Volume Seventeen: Renaissance Found

Posted on 01/11/2010


You know, I was running through my iPod the other day before I was going for my workout. It’s a normal routine of mine as I try to find the musical soundtrack for my physical exertions. As I skimmed through my carefully crafted playlists – Old School R&B, Hip-Hop, Rap, Gospel, Pop, and Rock, I saw all musical genres represented, with one notable exception: – Jazz. Where was the jazz? Any signs of jazz music on my iPod were noticeably absent. Why isn’t jazz part of my musical library? Why do I feel I have to “understand” jazz as compared to other musical genres?

The dearth of jazz on my iPod said more than anything I could say out of my mouth. It said that I was pretending. How could I claim to be a lover of music and not include music that required the highest of skill and the deepest of soul? It told me I was willing to hide this fact from the world, but I couldn’t hide it from myself. My iPod was speaking to me loud and clear. The truth was staring me in my face. I have over 2000 songs in my modest music library: Over 2000, and not one of them jazz.

Our culture is constantly “changing” or evolving. We shed our trends and fads with snake-like efficiency. Have we shed jazz? Jazz is the only truly American-invented art form. I can tell you Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, Elvis was just the King, and the subtle differences between Rap music and Hip-Hop. I can tell you that there were three Pointer Sisters and four in Sister Sledge. Hell, I even know what the letters in the Gap Band’s name stand for and the title song for Soul Train.  And yet, over 2000 songs and not one of them jazz.

So, why the diatribe about jazz? I went to South Carolina this past Thanksgiving. My cousin, a jazz saxophonist, composer, and teacher in Philadelphia invited me to see him play. I. Was. Mesmerized. I found a connection to the music that I never thought I had before. The rhythm, the beat, the syncopation, and the love surrounded me in a cocoon of sound that I’d never heard in any club before. I saw my cousin, with whom I had just been chatting, lose himself and become one with his instrument. I swear I saw the notes flowing from his sax and hover around him in reverence of his ability to give them life.

I left that club in downtown Columbia, SC completely changed. Jazz changed me much like the birth of my children. I realized the power of that experience and wanted others to have it as well. The word wade has been defined as “to begin energetically”, or “to attack strongly”. Ironically that’s my cousin’s name, Wade, and that’s how he approaches his music. His energy is as infectious as the sound of his music. My words are insufficient in describing who he is as man and musician. I’m hoping the link below will do more to describe Wade Dean and his Enspiration. I found inspiration by watching him. Hopefully, you can too…

Ellis Dean


Documentary by Brittany Owens for Film Forum: Documentary http://www.myspace.com/wadedeanenspiration

Posted in: Music, Pop Culture