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Little, if anything, is laugh-worthy in the news right now, but the catharsis, joy, and recharge of laughter are available if you do some digging.

The year is 1964. The setting: a festival in Antibes, France. The band is 21-year-old George Benson on guitar, Brother Jack McDuff on organ, Red Holloway on saxophone, and Joe Dukes on drums. The music is scorching. The laugh isn’t yours—it’s Holloway’s.

Minutes in, he replicates a bursting laugh through his horn, a familiar technique in improvisational swing of the era but rarely accomplished with such expressive vitality on video. The laugh is teed up here, and Benson gets in on it, circling his arm behind Holloway during the laugh, and fashioning another sound on guitar that you’re bound to recognize. You can see, hear, feel, or imagine how much tension and release are coded in these moments, designed for a crowd but deployed for themselves.

Here is Benson’s recognizable riff, right after McDuff’s organ. And here’s Holloway’s laugh. Are they playing the licks for the crowd or themselves? Yes.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2021 demands.

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