Kids on the Slope

Jazz band playing on Kids on the Slope

Everybody's children are so special. It makes you wonder where all the ordinary grown-ups come from. Code 46

I'd never given it much thought to why high-school stories are popular.

Partly it's because it's such an impressionable age that any little bit of drama feels life-changing. Someone of the right age will identify, easily, and agonize with them. As an even slightly older viewer, you'll want to grab them by the lapels, yell at them that it's all going to seem irrelevant soon, that they don't need to overreact... but you can't.

But there's also life's rhythm.

We all walk at our own pace, and even people whom we think at one point will always trot beside us fall behind, cut ahead, take a side road, stop. High-school forces everyone, for a brief time, to walk at the same speed. Makes it easier to create shared memories.

Kids on the Slope is all about that rhythm. A theme here, a thread there, a harmony emerges phrase by phrase out of dissimilar instruments... then it all syncs... and it explodes into a dynamic, moving story about a few people improvising a friendship, riffing off each other's actions and music phrases, fighting to keep the tune going for as long as possible.

Sometimes the pianist pulls back; the drummer goes at it alone. The trumpet jumps to action. The older bass player strolls in. It all goes well while at least two of them strive to make it work. If one feels the other is not playing in sync, wants to solo instead, they won't stop and ask – that'd kill the tune. They'll keep playing, but change their style to try and solo as well. They'll clash. The harmony will vanish. The band will stop being a single being, become merely a group of people banging on instruments at the same place.

The tune that had enthralled you will disappear. And you'll hang around in a poorly lit corner, nursing your bourbon, hoping they'll get their groove back before too long has passed, before they forget how to make magic come out of lifeless metal and wood.

In jazz, the performance is the thing. The live interaction that cannot be repeated. It's a snapshot of the musician's life influences up to that moment in time. It's ephemeral. And it's over before you realize it.

I didn't find out until it had ended that it was created by Watanabe Shinichirō and Kanno Yōko. I'm glad I didn't know, or I would have expected this weaponized nostalgia neurotoxin, this yearning for people you haven't actually met, this sudden emptiness as the music stops.

Originally published on my old blog.

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