a colorful character, full of fire and stories well told. He loved New Orleans music and he loved kids. That day he taught us the most profound lesson about playing jazz – and about the possibility of a life of self-expression and mutual respect – that I ever encountered.

Chapter 1, Discovering the Joy of Swinging:

They [the musical notes] were succinct phrases that would run right through you, the way profound nuggets from Shakespeare’s plays can cut through you and linger; all those words in Hamlet, but you remember “To be or not to be” or To sleep perchance to dream.” Something on those types of phrases reveals universal truths.

Chapter 2, Speaking the Language of Jazz

Jazz music’s terminology is like the music itself-direct and plainspoken. It tells you what’s going on.

Chapter 3, Everybody’s Music, the Blues:

When my son Jasper was born, he came out crying and gasping for air. The nurses snatched him up, cleaned him off, stuck a tube up his nose to clean his nasal passages, pricked his foot to take blood, and roughly poked and prodded every area you would not want to have poked and prodded. Welcome! Whew! Then, finally, they gave him back to his mama and she hugged all over him. Pain and love. That’s the blues right there. The blues smacks you from behind and cradles you.

Chapter 4, What It Takes – and How It Feels – To Play

In music and life serious listening forces you to recognize others. Emphatic listeners almost always have more friends than other people, and their counsel is more highly valued. A patient, understanding listener lives in a larger world than a nonlistening know-it-all. … the humanity in a sound … comes from understanding the soft and hard parts of life.

Chapter 5, The Great Coming Together:

Homer was famous for just two books, The Iliad and the Odyssey. Yet the Greeks agreed there was so much in them that for centuries they interpreted and reinterpreted those texts, seeking a clearer understanding of what it was to be Greek – and to be human. Jazz can provide the same panoramic insights for Americans…

Chapter 6, Lessons from the Masters:

I didn’t want to tell him [master drummer, Elvin Jones] that I thought he was playing too loud. Finally, I got up the courage to tell him. He stared at me for a while and then said, ‘All you had to do was say something. Aint nobody on earth above being told something’

Chapter 7, That Thing With No Name

We all know that civilization requires a supreme effort. Much of our technology will become outmoded, but the technology of the human soul does not change.