I saw this posted recently. I don’t know if it’s a true story, but it definitely sounds like how Yogi would explain jazz.
Interviewer: Can you explain jazz?
Yogi: I can’t, but I will. 90% of all jazz is half improvisation. The other half is the part people play while others are playing something they never played with anyone who played that part. So if you play the wrong part, it’s right. If you play the right part, it might be right if you play it wrong enough. But if you play it too right, it’s wrong.
Interviewer: I don’t understand.
Yogi: Anyone who understands jazz knows that you can’t understand it. It’s too complicated. That’s what’s so simple about it.
Interviewer: Do you understand it?
Yogi: No. That’s why I can explain it. If I understood it, I wouldn’t know anything about it.
Interviewer: Are there any great jazz players alive today?
Yogi: No. All the great jazz players alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.
Interviewer: What is syncopation?
Yogi: That’s when the note that you should hear now happens either before or after you hear it. In jazz, you don’t hear notes when they happen because that would be some other type of music. Other types of music can be jazz, but only if they’re the same as something different from those other kinds.
Interviewer: Now I really don’t understand.
Yogi: I haven’t taught you enough for you to not understand jazz that well.
James Divine is a music educator and jazz musician. He recently completed a curriculum called Jazz From The Start: 7 Lessons You Can Teach To Beginning to Advanced Musicians now. James also shares a keynote speech in which he uses his 100+ year old Conn Tenor Sax to talk about how – even though our lives are scratched, dented, and abused, a beautiful symphony can still pour out of us. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. Get a copy of Jimmy: A True Story of Abuse, Poverty, Forgiveness and Redemption on amazon.