Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Great Day In Buffalo

There was the potential for one hell of a band assembled behind the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

Folks from The Wisteria Initiative and the Shepherd House Restoration Committee staged a Buffalo version of the legendary “Great Day in Harlem” photograph (if you don’t know that celebrated picture, Google it and prepare to be amazed at the established and up-and-coming jazz luminaries of all generations somehow brought together on the stairs of a Harlem brownstone in 1958...).

I’m not going to name any of the names at yesterday’s event, because I’d inevitably forget to mention folks who really deserve mention — and some of my absolutely favorite players, complete heavies, weren’t able to be there — but I will say this: folks driving by on the Scajaquada a bit before noon saw gathered on the steps behind the Historical Society a sharply-dressed and well-coiffed (except for my fellow baldies) congregation of what makes Buffalo amazing — and I say this as an “outsider” who came here a couple of decades ago against my will!

This was a collection of world class talent and creativity. It was humbling to be amidst these folks who’ve excelled at the challenging and quixotic pursuit of excellence in jazz performance.

And here’s what I’m thinking ... Buffalo is like jazz: misunderstood and under-appreciated. But if you let it get under your skin, you WILL fall in love with it. I certainly have.

Meanwhile, here’s the deal with jazz ... folks who play it do so for one reason and only one reason: because they must!

They certainly ain’t in it for the money, or the, um, acclaim. There are far more sensible pursuits! But, alas, if you’re working to master this amazing and profound music — our country’s deepest and most important artistic contribution to the world, a unique cultural triumph that somehow is undervalued in the very land where it was created! — it’s only because you have no choice and can’t imagine doing otherwise! It’s grabbed you! It’s gotten under your skin!

And so these “jazz people” lined up at the Historical Society yesterday were really part of a self-selected family. They truly represent the best of Buffalo: people who aspire to improve themselves and express themselves and be part of an important legacy — worthy kin to those storied folks photographed in Harlem a little more than 50 years ago!