Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Beginnings

If you want to get rich, nowadays, there must be some way--it seems that the two tried and true methods are down to one, since real estate just went bust. The other way is to invent something that society desperately needs.

Producing Jazz is way down on that list. It is so far down on that list that it actually reaches into a new list--Things You Do for Love. It may also graze the list of Things That Are Nearly Impossible to Do.

We get a Jazz Channel with our cable TV setup, and they play contemporary artists. There is also a smooth jazz channel, but I don't listen to that. I started to listen to this straight jazz channel to see who's out there playing, how they sound. But I began to listen less and less. There was no question the musicians were good--but for the most part, they were indistinguishable from one and other, especially the guitarists. This is because jazz education is for the most part standardized. And wherever there is standardization, there is also a lack of heart. McDonald's may taste good, but you don't go there for a memorable meal or a signature dish.

So the first problem is finding musicians who sound like themselves, that is, they sound like their heart. There is plenty of documentation that music schools don't, can't, teach players how to connect with their heart. But this was always the strength and engine of jazz, musicians as the rugged individualists, John Wayne each and every one, forging their own frontier on the plains and forests of swing. Now the music hasn't the strength, nor the engine to continue. And like an airplane whose engine fails, it falls. That's jazz history. I don't think one can argue otherwise.

I was very lucky to have a teacher that insisted on each student connecting to their heart. In the age of McDonald's and suburbs and strip malls, this isn't easy. In my case, I knew that the method was the right one, but it takes a very long time. So I wasn't the hot guitarist in town when I was 20. I was getting blown away on the bandstand by the kids coming back from Berklee. It's not that they were playing great music, but they were MUCH more competent--and they would always want to play Giant Steps. And they weren't very nice, not helpful, just arrogant.

Given this, Mom and Pop know which musicians they will NOT be using.