My Once and Future Relationship with Classical Music

I’ve probably not mentioned it, but as a kid, I had heavy exposure to classical music.

Back in the days of Victrolas and other vinyl players, my parents had amassed a full collection of classical music. So that’s all I grew up listening to. Not that I hadn’t had exposure to other types of music, but clasiscal was the sound that was commonly heard. Brahms’s Hungarian dance set and all of the Waltzes by Frederic Chopin are near and dear to my heart to this day. My parents, however, spared no expense to speak of in ensuring I knew classical well and good: they signed me up for music school when I was about six, and I attended right through the move to New York. I’ve gone to operas and various classical concerts both before and after the move, and have been to Carnegie Hall…granted, at twelve.

As of now, some almost twenty years after that move, I can’t carry a tune if it had handles, whether it involves the piano or singing it, I retained an appreciation for classical. It’s a love-hate type of appreciation, but it has its place, and until kind of recently, I had little cause to revive it.

You guys know me: jazz has been my love for years. My form of teenage rebellion was relatively tame: walking around in the city and listening to anything but classical. Jazz just kind of happened to be there at the time, but once in a while, I am prone to turning on classical piano.

So when I got the Esprit du Four album, by fourplay, imagine my surprise when I heard the title track in the shuffle. I didn’t realize at first whom I was hearing, and then realized just why it sounded so different. Never mind that fourplay always pulls out something interesting, but because there is so much classical stylistics and patterns in their music, theirs tends to pull at me in an entirely different manner. Bob James must have channeled Mozart at some point in composing and arranging the title track to Esprit du Four, because for the lack of better description, plays and listens like a modernized minuet.

As I said, I grew up on classical. I played the Chopin waltzes as an exercise in music school – lousily, but hey, better to try it than not – and there is a certain amount of respect that you have to hand to a music style that had been around for centuries. Well, more than a certain amount.

To have one of my favorite jazz groups, a great collective of individuals, whom I was happy to meet more than once, touch on that tradition and do so repeatedly (see Sebastian off the Energy album also) is nothing short of amazing. Really. I cannot tell you how it resonates with me, because you can probably deduce that the answer is plentifully, but it’s something that your average jazz fan may find curious. Of all the genres that we see fused into contemporary jazz – Latin, rock, pop, funk, and soul are the common denominators – classical is a very fresh twist with a history that goes back to when a doublet was the height of fashion.

And if you want to know just how far classical music influence can reach, consider checking out the Three Mo’ Tenors. Not to be confused with the original Three Tenors, this lineup of gentlemen can, will, and does serve up a heaping platter of vocal variety, from the opera classics to Broadway, to Motown, to soul blues, jazz – you name it, and they will sing it – pitch-perfect, to boot. They have been aboard the Capital Jazz SuperCruise 2012 and trust me when I say: the best way to win over an instrumental fan over is to park them at that show, front and center. They made the cruise this year.

And this exercise in contemplation is only further proof to me that I need to get myself together and write!NaNoWriMo doesn’t win itself!