Music, I've decided, tends to affect me on either an emotional or an intellectual level. The blues, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Smith, stuff by Harry Chapin, Springsteen, "Ride of the Valkyries", Beethoven's Ninth, even, let's face it, crap like Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell," stir something in my gut ... joy, sadness, anger, outrage. They bring tears to my eyes, make me laugh, or something between.
Jazz, freely improvised jazz especially but also things like a great Sony Rollins solo, get my brain working. I'm captivated by the way a Mr. Rollins can generate idea after idea off a simple base or familiar melody ("Autumn Nocturne" on "Don't Stop the Carnival" is a classic example) and I thrill in the mental hunt for the logic inside the process.
What occurred to me in listening to Albert Ayler's "Spiritual Unity" this week is that it works on both levels for me, as does a lot of the music I've come to consider essential (including "Autumn Nocturne" on "Don't Stop the Carnival"). Ayler's use of devices such as march forms make his music as emotive as Sousa tunes while the labyrinthal path he treads from there makes for a cognitive feast.