Blue Note Jazz Festival at the Blue Note on Monday, June 27.
My brother once told me that he learned about the history of jazz by reading the current weekly listings in The New Yorker. Nostalgia is such a powerful force that many of the greats of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s are still performing, and the “Goings On About Town” section dutifully encapsulates the upcoming gigs, briefly explaining why the artists matter and what their big hits were. The past is constantly made present.
Of course, the past is often past its prime, as well, so if you’re not nostalgic yourself, if it’s all new to you, those concerts can be a bit awkward. You can’t very well expect a ninety-year-old man to perform with the stamina and vigor of a forty-year-old, but going too far along that train of thought can begin to feel condescending. Live performance is undoubtedly special, but sometimes you have to wonder if you’d be better off just listening to the classic recordings.
I have to admit these thoughts were running through my head as I listened to acclaimed, award-winning vocalists Jon Hendricks (eighty-nine years old) and Annie Ross (eighty-one). I suspect their breath support wasn’t always somewhat erratic, their tone wasn’t always so gravelly, but hey, a singer’s body is his instrument, and Hendricks and Ross are in their eighties. It might sound condescending, but they are amazing for their age.