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Cliff Notes


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CLIFF MONEAR

“Monear’s breathy ideas leave lots of space, girding the music with exquisite tension. What gives the music personality is Monear’s suave touch, relaxed swing, fresh melodic and harmonic turns and the unpretentious way he draws on familiar influences.”

 Mark Stryker, Free Press Music Critic

 I was a shy student waiting for a great love to come along when Frank Sinatra’s hit song In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning came along, It sounded like my biography. Sinatra recorded David Mann and Bob Hilliard’s 1955 song at a time when it would have a considerably melancholy effect on my existence. Late at night, after studies, when I was feeling sorry for myself,  I would listen to Frank sing ” you would be hers if only she would call…in the wee small hours of the morning that’s the time you miss her most of all”

Thursday night at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe,  Cliff Monear’s Trio were playing requests. A couple asked  for In the Wee Small Hours. It was played without words but it still had the same effect on me. I was swept up in the music completely,  along with all the patrons who had had a lonely heart at some time in their life.  Bassist Jeff Pedroz bowed the story with feeling while Cliff took the group into some more complex thoughts of unrequited love. All this time drummer Stephen Boegehold kept them safely “in the pocket”.

When Cliff took the request for this song, he said that he hadn’t heard the song for twenty years. How then could the trio give a seven minute rendition of the song? I can understand one guy interpreting a tune as he goes along but several guys. How the heck? I asked the band after the set. I got shrugs. When I talked to Cliff after his set about his trio, he looked like a child opening his Easter basket. With Jeff on bass and Stephen on drums he could ride effortlessly in the comfort of the musical flow. They provide a pocket that gives him more creative freedom.

 I found this knowledgeable description of “the pocket” written by the All-About Jazz staff :

 “The pocket isn’t a place where the musician holds something — it’s an intangible place that holds the musician. While this sounds a bit odd, the closest thing that I can think of to describe it is a spiritual experience that goes beyond playing the right notes, great timing, or being in tune. The experience of playing in the pocket is more like becoming a faucet through which the music flows. Being in the pocket is not just about “locking together or “syncing up as a band. It goes beyond this to the place where the musician allows the music to take control.Most listeners can tell when a band is in the pocket because there’s a little more electricity in the playing. Being in a room with a band that’s in the pocket is like taking an exhilarating ride. These are the most memorable concerts that I’ve attended or played. When it was time to go I didn’t want to leave, no matter how tired I felt — I just wanted to stay with the music.

The pocket is particularly important for jazz musicians because so much of what we play is improvised. Whether we’re in the studio recording or playing live, jazz musicians take a number of risks by improvising together. Jazz has more magic, more life, and more verve when the band is together in the pocket.


One of my quirks as a musician is that I learn things through music and then later figure out life because of it. The pocket is no exception. I’m convinced that everything has a pocket. The pocket is a way of experiencing life so that you are in it to the fullest extent. Being in the pocket of life is about not isolating yourself. It’s also about listening to others, about not putting your own desires first, and about understanding that you’re part of something bigger. It’s not about what you can create or achieve, it’s about being part of the creative process.”  

I have always loved live jazz, but I now will be spending more time listening to hear who Is “in the pocket”.

John Osler


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