The constant recovery of jazz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE, Colorado ” As drummer Bob Levey sees it, jazz is about structure and form. It’s about self-expression and technical ability.
But, maybe more importantly, it’s about a process.
“Jazz is about constant recovery,” he said.
Those were Charlie Parker’s words first, but Levey’s still living them ” and not just with music. With everything. Being in the moment, and then recovering from that moment, is what he’s all about.
Though born into an ultra-musical existence (his dad was the famous jazz drummer Stan Levey), he didn’t pick up his own sticks until he was a teenager. After finding success in the Los Angeles jazz scene, he left the business to support his family. It wasn’t until he moved to this arty valley, a dozen years back, that he started playing tunes again.
To hear him talk about it, it’s impossible to imagine how he ever stopped.
Music is a way, he explained, to make people feel good. It can offer a moment of peace.
“And give them something to think about and intervene in their life,” he said, “and pull them away from the daily stresses and pressures of this world.”
As he added, a moment later, “There’s a nobility about jazz.”
All of that is what his group, The Intervention Band, brings to Steve’s Guitars every other week. As of fairly recently, the guys have become a staple, a de facto jazz house band at the place. On the first and third Tuesdays of the month, they play at the little listening room, regardless of whether their audience is two or 20. While Levey would obviously like as many people there as possible, he’s also realistic about his chosen genre. Crowd-pleasing isn’t an adjective often associated with the musical form, and it does take time and effort to understand. In this fast-paced world of ours, Levey knows not everyone is up to that.
“I would love people to experience it and love it, but it’s never been a popular music,” he admitted, adding just a few beats later, “It’s always been about something new. And it’s never been about a whole lot of people getting it, anyway.”
He does know, though, that those who truly understand it, care deeply for it. Those are the people he’s really playing for. Those “hardcore listeners” as he calls them (he doesn’t care for the term “fan”) are the kinds of folks who dig his mix of jazz standards and “free jazz.” The latter, as he described it, is the opposite of the wallpaper-esque, pleasant tunes you might hear in an elevator or hotel lobby. Only planned out to the barest extent, it’s more of a conversation between players than a traditional bit of song.
“Some people love it. Some people can’t stand it. And some people try to make something out of it,” he explained.
He ” and the rest of his group ” is certainly making a lot out of it. He sounds like he needs to. In his opinion, at its highest level, jazz is a way to be himself, to give a voice to what he’s feeling. It’s a way for him to live right in the moment, and communicate that to other people. It’s his outlet.
“I like to express myself,” he said, in a reverent tone. “I have something to say. I believe in God. I hope that comes through in my playing. And most of the guys in the band do also.”
But even for him, even with all this caring about his art, it took moving here to pick it up again. It took meeting his current bandmates and being surrounded by this area’s energy, an energy he can’t really explain, to awaken his creative juices once more. In some way, it’s taken everything in his life up to this point to bring him and his ensemble to Steve’s this Tuesday.
“I just kept recovering,” he said, “And it’s still going on.”
And that’s jazz.
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