Jazz is a lot of things, such as international, improvisational, diverse and creative. But there are also creative ways of helping jazz, as you’ll read in this posting.

Jazz fans have to become creative listeners. Like theater-goers, we enter into a state of suspended disbelief — we defer our expectations of where the song is going next, yet bear in mind its building blocks: chords, melody, themes, rhythms.

As you follow the thread of a musician’s solo, keep your ears open for how the other musicians support and enhance the improvisational thread, keep track of the song’s themes, and journey with the band into that orbit of extrapolation, that gravity-free zone of creativity. I like to say that jazz makes you smarter, and the only people who disagree are the ones who don’t understand what I’m saying.

Charles Mingus was highly creative -- as a bassist, composer, arranger and abstract artist.

Sure, you say, but all music is creative. To an extent that’s true, one has to be creative in some way to write or perform music. But jazz takes it a step further: creativity belongs in equal measure to the writer and the performer, and the ability to improvise is as highly regarded as a way with a tune. The listener is part of the equation too. It becomes like cubist art, and it’s no accident that jazz and abstract art were formed in the same few years.

Jazz builds on the structure and themes of popular and obscure, old and new songs to produce ever evolving improvisational takes – “spontaneous composition,”  as Billy Taylor told us. Which sounds like another way of saying “creative playing.”  More than any other music – more than rock, pop, and certainly classical – jazz is played by creative musicians, who are not only technically adept but soulfully engaged and personally expressive.

Creativity is at the core of jazz. Whether two or six musicians are playing, as the song evolves it changes with each performance, both from the first run-through to the finale, and every time it’s played. The bassist stays attuned to the soloist so he can emphasize or underscore the musical direction; the drummer punctuates the song’s structure in appropriate, emphatic and suggestive ways, as the pianist drops in color chords and notes to add to the audible tapestry.

You can see why jazz fans have to become creative listeners – it adds to the pleasure, completes the circle of creativity, when the performers and audience are on the same page. 

Jazz supporters have to be creative, too. If you love jazz – and I suspect you do, if you’re reading this post – then you have to find ways to feed your love. Find a good jazz show on the radio (we like “real jazz” with Doug Jayne on KRSH, and “jazz connections” with Larry Slater on KRCB, as well as the weekend jazz programming on KPFA and all the time on KCSM in San Mateo). If there’s a place nearby to see and hear live jazz, and go whenever you can – to the Hotel Healdsburg Lobby on Friday and Saturday nights, to the Dry Creek Kitchen on Mondays and Tuesdays, to special concerts and events throughout the year.

There are ways to become creative with your contributions, too. One woman told us she was asking not for gifts on her 60th birthday party, but for donations to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. You could do the same for anniversaries, or graduations, or almost any occasion when a gift is called for.

Another supporter is offering massage gift certificates at more than half off – the first 20 customers to call will receive a certificate for an hour-long “warm stone” massage for only $50, and she’ll contribute $200 to the Festival. Sound good? Send Kanti Pike an email at Warm Stone Therapeutic Massage or call her in Santa Rosa at 707-824-8843.

Exercise your creative potential  — donate through your own creative contributions. Bake sales? Progressive dinners? Raffles? Maybe you should head up to River Rock and donate half your winnings to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Or if you’re not feeling that creative — or lucky — just donate directly to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival.

Feed your love of jazz in creative ways, and it will reward you.

— Christian Kallen

Think you know what jazz is? Leave a comment on our page, “What Is Jazz?”