I received a few great email responses to my last blog that I wanted to share. Some great perspectives on the State of Jazz and reactions to my question 'Who Killed Jazz?':
Blog #45: Who killed Jazz?
For as long as I've played Jazz, I've heard phrases like "What can we do to save Jazz?", "How do we bring back Jazz and make it popular?", "Why is Jazz Dying?"
I pose a new question: Who Killed Jazz?
I've lived in New York City, Jazz Center of the World, for 5 years now. I've played at places like The Bluenote to large audiences and at dive bars to crickets. I've hung at Jam sessions, booked gigs, released a CD, talked with press, booking agents, club owners and Jazz Educators. This isn't to say "Been there done that", its just to point out what I'm drawing my conclusions from. So, Who Killed Jazz?
The Jazz Media Killed Jazz.
I know that may sound weird. Why would the Jazz Media(magazines, websites, etc) kill Jazz? Aren't they trying to get people interested in Jazz? Isn't that where they make their profits? How'd they do it? How'd they get away with it?
The Jazz Media killed Jazz by deciding what music they would cover and what music they would ignore. I am a HUGE Jazz fan, and I can tell you I haven't purchased a Jazz Magazine since 2002(with the exception of a few that printed my name or mentioned me). The reason I haven't been interested is that its all the same shit. If I'm killing time in a bookstore, I'll flip through and see its nothing but stories about 'New remastered versions of John Coltrane", or "Miles Davis: Kind of Blue Revisited". If it is artists that are still alive its "Roy Haynes plays the Music of Charlie Parker". It doesn't take a genius to realize the Jazz Media is resting on its laurels and dwelling in past glories. The twist about these tribute albums and stories is that they DO sell. Albums of standards usually sell better than albums of original music; which is why record companies pressure their artists to do them. And while these all may lead to selling a few CDs or Magazines its a short term solution because its not perpetuating NEW artists and NEW music that people will get into, buy CDs and see concerts from. If this continues in 40 years we'll still being seeing more "'So and so' plays the music of Thelonious Monk" as opposed to "'So and So' plays the music of David Binney."
What 'New' Music that the Jazz Media does decide to cover is also quite (un)interesting and usually falls into two catagories; Pop Jazz acts(usually attractive female singers doing the same old songbook) or Avant Garde Artists whose music is hard for the general population to 'get'.(I would also like to add if a Jazz Media member doesn't understand the music, he is most likely to assume its 'Deep and Profound'). Classic 'Emporor's New Clothes' syndrome at work here.
If the Jazz Media killed Jazz, how'd they get away with it?
The accomplices to the Murder: Jazz Fans. That's right, its also your fault. You let them get away with it, by jumping on board and saying, 'yeah, I guess you're right 'so and so' is pretty good', as opposed to making your own opinions or searching out more obscure musicians who were making great new original music that you actually might like more.
Jazz Educators are also responsible for killing Jazz(stop and think about how fucked up that is!). As a product of Jazz School, I can say there is a huge emphasis put on playing in a traditional style as opposed to striving to find what you like to play. Why develop your own voice when you can just copy Charlie Parker?! This conservative approach isn't helping the production of new original voices.
How do we fix it?
Jazz has always been a music that is about growth and changing. The Beboppers were definitely pushing the music when it was their time, and many people didn't think what they were playing was 'Jazz'. Putting 'Jazz' into a box is one thing that is doing great harm to it. Let it grow, embrace it, stop holding on to the past. I love Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Joe Henderson and we will always have those guys. Jazz as what WAS exists on records and there will always be traditionalists on the scene. Jazz as they define it may be dead, you just need to update your definition if you want it to live.
Next week I'll cover "How to Kill your Career with a few simple Blog Entries" :)
Blog #44: Trumpet Flexibilities - Octave displacement
I've been trying to think of different things to put up on this blog, so I thought maybe I'd share some exercises I've written that I do.
I spent a lot of time working on playing lines with octave displacement, sometimes its as simple as taking something I've been playing and moving one note up or down an octave. This can make the phrase sound more interesting and different. I wrote these exercises to get comfortable and accurate with all this jumping around on the horn. I do them a few days a week as part of my 'short warm-up' session, and do them generally four times (once slow slurred, once fast slurred, once slow tongued, once fast tongued) two part A's and two part B's. By playing them this way it kills two birds with one stone; I get to work on articulation too.
Maybe, I'll write out some actual lines over changes out based on octave displacement and put them up later. These drills are based on the harmonic series of trumpet, but I'm sure they could be useful to most instruments.
(Also, a shout-out to Laurie Frink, she had me play similar exercises while I studied with her)
Blog # 43: Miscellaneous
I'm back in NYC now after a week or so of Traveling. I went back to Philadelphia and spent some time at home, then back to NYC, and then back to Philly again to play a gig and now I'm back NYC. I recorded the show with Audio and I also got most of the first set on my FlipVideo.
Besides the gig, I've been laying pretty low. I was getting a bit burned out with scheduling rehearsals and sessions. Its a pretty big pain in the ass to have to call and organize everyone's schedules and find a day in common; especially when these things get cancelled last minute sometimes when gigs come up. Every musician's schedule is pretty random, so its hard to coordinate. So for the past month, I haven't played too many sessions, I've just been locked up in my apartment practicing hard, writing new music, fixing issues in my playing and developing new concepts. I could go into further detail, but I like to keep some surprises. Now I feel recharged, and will probably go into another phase of playing a lot of sessions and rehearsals. From my gig last week, I'm reminded how much is developed just from playing with people.
I've also found myself listening more and more to different types of music and seeing how they are all related. Living in New York City and hearing so many Jazz musicians play tons of notes has made me really appreciate simple, less-complicated music. I've been listening to some Steve Reich and Philip Glass and have been really digging the minimalist thing. My next album will probably combine Minimalism and Jazz; and I've been writing a lot of new music with this approach. I've also been listening a lot to some Indie rock bands. I just got a new album by David Bazan called 'Curse your Branches', which is pretty amazing. Bazan is an ex-evangelical christian and this album is all about the confusion he has in believing in God. Its nice to hear a rock musician dealing with something heavy like that and not just being heartbroken about a girl. I'm starting to hear how Minimalism, Gamelan music, Indie Rock, and Bach are all very related.
As far as my own music in the future, I don't really care what people label it. I have no urge to 'Save Jazz'(which is a frequently discussed topic, and funny thought to me). I don't feel much of a need personally to maintain the tradition, although I'm fine with other people doing it. I just want to keep making music that I like to listen to, whatever style it may be. To me there are only two types of music; good and bad.
Here are some video clips from the gig on 4/1/10, This is my arrangement of the Sam Rivers tune 'Beatrice'