Originally, a riff referred to any imaginative improvised melody. In Jazz, riffs are musical responses and conversations musicians have among themselves that are telling stories of the challenges that life brings. History has demonstrated that jazz has been “racialized”, “genderized” and “Americanized” with respect to identity since it dropped into American culture over 75 years ago. Folks may not like it but they sure know what jazz is. Jazz in literature has helped construct histories, create discourses and builds communities. I learned that in “jazz language” riffs are artistic expressions that involve identity and are multidimensional critiques on our social and cultural condition. It is the harmonic and melodic expression against the back-beat of the rhythmic flow of the counter-melody of our lives.
Since moving to the Bay Area from Seattle, the past six months have presented so many counter melodies and riffs brimming with painful emotions as well as physical manifestations. These riffs continued until I created a break in my response to that pain and circumstance. It has become very enlightening. Not feeling physically good varies from day to day. Establishing and creating a groove and feeling of well-being is helping me to find a flow that works for me. Improvisation in jazz is developing a language of the cultural riffs and identities through sentient experiences. In my case the riffs of pain are a part of living and thriving with breast cancer. I am learning to accept it.
Now I respond very quickly. Now ask myself, am I maintaining my integrity? Do I do what I say I am going to do and respect and recognize other’s boundaries? Do I ask for forgiveness? That has been something that has been on my mind and proven to be very liberating. . I find comfort being alone with my heart. The solitude awakens me to finding nuances in the melody and the finer points my existence.. I have been running from painful riffs most of my life. Now I respond differently with God’s grace to open my heart and mind to the beauty that surrounds me. Beneath the lush green grass beats a heart that is uniquely mine.
Changing the riff to a melody that is set to a different rhythm allows me to get into a groove that is healing and transforms my soul. Not letting the well-meaning gardeners disrupt my balance and groove. My center is dynamic and dependent upon the connection to that sacred space. It is within as well as surrounds me in a golden light that is only shadowed by painful memories. But those memories are just signs and guideposts of where I need to look in order to find my true center. I am listening to my heart….I am remembering 1965. It was a year full of racial tension − riots, misfortune and misery that was ringing out everywhere. I have no agenda now. My soul speaks and inspires me to share my experiences and dreams. I realize I have spent most of my life-giving everything away. Now I just wanna’ keep the rest for myself. Life is tragic when you have not lived your dreams.
Enough of mindlessly taking the path of least resistance and drowning out all connections I have to my truth. The glorious part of 1965 when I was eleven years old was that became the year that Jazz provided the ambient substrate of my soul’s expression. It was safe, It was impenetrable and had washed away the misery that was blazing through the souls and streets of civility, compassion and love. So just for today, I am looking forward — all I see and feel is a joy and sense of wellbeing when I am writing with jazz as my muse filling my heart and soul with a love supreme. .How about you? What would be your muse? What are the riffs that have changed you? I leave you with my favorite sound
Championed by the late maestro Paco de Lucía as the next great flamenco star, Spanish guitarist Vicente Amigo has more than lived up to his promise. The guitarist’s live performances feature pyrotechnic virtuosity, charisma and copious quantities of that intangible quality of Iberian music called duende, which Amigo explains simply: “If you hurt when you hear it, then it’s duende.” This promises to be an unforgettable evening of flamenco fire. SFJazz
Peace and Love Out! 😎 & ♥
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