The Constitution…and all that jazz

Monday afternoon was the closing luncheon for the Peter Jenning’s Project for Journalists and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center. “The Constitution in Our Midst” was the overall theme of the three day event.

An informal buffet and a sit where you want format seemed to have everyone in a relaxed mood. Up on a small stage was a trio lead by Philly born pianist, Eric Reed, along with David Wong on bass and Obed Calvaire on drums.

I took a seat off to the side at an empty table where I could see the band and not be in anyone’s way, as I was the guest of a friend.

By the time the table was nearly full I was sitting with Mrs. Jennings, Stanley Crouch and Todd Brewster. My friend introduced me to each of them. I got the impression these were good people. I thought about Peter Jennings and how he was fortunate to have such lovely people around him as friends.

As Jane Eisner from the Constitution Center is talking about how the first Peter Jennings Project went, I am thinking, ‘how am I going to write about this?’ I was mainly there to hear the music, the jazz. So I am thinking, Constitution/Jazz indigenous American music, this noble experiment. And I knew I would write a rift on the ever changing American use of its constitution and the similarity it has to
jazz music.

Then, Stanley Crouch, of the New York Daily News, literally took the ideas in my head and stood before the gathered. He eloquently spoke about our jazz like constitution. His words were much better thought out then my inclination of an idea.

The trio went back into action as the room listened from a different perspective. They started with a Thelonious Monk, Twelve Bar Blues. The talented and well educated Mr. Reed explained some of the process of the music just played, relating it back to the words and ideas of Mr. Crouch. The band then did a rendition of Stablemates, a Benny Golson composition, followed by a fantastic Rogers and Hart standard, Easy to Remember.

We have all heard ‘Easy to Remember’ many times. Mr. Reed brought a clarity and tenderness to each note. There was no slurring of musical phrases and the bass and drums added to this stunning presentation. I just love when you can hear a song you have heard hundreds of times and then hear it again for the first time.

And that to me is what this afternoon was about. Our constitution, though an old composition, when played with all of our humanity and goodness, can be made to sing and swing in ways we never thought possible.

As if to punctuate this point The Eric Reed Trio ended with Duke Ellington’s, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”

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