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By Ben Ratliff

Jazz is the spirit of hello. The greatest jazz record has to be the first jazz record, which is the Original Dixieland Jass Band's "Livery Stable Blues," from 1917. The best single figure in jazz was Duke Ellington, because he could go right up against your European composers, but after that it's Miles Davis. In fact, jazz never got any greater than Kind of Blue. Because jazz is really like Zen. Do I have it on vinyl? Of course -- I have the 200-gram audiophile edition.

Jazz is the life force. But jazz is also about frailty. The best Charlie Parker was the "Lover Man" session from 1946, when he was feeling withdrawal symptoms. Billie Holiday was the most herself on Lady in Satin, when she had the least of herself left to give. Lester Young, Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughn: Look at the end of their discographies, not the beginning.

Pure spontaneity! When a jazz musician plays a solo, it is from the holy spirit to your ears. These people, they're not overthinking. Jazz isn't about ideas, it's about feelings. That is why you need to hear the third set, at 1:00 A.M., when they're already loose. That's the only way you can understand what they are really all about. I'm talking about Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry. Bands always play a third set in the big New York City jazz clubs on Friday and Saturday. What? They don't? Since when? Herbie and Wayne don't play clubs much anymore? Wynton is too busy with Lincoln Center? and Clark Terry died??
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