At its best, Jazz is a miracle in kinetics and traditionally listened to ourselves as primarily a miracle of rhythm, especially when it comes to Swing, and of melody.
Sometimes lyrics add themselves to the miracle and when the lyrics are both poetic and coherent, they leave a listener that much more jazzed. Billy Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit” is such a song. Most of the time, however, the title of song is the theme of miraculous instrumental playing. It’s been the case since Jazz’s beginnings: the stomps, blues, etc., have always meant to feel like explorative experiences, a theme stretched enough to add improvisation. One theme that has been a reason for rhythm, melody, and improvisation has been a Jazz musician’s beloved: “Naima,” “Crepuscule with Nellie,” and the list goes on. Christian Scott’s “Isadora”, classical in the way that it especially lets a piano explore the theme “Isadora,” is a 21st century John Coltrane’s “Naima,” warm where Coltrane was resolute, seemingly modern, cibachrome, where Coltrane’s was technicolored.
Isadora in life is named Isadora Mendez Scott and she is Scott’s wife. She is a singer and songwriter but also a visual artist and a cake maker. For “Isadora,” the real Isadora is presented faceless, even mask less, without a body, mindless, a first name and title: the composition and expression of a man with notes to introduce (none of us have ever met her) and notes to add on top of our initial introduction to “Isadora.” The song is not that kinetic: it cannot be danced or even easily hummed along to but it is spiritual, a miracle of spirituality.
Isadora is Christian Scott’s spiritual, modern, miracle because of unexplained (it has no words, remember.) Is the song miraculous for its listener, however? “There are so many love songs!” “Really, another love song!” In the sense that this is cibachrome jazz, the jazz of new living in the 21st century where cibachrome and romantic polaroid reign supreme: it’s a miracle of tender modernity; of cibachrome or new polaroid, contemporary, context and texture. But there are no images to a song, remember! There is the song’s tenderness that is surely a miracle of human progression. Here Scott seems honest about the tenderness in his infatuation with this wife and there is something new, and miraculous, about that in a society that continues to fight tooth and leg for not only real feminism across the board but also masculine tenderness that can harbor the genuine appreciation of another.
In a sentence: “Isadora” is tender, cibachrome, vulnerable, modern, love and that’s the miracle. We assume rightfully, or wrongfully, that Jazz comes along with a certain brand of love, a style of love: a traditional one. Why is that? I’ve no clue but I know that Jazz to me is never the following Roberto Bolano poem, from his book Tres.
- I dreamt I was falling in love with Alice Sheldon.
She didn’t want me. So I tried getting myself killed
on three continents. Years passed. Finally, when I
was really old, she appeared on the other end of the
promenade in New York and with signals (like the
ones they use on aircraft carriers to help the pilots
land) she told me she’d always loved me.
No, love in Jazz is certainly not as dramatic as Bolano’s falling for Alice and then the years passing. To me. It might be, given that there are no words but, again to me, it’s simple, successful, love that sets a mood. We have no idea what Isadora and Christian Scott’s relationship is but something told me to assume that it was nothing like that Bolano poem, or the following Leopoldine Core poem.
I was this dirty little penny when you met me
but I’ve been rubbing up against you
and now I’m shiny and you’re dirty.
What’s the story? In November 1809, Louis Tabary, a Frenchman who had fled the Haitian Revolution and established himself in New Orleans, founded the Theatre D’Orleans in New Orleans, the first theatre in the USA to offer continuous Opera. The Theatre D’Orleans became a center of Opera in the South and New Orleans Opera Comique (funny opera) became well known. Opera was one of the pinnacles of musical art since the Renaissance and much of what happened in Opera, especially simple feel good “ballad operas,” fed airs played as folk songs in early America, such as William Billings’s Chester.
70 or years later, as New Orleans Opera dominated, until New York City Opera, Jazz was invented: sometimes comic, sometimes tragic – music to invest one’s entire body into. Did operatic love, The Marriage of Figaro for example, inform early Jazz, producing a tradition that informs “Isadora”?
Like for the actual story of Christian and Isadora, we have no idea. Christian and Isadora get married. We aren’t even told that in the song. We’re quite simply told a whole bunch of notes that we should consume as “Isadora.” Perhaps that’s the beauty of it: that our minds should wander about Christian and Isadora, into “Isadora” being about me. Would Jazz then be music to dream to? Perhaps, then, both “Isadora’s” tender modernity and one’s being allowed to dream are the miracles?