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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Jazz in Naptown - Inspiring and depressing, at the same time

Indianapolis is one of those cities that isn't very famous.  Yes, they have the Colts and the Pacers and the Indy 500 which gives the Hoosier city visibility in the sports world.  But most people outside of Indiana don't know about the musical history of the city.  Both Freddie Hubbard (the great jazz trumpeter) and J.J. Johnson (the man who invented bebop trombone technique) are Naptown guys. Albert Von Tilzer also hailed from Indianapolis - he wrote " Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

I was in Indianapolis in mid-July on business, and had to spend the night.  After my meetings and business functions were completed, I went for a walk through the Broad Ripple Village neighborhood, a very pleasant artsy area with the usual amusements - brew pub, fine dining, dance clubs, art galleries etc.  I heard music in the distance so I wandered toward the sound.  As I got nearer, I recognized John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," being ripped out at a breakneck pace by a very fine tenor saxophonist and a backing group.  On the second floor porch of a bar and grill called "10-01 Food and Drink," Jared Thompson and a 2-man rhythm section were killing it.  Jared is known in the Indy jazz scene, but not well known elsewhere.  He is a towering talent on the tenor; has the technical aspects of hard bop sax nailed and is a wildly creative and sophisticated improviser.  His backing band was a keyboard player (who handled the bass chores via a separate bass keyboard) and a very cool drummer playing a mini-kit (snare, ride, high-hat and bass drum).  Jared led his team through a tour of mainstream jazz, circa 1950 - 1980.  I requested "Naima" (my favorite Coltrane ballad);  Jared smiled and unspooled a lovely version the tune.   They were tucked away in the corner of the porch.  I felt like I had discovered a treasure.  Oh, and there was no cover charge - I just sat there sipping my Diet Coke and blissed out.  I was inspired.

Of course, I was the only person paying attention.

The patrons at 10-01 were busy eating, drinking, talking, laughing, texting, fiddling with smart phones and ignoring the beautiful music that was being created in the sultry Indiana summer evening.  I wanted to shout at everyone to shut up and listen!!!  But I didn't.  This is America, and people have the right to attend to their own amusement when dining out (as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else).  So my inspiration was tempered with a little depression. How could people ignore what these supremely gifted musicians created for their benefit?

I applauded loudly; a couple of people joined in, Jared smiled and the set ended. He was reserved; walked away without talking.

It is crazy hard to be a jazz musician in the country that invented jazz.

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