Magic, music and Montreal – Part 3

by Steve Brock on September 19, 2011

Just Sumner, me and several hundred of our closest newfound friends at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

In Part 1 of this series, we saw that I wasn’t as wild about jazz as I’d like to be. In Part 2, I told of a trip to New York as a teenager that was magical for me, but mostly a soggy trial for my parents. And through it all, I’ve raised the question of how these two issues relate and why I would want to spend time this summer at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Here’s the scoop.

I went to the jazz festival not because I like jazz, but because my son Sumner does. You may recall the story of Stein on Vine and Sumner’s surprise baritone saxophone performance for his grandparents. That was just one manifestation of his passion for this music.

When we found out we would be in Montreal this summer during the famous Jazz Festival, I was just as excited – well, almost – as Sumner was to try and catch at least one or two shows there.

The festival runs for a few weeks with multiple performers playing at various venues in a central area. The music goes non-stop from afternoon to late in the evening. Thus, while we weren’t able to make any big name performances (we were traveling with my parents and my brother’s family, so time with them took priority), we did catch some wonderful acts in the afternoon on two days.

There we were, Sumner enraptured by a big band performance, oblivious to everything else around him and me, well, I was enjoying it for reasons other than the music.

I wasn’t thrilled to be standing – there are no seats for most performances – in the hot afternoon sun, surrounded by hundreds of other perspiring bodies. But that didn’t matter. We were there together, my son and I and all these other strangers who, for that moment, weren’t total strangers.

Like a jazz ensemble itself, we came together for a time and were all part of that performance, swaying almost as one to the rhythm, smiling and nodding to each other like old friends after a particularly accomplished solo.

As I stood there with this crowd, I thought back on my trip to New York and my parents accompanying me through the rain to the various magic stores and the Broadway performance. And then it struck me.

Was I now just modeling something I’d seen my parents do for me? Putting their own interests aside because they knew how much the experience meant to their son? Perhaps. But it’s not that simple.

Or maybe it is.

Maybe what I realized there in Montreal was something that lies at the heart of being a parent and is central to meaningful travel: Our best trips – our best selves – aren’t necessarily found in pursuing what we think we most enjoy.

Instead, we find a deeper satisfaction, perhaps even a reluctant joy, in seeing the delight of another and knowing that we made it possible. It’s an act that is both simple and yet not easy to pull off, all about us yet not about us at all. Sort of like a certain form of music.

I’m beginning to like jazz.

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