Outside, this past weekend at my in-laws’ house in St. Louis, I walked into leaves and then stopped, listening to all of the nothing around me. They live in a wooded area, their house built into the side of large hill. There’s not much that needs attention, much upkeep–the land conserves its own impression. The house is in a valley and tall trees make noise with the wind. In the pause it’s very quiet and there’s something odd that happens in listening intently, not waiting to hear something but focusing on what’s in between. Eventually, the wind rushes up and limbs creak, a squirrel springs along, twigs roll. Then, again, quiet.
As the season changes here in the Midwest, as it gets darker earlier, colder, I listen to more jazz than ever. Maybe it’s mood. Fall is the moodiest season. Personified, fall, I imagine, often wrinkles its brow, rolls over. Its change is in what’s going away, ending. There are new sounds in that death–no muffling of bare limbs, amplified shoe taps moving through the cold air. I listen to what I hear and what’s between it. As I do with Kenny Drew and Dexter Gordon and Lee Morgan. What jazz is is what it isn’t–the in between where the Harmon muted trumpet takes a break or the piano quits for thirty seconds. That space. What’s not there can make me dizzy. That absence both makes me pay attention and makes me long. For the bend of the tree limb, for the B-flat.