If a musician that you are playing with is emotionally withdrawn or depressed, you won't be able to converse on an emotional level with them. I don't just want the rhythm section to react to the musical ideas that I'm playing, I need them to project and respond to strong emotions. You might even call what I'm talking about emotional comping. They have to be willing and able to contribute vital feelings to the mix.
A musician depressive musician will have a hard time expressing joy and optimism in his playing. He might not be able to feel excited if the crowd isn't clapping or paying attention, if at all. I really want to feel palpable feelings of joy, sorrow and excitement emanating from the musicians I'm playing with, or else the gig feels like I'm screwing with a condom on (sorry kids). Give me something to work with please. Wake up and feel MUTHERF*#@%s+!!
You have to be willing to play like your life depended on it, like it's your last day alive, like your balls are on fire. Otherwise go get a job as a parking lot attendant or an accountant (sorry all you accountants out there). Being a Jazz musician requires intense emotional exertion. What if a pro football player didn't bother to run at full speed when he got the ball? Or a brain surgeon who didn't bother to really concentrate all his attention to the job on hand. Playing Jazz should feel like a matter of life and death! If everyone doesn't give 200% then the music will die on the operating table. If you never sweat or feel wiped out after a gig ,then I'd say you're trying hard enough. Even if your life totally sucks ass the time you spend playing Jazz needs to scream," I LOVE MY LIFE!!!!". Some band-leaders won't notice if you're phoning it in and are just trying to get through the gig, I do though.
The thing that separates the truly great players from to mediocre players is the ability to attain non-ordinary physical, mental and emotional states. When I go to a gig I know that I should be prepared to enter a higher mode of being from my everyday state. I try to be open to experiencing a level of emotional intensity that rarely happens when I'm not playing. Even if the gig is in a Yuppy bar in a Yuppy shopping center.
I don't think of myself as a particularly moody person, but I want to be as moody as an expectant mother or a rapid cycle bi-polar hypoglycemic. You must be willing to radiate waves of joy and then the deepest blackest sorrow in a split second. Clinging stubbornly to the mask of your ordinary persona will make you emotionally impotent and boring as hell to listen to. Hey, would the audience clap and hoot while you load the dishwasher or scoop the dog poop in the back yard. NO. No one is impressed with mundane personal chores, so don't make playing music one.
I sometimes refer to emotions with terms like radiate and emanate because when you strongly project feeling and emotion with your music it should make the listener feel as if they were a McChicken sandwich under a heat lamp keeping warm at McDonalds. If no emotional intensity is achieved then it feels like you're trying to catch a tan from a 50 watt light bulb. Chinese medicine sees all types of human experience as different manifestations of a life energy called Qi. This energy needs to circulate freely throughout the different energy bodies in order to maintain good health; emotionally, mentally and physically. Qi energy can become stagnant or blocked and all types of ailments start to set in.
- According to Chinese medicine there are seven emotions that a person can experience: joy, anger, worry, pensiveness, sadness, fear, and fright. These are normal emotions that are reactions to various life circumstances. Only when they come on suddenly and intensely, or continue for a protracted period do they lead to pathological consequences. It should be remembered that diseases caused by the emotions arise from the interior and directly affect the corresponding organs. This is different from, for example, the Six Excesses, which cause disease by entering the body from the exterior. Thus, symptoms caused by emotional disturbances often manifest very soon after onset. Furthermore, the immediate result is a disturbance of the Qi mechanism, which if untreated causes further disharmonies depending on the affected organ(s).
- "In this [western] culture, there’s this idea that if you suffer from depression, you should not talk about it. That makes it even worse. You’re suppressing emotions, and this causes energy to block.…If it’s blocked, you start to see symptoms, either physical or emotional. These are all manifestations of an imbalance of qi.…the key thing is to eliminate that blockage and promote the energy flow in the body, to help the energy flow smoothly.
In some cases one acupuncture session or just a good lay can help a musician more than a week of shedding. Others who are more seriously emotionally impaired may need to see a shrink for a script of mood stabilizers or elevators in order to regain emotional dynamics in their music.
You can't always just woodshed your way to the next level musically.
Many young players make this mistake. Spending 12 hours a day in the practice room will not bring emotional balance and vitality to your playing. Only truly experiencing life's tribulation and victories can make you more emotionally mature.
From now on I don't hire players who don't put out emotionally. They had also better have their Qi flowing freely.......