Something pianist Nancy Walker said to me last night between sets of her gig with bassist-bandleader John Geggie and drummer Matt Wilson (which I don't think she'll mind me quoting here) is ringing with me this morning. Speaking of her first experience performing with Wilson, she said she felt enveloped in his sound – like what he played supported and embraced her.
So, those words were in my mind this morning as I listened to a live stream of a BBC radio interview with Bruce Springsteen. Although he never addressed the subject of sound directly, he spoke of the community of a band and its audience as he reflected on the recent death of his longtime bandmate, organist Dan Federici.
When I reflect on great concerts I've experienced, it is a sonic world I think of; not so much the individual notes played or the choice of songs or the demeanor of the musicians onstage, but how successfully the musicians are at creating a sonic world that you all can live in for awhile. It might only be one song, it might only be one solo. If you're really lucky, that sonic world – that communal bond – lasts the entire performance. And it doesn't matter whether it's a punk band thrashing at top volume, Daniel Lanois' band creating a low, electric rumble or Paul Motian playing solo – when you're enveloped in that sonic world, everything's alright.