Beats and brass.
I can’t think of anything else I’d rather have when listening to a song. Nothing else can pick me up and get me moving so quickly. Nothing could keep me moving for so long. Nothing can keep me wanting more once they inevitably fade away.
I’ve thought about it a lot, though usually those thoughts devolve into banal drivel about how “rhythm is movement,” inertia and all that jazz — and it might happen again as I try and type this out, I’m sure. It’s not my fault that it’s true. It just is.
A beat just has the ability to get under you, pick you up and keep you moving. And then, when you’re moving at whatever speed you could possibly imagine, you can get picked up by swooping horns, like the brass hits in Eddie Johns’s “More Spell On You” or the iconic trumpets from Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September.”
It’s not something you want to move along to — you have to. What little choice you had in the matter is taken out of your hands when tubas and trombones blare in Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” or when the drums come crashing down in Chuck Mangione’s “Children of Sanchez.”
To think that all sorts of sounds can come from two basic elements is astounding.
You could pick up a set of drums and play your way around the world. It could be a Brazilian bossa nova arranged by Quincy Jones, a blend of African beats and jazz by Sons of Kemet or the swinging salsa sounds of Celia Cruz. Anyone and everyone can move however they see fit, and you can follow them along for the journey.
And they can carry any emotion. Of course, it’s fun to stay at the “Y.M.C.A.” And there’s certainly something comforting about Curtis Mayfield’s calls to “Move on Up.” But there’s also room for the heartbroken laments of Oscar D'León’s “Lloraras” or the complex journey into the story of a musician on Chicago’s “Street Player” — easily one of the best songs ever produced.
Some kinds of music are limited to specific situations. After all, it’s not like you would play Metallica at a baby shower or a Weezer song in a library. (I mean, not that I’d mind, but most folks would.)
But there’s something about rhythm and brass that make them so accessible. People of all ages, backgrounds and passions can get behind a beat, and the bright, soaring sounds of trumpets and horns galore will surely pick up anyone’s mood.
That’s part of what draws me to it. A trumpet or a trombone can act as a paint brush, showcasing all sorts of vibrant colors and textures and broadcasting them directly into my ears and into my heart. I can be anywhere doing anything, and I can just move along to the beat of my own drum. Or someone else’s drum, who cares? It’s there. It’ll always be there.
And it’s all you really need.
Just beats and brass.
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