The Beating Heart of Jazz

Art Blakey: 'You don't have to be a musician to understand jazz. Just be able to feel.'

John Coltrane once said that the meaning of jazz "is the whole question of life itself"—not just for the players, but also for those of us who can't live without it. Art Blakey, who was impelled to preach the gospel of jazz (and not only on drums), used to say: "You don't have to be a musician to understand jazz. All you have to do is be able to feel."

I keep writing about the Jazz Foundation to pay a small part of my debt to these musicians, who for so long have kept showing me how deeply and immediately I can feel. When I was a kid, sneaking into clubs before I was old enough to be admitted, these players seemed to be larger than I thought life could possibly be. Without them, my own would have been a lot grayer.

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