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On Commemoration in the Face of Jazz Appreciation Month

Anthony Dean-Harris
Editor-in-Chief / @i_ADH

I'm bad at holidays. I'm not quite sure when it started but somewhere along the line, I realized when it comes to things like Christmas or birthdays or Easter, I just don't have it in me to muster the emotional fortitude to be festive the same time everyone else is. Oh, sure, I can can gush with feelings discussing the merits of the em dash or regaling what was going through my mind when writing a particularly long piece, I can engage in a fascinating conversation with someone for a stretch of time without gazing longingly at my phone, I can enjoy the worthwhile dinner with friends and colleagues, but just don't expect a lot out of me around major occasions. Suffice it to say, I walked into Jazz Appreciation Month with a little trepidation, that is until I realized once more the importance of commemoration.

If you break down the elements of the word "commemorate", you'd get the prefix "com" meaning "with", the suffix "ate" which indicates process, and of course "memory"-- us remembering together. As a society, we find it important to do these things en masse. I had a moment this past Sunday when I had to cast off my grumpy Christian countenance and head to church on a Sunday that wasn't the first of the month. My church was filled to capacity not only because it's just common practice for all lapsed Christians to go to church on Easter Sunday but also because such a belief sprung from the notion that it's important for a people to remember things together. A risen savior returned to fulfill a prophecy and give the world a means for redemption. We may know of this, but this is the time we have relegated to coming together all at once to acknowledge it. It's tied to community. This is what holidays and occasions do-- provide a framework for commemoration.

Thus, while I may find it odd to take note of a month of commemoration for something I do every weekday, it's because much of what I do is solitary. I pontificate in a Google doc weekly, I put together a radio show wherein I mesh together the choicer cuts of my mail and talk (loudly) to myself in a little room, I reprocess press releases and YouTube About sections, and every once in awhile I talk with a musician or see a show that I think others should hear about. These are moments of commemorating the modern iterations of a celebrated, age-old artform but while I am committing the act of communicating these things, the actions themselves are performed alone. Even amongst staff here, our writers' works are their own, duly celebrating jazz with their own slant, greatly appreciated to the point that they, too, are left largely untampered (or as untampered as possible). But from time to time, as a community, not only of the voices of this site, but also as a jazz internet and a collective of fans, do we gather together and say now is the time we remember together the music we love so much. From time to time, we live out the credo of spreading the gospel of jazz far and wide, but throughout April we do so with a little more vigor. This community of voices comes together to make something larger than ourselves.

So much like the tan suit, Botany 500 blue shirt, and striped blue & pink tie I wore this past Sunday, I'll will put on the raiment of festivity that comes this April for Jazz Appreciation Month. I'll sprinkle its good name in the midst of my columns on Thursdays. I'll add a dash of #JazzApril hashtags in my tweets. I'll rally the staff to do the same. I'll do these things not because I'm feeling a swelling in my heart for jazz anew, though I am a cold, emotionless robot, that feeling rarely subsides. I do this because this is the time for us all to remember together why we love this music so much. Now is the time for our voices to join and hope that the rest of the world would take notice in some small way. Even though I may not be earnest in my feelings (because how earnest can one be in a hashtag anyway), I can certainly fake it til I make it. Considering the joy I feel in talking about jazz music far and wide, making it isn't too far off.

Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio. More of his writing can be found at his blog, In Retrospect and you can also follow him on Twitter.