Saturday, November 26, 2011

Changing it up

(I always have fun picking the images for these blogs)



Blog # 93: Changing it up



I think its important to keep things fresh, new and to change things up from time to time. I think as human beings we can all get into our certain patterns that we do day to day; maybe its the same breakfast or lunch, maybe its the same exercise schedule, or the same practice routine(seems like a lot of musicians get stuck playing the same stuff). It is easy to get comfortable doing the same thing and the next thing you know, you blink and maybe 10 years have passed and you're still doing the same thing! Sometimes big changes are hard, but little changes are much more manageable.


I definitely felt like I had a certain pattern to my life from when I graduated NYU in spring 2007 until 2009 and then a different pattern from then until the end of 2010. This year has been great though, I've met a lot of new people who bring a totally different energy to my life, I moved out the apartment I had been living in for 5 yrs, I've been listening to different music and playing music with a more varied group of musicians, genre-wise. I got pretty into running this year, trying to go for an hour run, 3 days a week, and I've been getting more and more into eating healthy too. I actually feel younger now than I have in years, maybe its surrounding myself with younger, hungrier people too. Its also interesting how certain friends I've gotten closer to, and others have drifted away. I guess that's just the nature of life, and I accept this.


But its never enough, there is only forward to the next thing. With 2012 just a month away, I've been thinking about what a big year 2011 has been for me. Its been a year of progress and a year of remembering. Its been a year of intense feelings too. I feel like I just woke up from a long sleep, and everything is now in bright colors(like when Dorothy wakes up in Oz). Even though a year is just an abitrary start to a new cycle, its good to have a marker. It makes it easier to remember the distinct feel of each year and I want 2012 to be the biggest yet. I'm looking forward to a rebirth and re-invention.


I'm welcoming change and I already have one thing I plan on doing different in the new year: my practice journal. Since 2002 I have kept a daily journal of my practice habits. Each day I record how long I practice, if I had a gig, or a rehearsal and even details on if my chops felt weird etc. Its been cool to see how when I started these journals I could only play 2-3 hours a day before getting tired, and since moving to New York(and studying with Laurie Frink), I've done 5-6 hours per day, every day. If the journals were started to keep myself accountable they've succeeded. I've only taken 3 days off since 2002: one when I got mono sophomore yr of college and my throat swelled shut and had to go to the emergency room, and 2 days off when I got my wisdom teeth out(I actually started back playing again too quickly and ended up getting them infected; woops!)


If the purpose of the journal was to monitor my playing and make sure I wasn't slacking, I think I've established that I'm not that guy, so I've decided I'm going to stop the journals on Jan 1st 2012. Maybe they just became a compulsive habit, but in getting busier over the last few months I've noticed that I can get hours of practice in during different times of the day and still keep my ability up, whereas for the longest time I forced myself to play 11-1pm, 4-6pm, and 8-9:30(regardless as to how I felt). I still like playing those hours, but I am more flexibly now. If a friend calls and wants to hang randomly one afternoon, I can take an afternoon off and its not the end of the world. This may not seem like a big deal, but it took me a long time to get here. I was just so tunnel vision on trumpet that I forgot about a lot of other great stuff that is out there in this world. I'm more relaxed about life now. I still want to be the best trumpeter I can be. I still want to practice insane amounts, and I'm still not going to take a day off, but I'm a human being too...and I get that now. It took me a long time.


I'm also entertaining the idea of checking out a new trumpet. I've played the same Bach 43 trumpet for the past 10 years too. I've been curious about Martin Committees for a while, but have heard horror stories about finding a good one and their intonation issues. I've heard Lawler makes a great modern version of the Committee, so i'm curious. We'll see what happens. Gotta do some more homework on the subject, but the idea of shopping for a new horn is intimidating, especially with all the leadpipe, bell, and bore variations. I don't even know where to start.


Looking forward to some big moves in 2012


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Petition

Blog # 93: The Petition

So my good friend John Beaty wrote this petition to support this new movement relating to Jazz he's creating called "Stretch". John also makes some great points about the current music scene and hopes of reforming it. Here's the petition. or go to www.Mymomthingsimgreat.com

To My Fellow Jazz Musicians and Music Lovers,

I am a saxophonist living in New York City. I have lived here for the past ten years, attended and graduated from some of the best music schools in the world. I have toured and played with many of my jazz heroes including Dafnis Prieto, Jean-Michel Pilc, Chris Potter and Richard Bona, and have been a working musician on the scene. I now find myself looking at a broken, antiquated system—a system that no longer serves us and is no longer self-sustaining. The jazz system sends young hopefuls through music schools, charges them upwards of $150,000 and then spits them out into a world where it is almost impossible to obtain the most basic sustenance. We're not talking about low-level products; these are amazing and virtuosic musicians who are struggling for work. How did jazz arrive at this current state?

Until the 20th century, virtuoso classical instrumentalists were often considered the most highly regarded entertainers in the world. With the emergence of jazz, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, and the Dorsey Brothers were immensely popular. Coupled with the advent of recorded music, musicians were able to reach larger audiences and make more money as well. They were entertainers as well as great instrumentalists. Next came Bebop in the 1940's. Unfortunately, with the increased musical complexity the American public forced these musicians to make a difficult decision: stay true to their art or water down their music for the sake of entertainment and record sales. This moment was quintessential for the evolution of Jazz; leaving the realm of strict entertainment and becoming an art form. Musicians like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were not only virtuosos, they were innovators. These two founders and the Bebop movement demanded respect. The unfortunate consequence of this decision of art over entertainment was that it often lead to fewer record sales. As hard bop, cool jazz, and later modal jazz developed there was still a small but devote audience for the music. In 1959 Colombia Records released Dave Brubeck's album 'Time Out'; an album that would go on to become one of the best-selling instrumental records of all time. However, in its first year, it sold a mere 50,000 copies. If 'Time Out' had been released today, Brubeck would have been cut and searching for a new label. Miles Davis' masterpiece 'Kind of Blue' (also recorded in 1959) was classified quadruple platinum in 2008. It took nearly 50 years, and Miles had long since passed away.

To compete with the increasing popularity of Rock music, Miles Davis and other jazz instrumentalists sought to reach wider audiences. They combined their music with rock and other popular styles. Stanley Turrentine, Wayne Shorter's Weather Report, Herbie Hancock, Grover Washington Jr. and George Benson were amongst those who achieved commercial success. Then someone came along who took things even further in that direction: Kenny G arrived on the scene and released his first album in 1982. Despite the opinion of many jazz musicians, Kenny G's success actually created a new market called smooth jazz. His music became wildly popular throughout the 80’s. In fact, his Christmas album has sold more copies than any other holiday album in recorded history (outselling Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Sting and Nat King Cole). For the first time in a long time, an instrumental musician was selling millions of records. Also During the early 80's, Wynton Marsalis emerged on the scene. On his arrival, he was viewed by many as a savior of Jazz; someone that could bring the music back to the mainstream. Record labels started to change their view of jazz after Wynton's success. Due to his popularity and the "Young lions" movement heating up in the late 80's and 90's, labels tried to find the next Wynton Marsalis. By the mid 90's he had established Jazz at Lincoln Center and Jazz Education had become a staple of "The Jazz system."

This system seemed to work effortlessly. Jazz musicians were able to make more money than ever before, recording whatever music they chose. Jazz was now in the school system too, all the way up to the university level. When musicians weren't touring they could teach and generate income that way as well. The system worked great until the early 2000's, when the American economy began a slow decline. As America began unraveling financially, so did the Jazz Community. Downloading became the new way people acquired music, with less and less emphasis on physical CD sales. This eventually led to the demise of the record label as we knew it. As the economy slowed over the last 10 years, there were also fewer and fewer opportunities for new jazz musicians coming out of schools; fewer record deals, fewer gigs and fewer teaching positions.

I was a product of this failed jazz system. I studied at The New School and even graduated with a Masters Degree in Jazz from NYU in 2007. Throughout my entire schooling, I believed the propaganda I heard. I watched the "Young lions" get paid to play standards. I vehemently supported Wynton Marsalis and looked down on Kenny G as a sellout. I discredited all other forms of jazz and believed in staying true to the tradition of this music. I studied and learned everything that was asked of me by all of my teachers, but I was blind to the reality of the situation we now all find ourselves in. We overpaid for an education that feeds us into a Jazz system that has no hope of supporting all of our talent. We are the most gifted musicians in the world. We understand theory and function on a level other musicians can't even dream of. Compared to the worlds of Hip-Hop, Rock, Country, and even Classical, we have the most inspiring blend of sophistication, musicianship, and feeling. Though we once believed Wynton Marsalis' success had saved us, it really set us up for a greater failure: the position we are all now in. By recording music in every meter but 4/4 and playing songs that go on for more than 20 minutes we've created a greater distance between performer and audience than ever before. Even the current model for Jazz Clubs is flawed. By setting up performances with such steep entrance fees and food and beverage minimums, the younger audience can no longer afford to see this live music. This is absurd when you consider the fact that young musicians and students are not only the talent but the main financial source of income behind the current Jazz System. We need to find a way to get the music back to the people.

There is so much wrong with the Jazz community, Jazz clubs, and Jazz education. I offer this solution: we split away from this failed Jazz System and start a new genre. I suggest we do a mass re-branding and call the new genre “Stretch.” We can stretch music in ways no other genre has the capacity to do. "Stretch" is a form of instrumental rock/hip hop that is predominantly in 4/4 or 3/4. We have shortened the length of our songs from the 20 minute self-indulgence of Jazz to around 4-5 minutes. We think about what the listener wants to hear. We think about being entertainers again. If we can play 3,000 standards from memory, I strongly believe we can come up with a new form of music that people in their 20's can be fans of. I am not talking about selling out. Part of the jazz lie that we have been fed is this idea that we can't play music that can be both popular and artistically fulfilling. I believe we can, but we have to meet our listeners half-way.

We all are a part of a special time in American history. It is time to be an active part of the change that is happening in America. We have a chance now for a new beginning. Though we will always point to our jazz heroes as inspiration, we have to change something for the sake of our futures. We owe our predecessors respect, but we do not have to live lives of poverty to show it. Sign this petition if you are willing to join in building the "Stretch" genre. Sign this petition if you believe re-branding will save our community. Sign this petition if you believe change is needed. Sign this petition if you are tired of getting paid less than you deserve to make money for artists in other genres. Sign this petition if you believe you deserve something greater than what the Jazz System offers us. I offer this website as a starting ground. I will keep the blog up-to-date. I want to hear your suggestions too, and will post them on the blog and start forums for us to open a dialogue on the subject. I encourage you to get involved in any way you can. Felix Pastorius, Chris Ward and myself are already working to establish a record label to support this new music. Below is a list of musicians who have already joined us. Musicians I know who have the talent to be at the vanguard of the "Stretch" genre. My name is John Beaty, please join us by signing this petition.

As author of this petition, count my name as first to sign,
John Beaty

Monday, November 7, 2011

First Days in NYC



Blog # 92: My first Days in NYC


For some reason I thought about my first days in New York today. I moved to the City in the fall of 2005 to attend NYU. I spent my first academic year living in a dorm on 26th street, where I shared a kitchen and bathroom with a Korean Dental student(sadly, I can't even remember his name now!)


After I moved my stuff into to the building, said goodbye to my parents and settled in, the next day I had to go down and take my placement exams. These are tests all grad students take to make sure their knowledge of Music Theory, Music History and Aural Comprehension is up to par. So, the day after I moved in I had to get down to NYU(4th Street) and take these tests, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Between the big buildings, the fast pace and the new environment, I decided it'd be best not to trust the subways(I didn't know how often they ran) and decided just walk down to 4th street. So, I walked down, took the first test, walked back to 26th street, ate lunch and then walked back down to 4th street again, took the second test and then walked back to my Apt one final time. These trips back and forth added up to about 7 miles total....all because I didn't trust the NY subway system yet and wanted to make sure I didn't miss these tests :)


Its funny to think about to my first days in New York City...


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pace




Blog # 91: Pace


A few days ago I was running at the gym. I really enjoying running on a treadmill because I can control the speed, see how far I've run, make sure I'm not slacking and keep a good pace. Somedays I seem to have an easy time and somedays just ten minutes into the run I know it'll be a tough one. This alone is interesting considering I run regularly, so its not like there is a lot of downtime and slacking between runs(I go Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). Maybe it has something to do with what I eat before the run, or how much I sleep the night before, or maybe its just my emotional state. Regardless, I run at least 4 miles and don't let myself take the easy way out. Monday I was running, slowly increasing my speed and got to the point where I felt at a certain pace I could have run all day. The timing between my footsteps and my breathing was perfectly in sync. At this pace, I would never get tired.(Monday it was at 6.5 miles/hr)


This feeling surprisingly reminded me of playing on tour this summer with Red Light Growler. After playing 4 shows in a row, on the same material with the same band, I felt I had found my pace. I knew how much space I could leave, when I could increase my volume and intensity and building a solo with the band became a lot easier, almost effortless.


Strangely enough, these thoughts on 'Pace' reminded me of something UFC welter-weight champ Georges St-Pierre said in an interview once. The reporter asked him how much cardio work he did, because he never got tired in any of his fights. St-Pierre's response was that he didn't really do that much cardio work, but he just forced all of his opponents to fight his pace. Whether it was faster or slower than his rivals, it brought them out of their zone, made them uncomfortable and threw them off their game. St-Pierre said, once he finds his pace in a fight he's unstoppable.


Running, Fighting, Improvising music: I love finding the similarities between seemingly different things and I think there is a lot in common. This Idea of 'finding your pace' is an important feeling and idea I'll be thinking more about. Ideally, I'd like to be able to find my pace whenever, where ever and whatever the musical circumstances.