“There is something very personal to me in his music. The music understands me.”
I just couldn’t ignore the title as it scrolled down my Twitter feed: The Time That John Lurie Called Me. The essay, full of poetic nuance and dark (but illuminating) light, was written by guitarist Todd Clouser. Right there in the middle of his lovely tribute to John Lurie, there was that one sentence: “The music understands me.”
For as many times as I’ve written about musical resonance, I’ve never once thought of the phenomenon in this way — inverting the logic to give human characteristics to the music. But I’ll be damned if that doesn’t make more than a little sense. When I hear something that truly resonates, either on first listen or through years of living with the recording, I get the feeling that the music is a part of me: that I know it; that we have a shared history. The music takes on a kind of living presence. This is a relatively rare thing. There are a lot of recordings in my collection that have fond memories attached to them, but very few that have the power to reflect the energy back toward me.
John Lurie was the mastermind (and saxophonist) behind the New York Jazz Noir group The Lounge Lizards. Live in Tokyo is one of those albums that resonated instantly. It’s a jazz record, a blues record, a burlesque show, a late night at the diner. More than that, it cracked open my musical world, forcing me to investigate musicians such as Marc Ribot, Arto Lindsay, and (indirectly) John Zorn.
I’ve lived with this music for many years. It more than understands me. It is me.