1/18/06

On positive audience feedback

This is from a letter to another musician who was wanting some positive reactions from listeners after his gig:

"I’ve come to believe over the years that the audience hardly ever has any clue about how good the music is. Only if you see a great musician in the audience will anyone know anything about what you are doing. So this means that compliments mean almost NOTHING. They usually mean something like- they liked how the horn player was swaying back and forth or that the guitarist had really shiny hair, or that the drummer made a lot of cool faces. You think that you want someone to say that you sounded good, but that would just mean that you looked cool playing on stage. If I go by the this assumption then I won't be emotionally attached to the audience’s reaction. I have to assume that my idea of what sounds good is more developed than the crowds. Once in a while our tastes will happily coincide, when I will feel that I’ve played good music, and they will feel that they’ve heard good music. Just because there are more of them than me I don’t fall for the natural human tendency to think that they’re right. I have better things to think about when I'm improvising. If I feel that I played really great, then the fact that no one clapped for me doesn’t affect my satisfaction one bit. If you don’t give a shit then you will be free to really relax, and only then. Then you will be able to swiftly pull yourself out of any musical hole that you’ve dug for yourself without losing the natural flow. If you care what they’re hearing then when you hit that ‘wrong note’ you’ll say to yourself, “FUUUUUUCK!!!”. Saying, "FUUUUUCK" breaks the natural flow because it brings you back to self-consciousness. No audience, no self, only music. This is of course the ideal.

  • If you are thinking about the audience when playing then you are not concentrating on the music enough.

My way of thinking won’t always get you the most chicks, but you’ll play better music. If you want more compliments then go find a really great shampoo and conditioner, practice moving around while playing and making scrunchie faces in the mirror.

Lots of players get into music because they want positive feedback from people. I think that these players didn’t get enough compliments from their parents or were picked on in school. Know that what you are doing is worthwhile. Don't listen through someone elses ears!

When I was young my dream was to be discovered and recognized by the next generation of young players (or even two or three generations down the line). I wanted to be several decades ahead of my time. They would hopefully say, ”Man, too bad Valdez didn’t make many recordings in his time, they just didn’t understand his genius back then.” That is how I want to be recognized.

28 comments:

Jeff Albert said...

I agree with much of what you say here. We can't worry about whatthe audience is thinking while we are playing. But when you say, "I have to assume that my idea of what sounds good is more developed than the crowd," you start down a slippery slope.

Why are we playing music? Is it solely for our own personal enjoyment? Are we giving the audience some sort of medicine that they won't understand in their artistically undeveloped state, but need to take anyway? I think people know what touches them and moves them musically. We shouldn't underestimate our audiences ability to connect emotionally to something they might not completely understand technically.

I think we should play what we play, not what we think they want to hear, but I also think that completely discounting their opinion or reaction removes an important part of the performer/listener connection.

BUT, like you said, we can't think about that while we are playing.

David Valdez said...

Yes, Give them that bitter pill!

I do actually believe that listening audiences are highly intuitive and can actually tell most of the time when a player is bullshitting. Sometimes they are dumb as doornails, take the crowd at a Kenny G concert for example. So even though they might be highly educated and perceptive I have to assume they're not just to keep myself from worrying about what they think. This doesn't always work, but it is a way for me to trick myself into feeling free.

If we play only for our own enjoyment then we may as well just stay home and play Aebersold CDs. If I am playing great and the audience is hearing great music then magical things can happen. The energy can go through the roof. If I'm playing great and the audience has a burning desire to talk about their day at work, then I'm better off if I'm not affected by their rudeness. Some clubs are listening rooms, some clubs are pickup bars or loud talking rooms. We can't always reach the soul of the crowd as working professionals. My way (Miles Davis was the master actually) is a way to play in less desirable situations and not be emotionally drained when there is no love.

So in short, I do want to touch audiences but sometimes the only way to reach a crowd is by playing Louie, Louis or Boogie,Oogie,Oogie.

Other players do approach this dilemma differently, just look at my Robert Moore interview. He wants to reach them at all costs.

I would rather wait a few generations than play Boogie,Oogie,Oogie willingly.

Dan said...

I agree with you, Jeff, except in that the slippery slope is a fallacy, right? ;) There are a lot of things to consider about the statement you quoted. Does the idea of "good music" need to be developed? Some have developed such an idea, and they don't all agree with each other. Some performers, like Lawrence Williams talks about in that clip found on this blog, cultivate the connection to the audience. So, I don't think David completely discounts the audiences opinion -- intuitive reactions are found among both the educated and the uninitiated -- but that he knows that if he plays something excellent (in every sense of the word, not just technically, but with feeling and timing) and the audience doesn't respond or responds negatively (there are a lot of drunks out there), and at the same time somewhere else in the world the crowd goes apeshit for Sweet Home Alabama, that he shouldn't think twice. I try not pay attention to the audiences reaction before I do my own.

There are ideal performer/audience relationships, where the audience loves to listen to the performer and the performer loves to play for them, but in this world there are gigs that one has to do to get by and gigs that one does to further an artistic vision. The bitter pill can be good for the audience.... or they can not care one way or the other. If it's a situation where the audience doesn't care what the performer does, that can be okay, too. But not ideal.

I am personally touched and moved by Funkytown. I'm not sure it's a "good touch," and I don't think anybody wants to watch me move. :)

David Valdez said...

Lawrence talks about the ideal audience as people who you have cultivated over time. They are fans of your music. They know what you have done in the past and want to hear what you are going to do in the future. They come to see YOU play, not to hear any particular tune. They are there to hear what you have to say to them. If you aren't sufficiently prepared to play for them then they will just be there to witness your struggle. It's up to you to master your instrument and your material before you get up on stage. One of the best experiences I've ever had playing for an audience was at an all black club in the south side of Philly. These folks had been Jazz listeners for generations. They gave constant feedback, if you played a great solo they'd let you know as you were playing. They'd say,"come on", or,"that's right". To them Jazz was not a spectator sport. It was their job to let you know how you were doing and get you to play better by egging you on. It was a fantastic room because I knew that every thing I played was fully appreciated.

HankC said...

Yeah, but to me, who played in those older "urban" clubs as a young man, alot of times those audiences can be swayed with soulful blues licks to make the say "yeah, thats right"--so, I can say that they can be superficial too, don't fool yourself.

That being said, I can't really agree with your premise, & I feel that is one of the things wrong with the (for lack of a better term) "over intellecutal, white, jazz school, younger players" that are out there, today.

I see more and more of non-swinging, dry-ass-toned sax players, playing some chromatic clap-trap over a 7/4 groove, really "exploring" man--to a empty room, for a bar owner that wont even slide them a free beer for playing there. (mommy & daddy are paying the rent for their little geniuses to live the "jazz life" cuz their gonna be the next dave douglas--welcome to today's NYC jazz scene!)

This is what I think. If you want to play challenging music, thats cool, just have SOMETHING that people can latch on to & DIG. Whether that is rythym, or a GREAT sound, or something, just one aspect, thats all it takes. You wont be a sell out, or a Kenee G, honest.

People LOVED Trane, (not everyone of course, but enough for him to sign a, at that time, big record deal ith Impluse) who didnt know ANYTHING about what he was doing, cuz they picked up on the energy, or his musical personality, etc. there was alot of layers for many to enjoy, thats the key.

Don't ignore the audience, throw them a bone, albeit a small one--you might actually have people COMING BACK to hear you & wont have to wait for 40 yrs to pass for someone to say, what a genius you are. (which is a bit of a cop-out, IMHO bro)

THERE IS NO JAZZ HEAVEN!!! There is only today, play it now!

David Valdez said...

Hank,
I agree with your take on the NYC scene. Don't misunderstand what I'm saying here. I'm all for hard swing, warm fat tone, and blues based music. I can't even listen to more than a few seconds of most of the 'young-white-conservatory trained' musicians coming out of NYC these days. I'm saying that you shouldn't be affected if the audience isn't feeling your music, not that you should play heady shitty music. Not every musician lives in a city that has good audiences and when they play Jazz gigs they might not be playing what the crowd wants to hear. ALWAYS SWING, ALWAYS PLAY GOOD SHIT. Don't be affected negatively if they don't like it. That's all.

Hucbald said...

Well, I'll have to join the "I agree, but..." crowd. As someone who composes over 75% of what he plays (A rarity for a solo classical guitarist) I am highly interested in audience reaction to my work. When I get good applause for a piece I wrote that is in the middle of some Bach warhorses - for example - it's quite satisfying. OTOH, I got into performing constantly to cure myself of performance anxiety, so I agree that the goal is to be "in your own private Idaho" when you play. With one caveat that is crucial to me: I can get into a higher level of concentration - "the zone" - when performing for an audience than I can reach practicing at home: There is a certain something extra that comes out of me when I have an audience that is absent when I'm alone. So, I think the overall point is that the audience/performer relationship should ideally be a symbiotic one.

Anonymous said...

Well this is TOO funny. I was JUST sitting here writing some horn lines to "Boogie, Oogie, Oogie" for the wedding band I play with, uh, that would be in addition to all the OTHER KINDS of groups I play with: a straight ahead trio, my avant garde quartet, the three or four original jazz quartets I'm a sideperson for and jeez, don't let me forget all the big bands and swing bands I play lead for, oh! and there's my modern classical sax quartet too! Now. While taking a break before delving into the complexities of "To Be Real" and listening to my Itunes library played on shuffle (Last ten artists included, at random: Steve Grossman, Chet Baker, DAVE DOUGLAS - great track by the by, Shostakovitch, Ellery Eskelin, Buddy Rich Big Band, Stevie Wonder and Maria Schneider) I checked out David's blog only to be dismayed at the sheer amount of generalizations, categorizing and judging going on. I then hurridly and happily went back to the comfort of my world where I listen, love and play all kinds of music for all kins of audiences and always try to do a good job no matter what I play.
And by the by - for $200.00 a night I'll play Boogie Oogie all night long - I have a house to run here! Baby needs new skate shoes! Mom and Dad aren't paying any of my bills!
Love, Mary-Sue

David Valdez said...

Jeesh guys,
I not really saying 'fuck the audience', I'm saying fuck self-conscious thoughts about the the audience not digging what I'm playing. If they love it then there can be a real exchange of energy, if not then I'm still fine with it.

In my case I'm never happy with my playing so I don't even expect that the audience should clap. When people compliment me I have to pretend that I didn't think it sucked, so as not to be totally rude. I've met quite a few other players who were the same way.


Now about Boogie-oogie-oogie. I've played it too many times to count (also: Celebration, Jungle Boogie, I Will Survive, ect) and I'd be more than happy to play it again, but for no less than two hundred dollars!

I love playing classical, funk, latin, groove. I'm no Jazz snob.
I just don't want to be forced into playing Disco just to get the crowd going. If I'm a sideman and I'm being paid well then I'll play Yankee Doodle and Hava Nagila all night if the band leader wants it.

There's a difference between a
pay-the-bills-gig and an art gig. It's a different headspace, but I'd rather play disco than sit in a cubicle. That's for damn sure.

If I had to play that stuff all the time I'd be pulling my hair out and that cubicle would start looking better and better.

It's all about balancing your artistic needs with your financial needs. At this point in my career I
have less tolerence for music that isn't artistically satisfying. OK, OK I'll just come out and say it!
I HATE DISCO!!! There.

Darren said...

Well, seeing as I'm the person David wrote that note to, I should say that I was about to argue with him about it, but opted not to, because we see it partially differently, and partially the same.

I had just said that it was an ok night, I got $7 in tips and 2 compliments. I wasn't making the statement that I was playing for the compliments. The compliments are fine, but if they're not coming from my heros, they don't mean as much to me as if from the average listener, or a player at my own level. If Dan Balmer said I sounded great, that would be cool. But if he doesn't, the I work on it. I'm not crushed by it, or dependent on it.

That said, I think of myself partially as an entertainer. I entertain myself, and that entertains the audience. Partially. I also think of myself as a spiritualist. I'm sending vibes out, trying to connect through the space to the space within the listener that is connected to the space within myself. Some would say that this is the same space, and is ALL ONE. I play music for my own sanity, my own therapy, my own salvation. When it saves me, it saves a little piece of the collective human consciousness.

In that respect, it could be said that it doesn't matter if the audience knows it or not, because I know the jazz affected them, because it was good. And what is good, is good for all of us.

The feedback just makes it nice to know that someone is feeling it and taking the time to make a nice statement. I appreciate it. I'm playing music to connect, to tell a story, my story, our story. I'm playing music to save the human race. If they notice, that's good. If they don't, then I need to listen more and notice more and be more aware and focus on the message.

If I have an attitude that I don't give a fuck about them, they don't understand, aren't smart enough, etc., then that's all ego bullshit delusion anyways. Who the fuck am I kidding? It's just like any arrogant intellectual know-it-all-pedantic asshole who tries as hard as he can to sound superior. I had a shitload of these dicks as college professors. If you can't say it simply, then you don't understand it.

Did you ever notice how you can understand exactly what a genius is saying, even though the material may be extra heavy? That's the genius of it! They make it clear. Because it's clear to them, it's clear for everyone. Everyone who cares to listen, that is. And for those who care to listen to what I'm putting out there, I really appreciate them, no matter where in the spectrum of fancyness my message lies.

The DIFFERENCE is if I'm trying to FIND MYSELF in the audience reaction. If that's the case, I might as well just show up to the gig and say in the mic, "so, how am I going to feel tonite, you guys are in control of it. what's my self worth?".

I can appreciate and desire the audiences positive reaction, without depending on it.

-d

David Valdez said...

But can you deal with someone who comes up after you finish playing to tell you to go home and practice? Would this bother you? Probably.

Sometimes if the crowd doesn't notice your human-race-saving-music it has nothing to do with you. Crowds can suck just as much as musicians can suck. A great listener is as rare as a great musician, it takes years of practice to be a great listener.

I think that if you are trying to save the human race or make them hear your message you'll end up being pretty disappointed most of the time. Just try to play great music, that's all.

Everyone is not going to understand everything I play. This is not because I'm purposely trying to be obtuse, you just can't reach everyone. If the crowd's not responding then I'm going to try to play better music, not dumb the music down by playing a hip-hop version of Well You Needn't. This isn't 'clarity' it's pandering. Jazz isn't for everyone, it's an acquired taste. Why expect everyone to like the Jazz you play? I think that if you desire a positive reaction too much then you're setting yourself up for resentment and disappointment. You're having an expectation that they will dig your music. You're fooling yourself if you think you aren't negatively affected when this doesn't work out.

A player isn't an 'arrogant intellectual know-it-all-pedantic asshole' just because they don't care if the audience likes their music. If I really wanted to reach as many people as I could then I would make a Smooth-Jazz CD. More people like smooth-jazz than like post-bop. I'm still playing post-bop because that's what I'm hearing. Dan Balmer wants to reach more people so he plays smooth-jazz. That's his choice, I respect his decision. It's a hard road even if you're playing smooth-jazz. My point is that you need to be self-motivated to develop a unique voice. If you're going to try to develop your own style then you can't be swayed by the audience reaction. It's easier to take on the style of players who are already popular. When you start searching you don't always find what you're looking for. So if I'm always trying to play it safe then I certainly won't find that unique sound that I'm looking for. Not uniqueness for the sake of strangeness, unique meaning your own voice. If you want a positive response it's usually easy enough to get, just break out some tried and tested licks.

I think that this topic has a profound influence on creativity.
Your attitude about the response you get affects your entire musical concept. I don't think that you can be entirely free to express yourself when you care too much what others think. You need to be perfectly willing to fall flat on your face in order to be truly loose.

Being commercial is when the audience comes before the art. Art should be done for it's own sake or it just becomes another commodity.

Good art WILL eventually draw a good audience. Making great music is rewarding enough to make the long struggle worth it.

HankC said...

David,

I think this is a good thread, with some good answers & comments. I think Mary-Sue missed the point. IMHO, if any of us here wanted to play "Boogie Oogie" on our own gigs to please the audience, it would be a 100% more slamming version than any cheezy club date catering hall band could hope to do:) (Yes kids, we've all played disco, even the "greats"--my 1st New Years gig in NYC was subbing in Long Island club date band, who's regular sax player was a very young Chris Potter!!)
ps>>$250 is my minimum. $200 is a little light for disco, Mary-Sue:)

Darren said...

I think the real point here is that judgments and expectations are not helpful.The audience sucked, the audiece was great. I sucked. I was great.

Whatever the audience reaction is, it is. If it bothers me, then I can buy into it, or just take another breath. If it helps them and they notice, beautiful. If they care or don't care but I care and I feel it and it helps me, beautiful.

If 10 or 20 percent of the time I spend in front of an audience is trying to engage them, 10-30 percent is trying to figure out what I'm trying to say and the rest of the time is art for art's sake, beautiful. It's a story that is being told. That's jazz.

Jazz is the struggle to achieve humanity. It's the process to be a whole human being. It's paying the rent, and not paying the rent. It's your concierto, your magnus opus, your little blues diddy. My art is my story, and the telling of the story. The fumbling, the bumbling, the nailing it hard, the wailing to the stratosphere, the sailing over the crowd's ears, the bailing on the gig because you can't take another second. That's the jazz of it all.

Does it make a difference to the human race if you play at the Blue Monk or a Disco Wedding? Dan Balmer would say it doesn't. I would say it does. Do you want it to?

BTW Dan doesn't make albums for the audience. I think you should talk to him about this, because you're mistaken. He plays the music he plays from his heart, and that's the way it comes out. The Tom Grant band, that was I think more for the audience at the time. But talk to him, because I think you're mistaken.

I should clear up that my comment on pedantic assholes wasn't directed at anyone, and particularly not David. The point was that being smart for the sake of being smart isn't the same thing as being simple for the sake of being clear and elegant.. I listened to 2 hours of Barry Green on the Elegant Universe and understood everthing he said, and I wouldn't know calculus from an abbacus. There's something graceful and beautiful about being able to use complex materials to say or create something that a child could understand. But there I go being judgemental. I should stop lest I be seen as a hypocrite. But, that's my story.

I'll reiterate the actual point of my comments:

The DIFFERENCE is if I'm trying to FIND MYSELF in the audience reaction. If that's the case, I might as well just show up to the gig and say in the mic, "so, how am I going to feel tonite, you guys are in control of it. what's my self worth?".

Of course we all do this every time we play. It's the degree to which we do it, the amount of time we spend dwelling on it afterwards, the severity of the depression or euphoria that we experience as the result of our analysis, judgement, interpretations of the audience reactions to us and our own reactions to ourselves.

I actually had a dickhead tell me to go practise one time. I stewed about it and was flabbergasted that someone could have the fucking audacity. But the solution that I came to was that I needed to practice. In zen there is a saying, "my worst enemy is my greatest benefactor". Because he shows me where and to what degree I cling to self-centered delusion.

When I saw it this way I stopped being resentful and became grateful to that dickhead, for making me see that I needed to change my tone and attack and learn more tunes!

-d

chicken little said...

Is it possible that there has been too much discussion on this topic (no, never!)? After all, David is merely stating the point that it is a difficult task to both pay attention to the music and the audience reaction. I don’t think that is too radical. If fact, I don’t think you can play your best and not be focused 100% on the task at hand; playing (however you interpret that). I think it is great to hear applause and, in some cases, positive comments. I doubt any well adjusted person feels differently – we are human beings, after all. However, when on the bandstand I have always been taught, and my experience has shown me, that your mind should be on the music. I have had this conversation with dozens of musicians over the years, both contemporaries and elders. There are as many opinions on this subject as there are people, of course. The common thread I’ve found is that you can’t be all there if you are not all there. It's as simple as that.
One last thing, I think that David’s point about good audiences’ being rare it true. It does take practice to do anything well. Unfortunately, and this is another discussion, most people practice watching TV and talking way to loud rather than enjoying the experience of being an audience member.

David Valdez said...

Well said Darren. I retract my comment about Dan B. If he's really feeling it then all power to him. You can really never know if someone is doing something out of love for the music or just for the bucks. It's safer not to judge someone else's music, even if they do seem too commercial, live off a trust fund, or play more in odd numbered time signatures more than even.

I do have to say that I do care what my peers think about my music. It is nice to get an ocassional pat on the back from players who really understand where you're coming from.
I like feedback from these people so I can improve my playing. My peers know what I was playing like a decade ago so they have a much better perspective on my playing.

David Valdez said...

I had a great friend named Wynne who passed away about a decade ago. Wynne used to refer to himself as a 'professional listener'. You couldn't get anything past this guy. He paid more attention to what was going on on the bandstand than most musicians. He took his Jazz listening very, very seriously. When he was in the audience it made me approach the music differently. He had great musical taste so I would feel bad if I didn't come up to his standards. He knew what I was capable of so he also knew when I wasn't really focussing. The room could be filled with drunk idiots but if Wynne was there I knew I had to be on. After the show he would always give me a full tune-by-tune critique, he was always right on the money. Wynne was as musically perceptive as any professional musician, he didn't always know the exact musical terminology but he heard the big picture. Listeners like Wynne (though quite rare) can catapult the music to new heights just by being in the crowd. It may sound like I'm contradicting myself by saying this. Wynne was aware of the effect that he had on the music
just by giving his entire attention to it, he knew that he played an important part in the musician's creative process.

Darren said...

This article from today is very relevent to this discussion. Be sure to read the whole article here:

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryID=27932

it begins:

"Few people understand jazz veritably. And there isn’t any air of high and mightiness in such a statement. In our pop-loving country, jazz isn’t commonly played over the radio; neither is it an MTV mainstay.

Although widely celebrated in the United States, jazz this side of the world remains an almost enigmatic entity, revered yes, but from a relatively distant vantage point. It’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. Or it’s just too sophisticated a taste to handle. Kind of like an elaborate mural in a gallery that people stare at for a minute or two and then leave to saunter off somewhere less complex.

Jazz is admired, almost branded as the zenith of a person’s musical journey in this little country of ours. But seldom do we find a majority soaking themselves to the nitty-gritty. "

Anonymous said...

Remind me to take Hank C off my ever growing sub list :)
As per missing the point: I think not. The question at hand is our connection with the audience and how they relate to the music we are playing. This directly relates to the type of attitude we have towards the audience, the music and our fellow bandmates in ALL gig situations. Which, as David points out, can be different in different situations. But, as James Genus, the KILLING bass player for Dave Douglas once pointed out, "There are all kinds of whores. Those who will only play for money and those who refuse to play for free." I love that guy. Anyways. Maybe a little deep but I'm sure you'll catch on.
And, hmmm, in other threads - I seem to recall a couple Dave Liebman, Bergonzi and Garzone albums with "chromatic claptrap over 11/4 grooves" - I don't think it's anything new, OR anything to be scared of. I can swing my ass off on a big band gig one night and happily go play "chromatic claptrap" the next night. And free beer is always appreciated.
As per your boast that "any of us guys" can play a better version of Boogie Oogie - oh please - Can I just throw up right here? I've been playing all kinds of music in clubs since I was a teenager. I've heard all kinds of musicians playing all kinds of material in all kinds of situations. I've heard good musicians play terrible versions of standards because they weren't into it. I've heard green kids play smoking versions of funk tunes because they were totally into them. If your band does a killing version of Boogie Oogie to please the crowd, well more power to you! I'm glad to hear it. I like musicians and music to sound good. Bring it on baby.
Love, Mary-Sue

David Valdez said...

Fine, there's nothing wrong with odd time signatures. That's just a matter of taste. Go knock yourself out playing in 17/8.

I'm sure there's a guy out there who truly loves playing 'Boogie-oogie-ooige' but would only play 'YMCA' if forced by an evil band-leader. To him 'Boogie-oogie-oogie'(I'm embarrassed to even type it) is high art and 'YMCA' is just commercial pap. We all have our own musical values, which we usually have to sacrifice at some point in order to put food on the table. How do we as artists
deal with this need to compromise and still remain true to our inner voice? Will we play Blues but not Country? Klezmer but never Polka? Disco only for more than two hundred dollars? Will we play moose lodges but no shopping malls? Concert halls but no clubs? I think that wherever we draw our line in the sand is our own business. As long as we try to retain our integrity in every situation we'll feel good about playing music. Anyone who has ever played to a pre-recorded track on a cruise ship show band knows just how much your soul can be tortured by playing bad music. I want to feel good about the music I play so I try to play only music I like. I might play a solo on a heavy-metal CD project for novelty's sake but I wouldn't join a band that I didn't like just because to pay was good. If I had kids like Mary Sue does I'm sure my entire attitude would make a shift
toward the Disco pole (or ball rather). She doesn't mind a little 'Oogie' now and then. I bet she would learn to hate the 'Oogie' if she didn't have her other more rewarding projects to satisfy her. :-)

chicken little said...

I really think this has gotten away from the original point. If memory serves (or rereading) this was about what one should be doing on stage with their focus and not what one should play on stage from the book. For all those out there who wouldn't dare play something for fear they would be labeled a jazz heretic, well, I'd just say that is simply lame. Duke said it best, "There are two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind." That goes for musicians as well.

HankC said...

Mary-Sue,
I'll listen to LIebs or Garzone playing "chromatic clap-trap" anyday of the week, but the guys I'm talking about bore the sh*t out of me.
THOSE GUYS have an audience & if you think Liebs DOESN'T care about his audience, then you couldn't be more incorrect. He wouldn't still be out here, with a career if he didn't, the guy is very self promoting & career motivated (I meand that in a postive way)---hey, it's called self-preservation.

I think you missed my point. "Any of us here" DOES have the abilty to do a killin version of anything, if that's our THING & we're really INTO it-most are into music that isnt Booge Oogie, etc.

whatever

Brian Berge said...

Martin Luther King Jr. didn't give speeches to pay his rent, or choose his vision according to what the fewest people would hate. If the speech you (or I) have to make is influenced by some need like supporting kids or rent or food or whatever, you are owned during that speech. Your service to the necessity of your vision is diluted. Your love is polluted by fear. If you don't have a vision clear enough to be more necessary than our circumstances, maybe the circumstances are too heavy or may you (or I) are missing something. You don't have to make your art subject to all the other circumstances in your life. You can manage those w/ something else. Einstein's real passion was violin, but he was wise enough to not lean his need for rent $ on it, & it continued to be a free joy to him all his life. It was probably part of his salvation, & probably powered part of what he shared to save the rest of us.

Fear of homelessness & starvation are fear of death. Death & life come together--neither comes on its own. Therefore, fear of death is fear of life. All of us will die some day. The chance to live free of fear will pass. You can think about this while you're homeless, getting ready to sleep on wet park grass & looking at the stars, still with a chance to continue YOUR music; or in the last seconds of your life, looking back & realizing it's too late & your only chance is gone.

"The whole of life in all its aspects is one single music; And the real spiritual attainment is to tune one's self to the harmony of this perfect music." --Hazrat Inayat Khan

"Our sages developed music from time immemorial for the mind to take shelter in that pure being which stands apart from the body & mind as one's true self. Real music is not for wealth, not for honours, or even for the joys of the mind, but as a path for realization & salvation. This is what I truly feel." --Ali Akbar Khan

Chris Mosley said...

this is the deep dark hole that jazz has fallen into. real performance is in communication with the audience, not the personal satisfaction you get from playing what you consider a good jazzline.

Alexa Weber Morales said...

Great blog! I'm glad I found it. When I have some time I'll read more of your postings. I agree with the last comment wholeheartedly. As a singer (let the attacks begin) I don't have the option of checking out emotionally or hiding behind my axe (though I do play piano and percussion). I used to try to do that, to be fair to the other cats when I was singing with a band that I didn't lead. Then I realized I can't really disappear from view on stage--the singer is a de facto lightning rod for the audience's attention, so pretending I'm just part of the club decor that occasionally bursts into song was doing no one any good. I think an early stage of entertaining is hamming it up, and we all have to do a bit of that, but at some stage of development you get to true emotional honesty and that to me is the goal of music. No art form has the ability to transport a listener or an audience into another time/place/emotion the way music does.

David Valdez said...

Alexa,
I guess I would have a different perspective on this topic if I was a singer. Sadly in this culture the singer is usually expected to be sort of a Jazz model (as in America's Top Model) as well as a vocalist. There's enough to think about on the bandstand without worrying about looking cute. Singers must suffer from the distraction of of audience interaction more than horn players since there's nothing standing between them and the audience. Just look at all the affectations that vocalists (gestures and vocal) take on in order to be more 'entertaining'. When I'm watching a Jazz singer perform I don't want to be distracted by silly hand gestures and over emotional expressions that singers sometimes use to 'communicate' with the audience. The very worst is when horn players feel that they must bob, sway and make scruntchie faces when they play (also 'choreographed hair'). Lots of audiences react positively to this Kenny G-ish type of expression, thinking that the musician is exhibiting true emotion and intensity. Usually it is only a syrupy crowd pleasing affectation, of a kind that makes my stomach curdle. I just want the body expressions to be spontaneous and not just calculated and empty physical manipulations. If I want to see silly expressions and body language I'd rather go to the circus, mime performance or a rock concert.

Nice site and tunes Alexa.

David Valdez said...

I want to clarify my last comment. It might have sounded like I was bashing singers. I have to admit that it is more interesting to watch a singer who puts on a good performance. I had to ask myself if I expected more from a vocalist than a horn player (or rhythym section player) when it came to stage performance. I think we all do. There are singers like Nancy King
who do connect and communicate without unatural affectations. She engages the audience by speaking candidly to them between tunes and by the intense emotion in her voice. As you can probably tell by the number of posts on this topic I am quite divided about this. On one hand I want a pure high art form that doesn't stoop to cheap thrills, and on the other hand I want to be entertained and to have a good time. Singers can reach audiences in a way that other instrumentalists cannot. Everyone can identify with a singer because everyone can sing. I must say that I don't envy vocalists though. I like 'blending in with the background' if I'm a sideman. As a frontman that's not really possible, the sideman doesn't have as much pressure to constantly entertain.

In no way was I suggesting that you were guilty of unatural affectation Alexa. Horn players can be even more cheesy than singers if they've watched too many Springsteen (Clarence Clemmons), Kenny G, or Dave Koz shows.

Which reminds me, Yanni was just busted for smacking his girlfriend.

Alexa Weber Morales said...

Hi David,

I didn't take that entirely as singer-bashing, no worries. But I do personally gravitate toward artists who display a great technical foundation but then use it to convey powerful emotion. That's the end goal, I believe. If pop music is afflicted by over-emoting, unfortunately jazz is often branded the opposite: over-intellectual, impenetrable, undifferentiated. I like what Nick Hornby says about the importance of songs over unstructured jamming.

I had to laugh in fact at a horrible example of the latter recently. We were down in LA at Venice Beach and some guys sit down with some drums and start jamming. We were eating breakfast so as we sat we watched the "jam" develop: A bass player sauntered in and started playing the apparently one chord he knew. Then another person came and started shaking various percussion instruments. And a horn player sat down and blew lines over that one chord. It went on for an hour, never changing! Of course, that's an extreme situation you wouldn't see in a club, but how often do you see a jazz tune performed with no dynamic variation, no differentiation other than subtle modal switches that only the most astute listener would get?

Conversely, I love the singer Bjork for her ingenuity and emotionally raw quality, but on her album Medulla I started for the first time to really tire of her harmonic structures that never vary. But I digress--I love all types of music and perhaps people on this amazing forum don't care to hear about non-jazz forms. I just love any sound that grabs my ear and heart and body simultaneously.

David Valdez said...

There are many styles of music that are much more emotionally intense than Jazz. Latin singers make most Jazz singers sound like Barbara Bush. The gut wrenching emotions that Flamenco musicians convey really make me wonder whether Jazz has any real emotional content to speak of at all. These Flamenco musicians know that they wouldn't be able to build up such feeling if they changed keys as much as we do.Of course this is not the only reason that they play with more emotional intensity. They just are more aware of the idea of expressing overwhelming emotion. I don't think that we Americans are all that comfortable when people express deep emotions in general, especially when those emotions are negative. As a society we still haven't strayed far from our stuffy British cultural roots. Can we as Jazz musicians overcome our cultural conditioning
and really let loose? Try hanging out with some Gypsies.......