“Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.” –Toni Morrison, Jazz
Last week I went to a night of jazz in Ithaca held at the Carriage House Café. The event took place in the café’s “Hayloft,” which resembles not so much a hayloft as a church-like space complete with exposed hardwood flooring and beams, subtly elegant lighting, plentiful seating, and a full bar.
Although I haven’t experienced enough jazz to call myself an enthusiast, I can say that there’s something about this genre of music that captures and sustains my attention in a pure way. I can get caught up in jazz in a way that I might not with other music because I can’t anticipate how it might go: ultimately, each number will be nuanced and expressive of the musicians themselves in the moment. This personal element to jazz is particularly striking, and was on full display throughout the concert.
The Merill Garrity Quartet (consisting of trumpeter Paul Merrill, saxophonist James Spinazolla, pianist Nick Weiser, drummer Matt Garrity, and basist Nicholas Walker) along with friend and former teacher of Merill’s, saxophonist Joe Salzano, made apparent the art that jazz is when the players share a connection (Paul Merrill took the time to endearingly explain between sets how he came to be playing with each of the other musicians). The group excelled in simple glances, passing off parts to one another effortlessly and allowing time for musical exploration and development. The group attempted complex pieces and proved their skill as musicians, while making sure to bring in an element of fun. The result was an engaged audience nodding and tapping along to the music, transfixed. The magic of it was that I didn’t know anyone in the audience but I felt comfortable and connected enough to sit back, close my eyes, and just enjoy.