I love jazz. Up until I started middle school, my parents really only played music without lyrics, specifically Classical and Jazz. Classical, because my mom made my sister and I both play the piano, and Jazz, well, because my mom loved Jazz.
Jazz is arguably America’s most distinctive true art form. It was born from slavery, and uniquely juxtaposed from classical musical thought. Jazz is melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic, and altogether gifted with improvisation. It’s why I decided to play the saxophone, trying to emulate Coltrane and Parker when I was growing up. That being said, saying as a middle schooler that you love Jazz is tantamount to making yourself a pariah. And so, I studied, listened, learned, and loved, but I kept it hidden growing up.
But then I went to Paris, and all of that changed. I was in Paris at at time when you could say that I was going through a crisis of confidence. I was a stranger in a strange land, and I did not speak a word of French, outside of ‘merci’. I felt decidedly lost, that is until I heard the jazz. Jazz came from every cafe, every open window, every idle cab waiting for passengers. Jazz is slowly dying in America, but in Paris, it is woven into the tapestry of everyday life. Even though I didn’t speak the language, I could experience part of their culture through something that I loved. I could speak a lick, but when I popped into a cab and spoke to the driver about who was playing on the radio, they would speak back to me excitedly and we’d get to talking, piecing together what we could through our broken French and English.
Paris will always hold a place in my heart, not for the Eiffel Tower, not for the Louvre, not for the food (though that’s close), but for the Jazz. When the news came in on Friday about the attacks in Paris, I was heartbroken. I remembered the idyllic streets of that ancient city where my hidden passion was celebrated as a part of every day life. I grieve for Paris because those memories are so ingrained in my head, and yet I am ashamed the attacks in Lebanon do not elicit the same response. It is easy to say that we will persevere, that we will triumph over evil, but the path to doing say is arduous and full of pitfalls. The French people, and most of all, the Parisians will not shrink from that task.
All I know though, is that one day, I will return to the City of Light and hear Jazz playing through her streets, and that is the memory I will long to make. A city again made whole.
Vive la France.
Vive la Liberté.