Publisher’s Note: The publication of Arya Jenkins’ “Soliloquy” is the first of three short stories she has been commissioned to write for Jerry Jazz Musician. For information about her column, please see our September 12 “Letter From the Publisher.”
COMING TO JAZZ
By Arya F. Jenkins
On the occasion of my 12th or 13th birthday, my father presented me with my own copy of a favorite album of his, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and said, “This music is going to change your life.” The music sounded like nothing I’d ever heard. It was original and different and piqued my curiosity although I would not embrace it until later in my life. In the early 90s, when I was reading my poems in cafes that often played jazz in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, I started really listening to the music, and found it captivating. I went through some hard times and simultaneously got deeper into jazz. I got to dig jazz especially from the hard bop era, and read about it, and identified with the struggles and ideas of many of its main characters. Although I am no expert on the genre, I believe I am of the music and a product of it due to my own background and experiences. As a bicultural–my mother was Colombian; my dad, from Iowa–I have my whole life been caught up in complicated series of diversities that stemmed from this original one.
Jazz celebrates both diversity and the outsider, not just African Americans, but women, although in my view, these are at the heart of jazz. You cannot escape the voices of Bird or Trane or Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughn if you care about jazz at all.
So this is where I come from, writing about, from and into jazz in this highly personalized fashion as a way of celebrating and mining my own diversity as well as exploring the genre.