Ross Taggart is one of Vancouver's finest jazz musicians, beloved by players and audiences alike. He's engaged in a very brave and painful battle with cancer.
On Monday, Nov 26, the who's who of the Vancouver jazz community gathered to give and receive a benefit concert for Ross. We were able to stream it into his hospital room at the Vancouver General Hospital. As I did a brief opening, then listened to the amazing talent that had been inspired and instructed by Ross, I found myself reflecting on the meaning of community for jazz musicians and, by extension, for the rest of us.
But before you read on, take a few moments and listen to Ross playing 'Sunday in New York' with the Cory Weeds quintet at Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club back in 2009. Ross' solo runs from 6:36 - 8:22, but he plays great support throughout what got recorded at The Cellar that night.
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The benefit concert reminded me of the power of real community in at least three ways.
First, none of these musicians got to the level of virtuosity they have achieved on their own. They are part of a community. They learned from masters. They learn from each other. They learn from their students. They learn from their audiences. There is a profound sense of connection and communion among these artists and their audiences that you can feel deep within your soul, where it resonates with the Source of jazz and every other kind of conversation that makes this world flourish.
Second, the concert hall was filled with gratitude. It was especially focused on Ross that night, but you could see how much these people appreciated each other as they performed and hear how much the audience appreciated them as they applauded after each solo. That's a unique feature of jazz that I really like. Audiences show appreciation in the midst of the performance, not just at the end. That's the kind of encouragement we need to bring much more often into our daily life and work. Just say 'Thanks' and show appreciation as you move through your day.
Third, these artists freely and fervently expressed their love for Ross as he watched from his hospital bed. These expressions of love were natural, sincere, and crafted with the ease and flow of a great jazz performance. In the end, it is all about love, especially in times of crisis. We were all saying, aloud and within, "Fear not, Ross, we and the loving energy that fills the universe with the melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of jazz are with you now and always."
This is what real community is about. The interesting thing is that it is always there, all around us, waiting for us to break through the barriers we've constructed to keep us isolated and alone. We break through those barriers by convening conversations, by playing jazz with each other in the sounds of our voices - our words and ideas and passions and fears. We listen to the stories of others and tell our own. We empathize and support. We delight in the groove of real community.
Speaking of community, we're still raising money for Ross. I'd be most grateful if you would donate. You can make an e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org or write a cheque to Ross Taggart, c/o Vancouver Musicians' Association, Suite 100 - 925 West Eighth Avenue, Vancouver, B.C., V5Z 1E4. Many thanks. And please remember Ross in whatever form of prayer you practice. That healing energy will be of great help.