Just play. At the start of the episode, we see Kaoru as he tries to break “Moanin'” down into its individual, discrete parts. He tries to nail down the tempo, the chords, the syncopation, etc., but nothing’s coming out right. Why? ‘Cause he’s sweating the details. We learned from Sentaro last week that jazz is all about feel. You can try to approximate jazz onto a piece of sheet music, but sometimes, the best course of action is just to let yourself go.
Midway through the episode, Kaoru gets a taste of what feeling jazz truly means. Caught in an impromptu jam session with the record store owner, Brother Jun, and Sentaro, all that Kaoru can do is feel. He has nothing in front of him–no sheet music, no prior training, nada; all he has is the flow of the music around him. Kaoru begins to let go a bit. He begins to just play. And, as a result, we get to see the biggest smile on his face yet:
Just play. I wrote last week how a jazz track often plays when expectations are being broken. There’s also jazz when it’s just time to play and have fun. Again, Sentaro finds himself in a fight against hoodlums (in order to save Kaoru’s hide). He doesn’t think of it as a street brawl, though. He makes a game of it: “We gonna play a game, like “monkey in the middle?” From this perspective, then, we could tweak our interpretation of Kaoru’s actions following his rescue. Instead of Kaoru summoning up courage to help Sentaro fight off the school bullies, he’s summoning up his courage to just play. In the end, boys will be boys and no one got seriously hurt. But most of all, Kaoru stops sweating the details. Instead of worrying about who looks pathetic and who saved who, just play.
When Kaoru successfully schedules what he thinks is a study date with Ritsuko for the upcoming summer vacation, a non-jazz track plays and he begins to recall how lonely his previous summer vacations had been. He begins to fret: “What should I do? I have so many things to look forward to that I can’t wrap my head around it….” I think this brief moment reinforces two things: (1) the softer, non-jazz piano tracks continue to represent memories (more on this later), and (2) once again, Kaoru begins to sweat the details.
Predictably enough, the study date is really a study session as Ritsuko invites Sentaro to come along (a brief jazz riff plays when he pops out from under the bushes and surprises Kaoru). I think Kaoru’s disappointment is really due to the fact that he tends to sweat the details, and as a result, he has the need to define and label everything, i.e. “What is this thing I’m doing with Ritsuko during summer vacation? It must be a date.”
The episode leaves room for some speculation. If we continue to buy into the idea that music plays a significant role in the anime, what does the music in the church represent (besides the very obvious Christian relation)? Will the somber, non-jazz piano tracks continue to represent memories? Sentaro–if Kaoru is to be believed–falls in love with a girl he had just barely met. During this scene, a piano track plays.
I want to predict that Sentaro falls in love because the girl stirs up an old, pleasant memory in him, but hey, maybe I just want to be right. In any case, we’ll find out (hopefully) in a week.