It Don't Mean a Thing . . .
If it ain't got that: swing, groove, soul, spirit, spark, or verve; if it ain't got that thing you can't nail down or hold in your hand, can't write in a book or explicate from a lectern.
When a band is really grooving, everyone in the room knows it, but no one can say why. Yes, we know swing is based on syncopation, but if it were just a matter of that, everyone who could write or play a dotted eighth note would be a master. The best jazz players say that when the music is really happening they feel like they are channeling the music from some subconscious or super-conscious source. They are also channeling the energy in the room that the listeners are generating. In the gospel music that serves as the precursor to and template for modern rock, pop, and soul, the mystery factor is not a mystery at all. It's the Holy Spirit. I wonder, then, if, when "secular" music comes alive, it is animated by the same spirit that they feel in the church. I think so.* I mean, listen to Sam Cooke sing "Havin' a Party" live.** And after all, the King James version of the Book of John tells us:
The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
* When I was at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, way back in the day before it became a hip, glorified version of a rock fest, I heard some hard groovin' sounds coming from one of the music tents, so decided to check it out. It was the gospel tent.
** From "Sam Cooke: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963." You should own or Spotify this record.