Wednesday, June 16, 2010

ASCAP Jazz Awards

They also gave me this medal

Blog # 50: ASCAP Awards

Monday I went to the ASCAP awards, I was invited because I was one of the people that won an 'ASCAP 2010 Young Jazz Composers Award' earlier this year. The event was held at ASCAP's main office in manhattan and there were a bunch of great performances along with the actual awards. Phil Woods and Donald Fagen were given the 'living legends' award and Dina Washington, Eddie Lang and Thelonious Monk were inducted into the ASCAP jazz hall of fame. There were also performances by Erica Von Kleist, Julian Lage, Phil Woods, John Hollenbeck and Claudia Quintet, Bill Charlap, Jay Leonhardt, Jaleel Shaw, Jonathan Blake, Donald Fagen, Adam Rogers and Fred Hersh.

I enjoyed the event, especially the performances(my favorite was Hollenbeck's), which made the whole thing worth the awkwardness I felt at the reception before(I'm not very good at small talk or striking up conversations with strangers, nor did I want to get into the 'name dropping fame game'): "Hi I'm Jon Crowley, I play with ____, ______, and _____ ". I'd much prefer to just like my trumpet playing do the talking.

Lastly, I'll share a funny moment I observed while playing 'Wall flower' at the reception. Another one of the 'Young jazz composer..' winners(who looked about 17 years old), approached one of the famous musicians listed above. Their interaction went as follows:

Kid: Hi, Its nice to meet you, i'm _____ . I really like your playing and am a big fan

Famous Jazz Guy: Oh, thanks [disinterested]

Kid: I study with ____, and _____, and _____ . I saw you play at the festival a few years ago. It was awesome

Famous Jazz Guy: [no verbal response or eye contact, looks around the room]

Kid: I also saw you play at the vangaurd last year with ____ .

Famous Jazz Guy: [no verbal response, walks away]

Thinking back, one thing that's very strange about jazz is that you listen to people on record for so long. You study them and you know them so well from their recordings and then you meet or play with them and find out about their personalities. Sometimes you might find out that your hero is an asshole. Its a funny thing. Other times people surprise you in a great way. I played with John Scofield when I was at NYU and he was the nicest, most down-to-earth guy you'd ever meet. I thought before meeting him that he would have a 'rockstar' attitude, but he was incredibly friendly, humble and even took the time to learn all of our names(I even bumped into him a year later and he still knew my name; great guy.) I could go one about other famous jazz guys that I've played with that are the friendliest people around, but I'm not playing the 'name dropping fame game'. It is a weird phenomenon to make friends with someone you listened to for years on CDs.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pop Music Today

Blog # 49: Pop Music Today:

Yesterday I was flipping around the TV and paused on the MTV Movie Awards. I was curious as to what music they were going to feature. I tend not to follow this sort of thing, but once again curiosity got the better of me. I caught Christina Aguilera's performance. WTF. I was left with only one question: Is this what popular music is now?

While I've never really been a huge fan of popular music(I'm speaking of the stuff you'd hear on TV or the Radio), I usually find what is popular today to be very interesting. For example, its interesting that GreenDay can write the same song about being a rebellious youth and market it to generation after generation of the same age kids. There will always be 12 year olds with skateboards who can relate to the music. But I found Chistina's new song to be interesting on a whole different level. Simply, it was the lowest common denominator i've ever seen in a pop song. The message: Christina enjoys receiving oral sex.

And though, there have been sexual driven songs in the past, I don't think they've ever been so direct. When I was in high school Britney Spears was at her peak of popularity, her message: 'she's not that innocent'. Okay, I get it: sexual suggestive, without going into the details. Makes the listener use his/her imagination. School girl uniform: cliche, obvious, but classic. Then, I remember a few years ago when there was a song out with the lyrics "I'll take you to the candy shop, let you lick the lolly pop". Clearly, this song was metaphorical, but Christina's song is pretty much just a description of how she enjoys oral sex. There was no innuendo or double entendre. The only loose analogy being 'her ___ tastes like cake'. (I know, isn't she classy?)

Then she tells us all about how she enjoys a good 'Licky lick' and encourages the women in the audience to cheer if they also enjoy oral. She strikes a pose, the lights go out in the theater and a light-up heart appears on her vagina. The Audience erupts in thunderous applause! And I'm left thinking: really? Is this what is considered 'good' music today?

(I'll take a second now to analyze the music(ignoring the lyrical content). Musically, the song was forgettable, and frankly, they could have played it at the 2001 MTV music awards and no one would have thought it weird at all(musically). Pop music really hasn't changed at all(musically speaking) in the past 10 years. Its the same beats, and the same chord progressions. It really feels like 1 person is writing all of the music for all of the artists today.)

Now back to the sexual content of the song. Its just plain sad that that is what it comes to. I don't know if the artists are thinking, 'I better make this song extremely sexual so people will buy my record' but that's what it seems like. It makes me wonder what's next. Songs about other basic bodily functions? Maybe songs about masturbation, songs about taking a good shit? The possibilities are endless!! I guess I'm okay with people talking about these things, but its the public nature of POP music that seems so wrong and awful. There are young kids watchin' this stuff on TV!

Finally, I went on Youtube and looked up people's responses to Christina's performance. Surprisingly, most people felt the same way i did! Maybe there is a limit to how much Slutty-ness the american public can take. God I hope so.

For now, I guess I'm just one of those 'shocked old people'.

You can check her performance out on youtube:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Live at Fat Cat 6/2/10

Blog #48: Live at Fat Cat

I just played a show this past week with some great musicians at 'Fat Cat' in the Village. A lot of my usual guys were out of town, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to play with some new people. Amongst them Aidan Carroll(bass), Ziv Ravitz(drums), David Bryant(piano, on Myron Walden's latest CD), and Mark Shim on Tenor. I was very excited to get Mark, who was signed to BlueNote Records back in the late 90's. He has such an original sound and approach, and I've been lucky enough to see him play a few times around NYC. To me he plays the Tenor the way it SHOULD sound.

We did one (very short) rehearsal, where we pretty much just ran the heads. This was also the first time I met any of the guys(everyone was pretty much a friend of a friend). So, there were some slight moments of confusion on some of the forms during the gig, but all and all I thought everyone played well. We also played a lot of new material on this gig that will probably end up on my next record.

I recorded the show and have made it available to listen to or for FREE download on: