When I think of jazz music, I think of speakeasies, flapper dresses, and swing dancing. I imagine hidden alcohol, where every drink is made way too strong to have the desired effects in one shot. I think of my sophomore year of college, where my two best friends and I got dolled up to see our other friends in the jazz band perform on stage. Lights were dimmed and spotlighted on the vocalist as their sultry singing rang through the microphone. Between the stage and the first of the tables set up stood a gap large enough for guests to come up and dance. As I dragged my friends up with me, cute old couples stood up and swing danced the night away. What I don’t imagine jazz is something to be played on a beach. Yet, here at Crystal Lake Beach Club in Oakland, NJ is a jazz band setting up their stage.
Under the rustling trees at the top of the beach were music stands planted in the sand. Fans – parents and beach-goers alike – placed their sinking chairs in a semi-circle, staring at the members of the band as they began to warm up their instruments. The band director, animated and ecstatic, began flailing his arms around in a way that was supposed to conduct the kids in front of him.
Though Crystal Lake is prided on its seclusion to private beach members only, a few times each summer – with it being open from Memorial Day to Labor Day – the beach will host bands to perform on the beach. This past weekend was Indian Hills High School Jazz Band, where the smooth sounds of trumpets and trombones rang through the air. Every time I listen to this type of music, I get transported back to an era where I didn’t exist yet, an era the history books loved to talk about – or, rather, that might only be my own history teacher. I think of books like The Great Gatsby and Auntie Mame, where hidden parties ruled the nights and love was always in the air. Of course, later this month it will be Reflections, a Grateful Dead cover band, taking the stage, where other types of people come to the beach – don’t worry, I’ll write on that experience as well.
As I sat in my lifeguard chair, looking out into the murky green-ish lake water and scanning over guest’s heads, music ran through me. The music makes me focus, unable to get lost in my thoughts while I’m alone for half an hour sitting up high above those that I’ve watched grow up for the past three years below me. I don’t need to watch the band itself, which I didn’t since I was working, to listen to the music. As my toes squished through the sand, I realized how jazz could make someone feel – it inspires, relieves stress, romanticized and overall, beautiful. It’s a type of music that will never grow old and will continue to be there for musicians to get lost in for generations to come.