Aaron's last post caused quite a stir all over the blogosphere. Readers and bloggers either loved it or they wanted to wring his young neck.
The role of the musician in our society has become so domesticated over the past 30 or so years. I believe this has to do with the modern trend of conservatory jazz education. Now, Jazz is just another degree that one can get...with a monetary return that is similar to a degree in Norse Folktales (with a minor in Finnish arts and crafts).
What happened to the role of the jazz musician as the romantic, wandering free spirit as it used to be during it's youth. The role of the Jazz musician is something so entrenched in the subculture of America that, if taken out of that context, it loses so much of it's power and mean. Jazz was something that you WORKED for just to have the honor to PLAY it. Now, anyone can play jazz and if they are marketable, they get a career in it!
"Oh, you're a 12 year old from the suburbs? You have a Charlie Parker album? AMAZING. Let's get you a recording contract. You'll change the music, kid!"
Let's examine some jazz badasses of renown:
Sidney Arodin: Travelled the United States playing in territory groups. Played in a later incarnation of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Listening to recordings of him, his playing sounds like a great american folk legend. So happy, however, shrouded in despair and the nature of the Artist.
Nick LaRocca: The leader and Trumpeter of the ODJB. Imagine, with nostalgia, hearing jazz playing in this context...LIVE. I've heard that the ODJB was considered immensely loud during the time that it existed. LaRocca was a dark, crazy nutjob who died in an insane asylum.
Bunk Johnson: Early jazz cornetist of mythical status. He dropped off the scene for a period of time, only to be picked up by his old friend, Sidney Bechet, to record during the 1940's trad-jazz revival. Claimed to have taught Louis Armstrong.
Bix Beiderbecke: I become teary-eyed thinking of the little white boy in Davenport, Iowa who had enough courage to do what he truly loved. Bix would wake up at 4 am to blow his Cornet into his pillow. He had total dedication to the music that drove him. Bix died in love with his horn, at age 28. He changed the music in so many interesting ways, however, the one that strikes me as being the most notable was his innate sense of lyricism.
Sidney Bechet: How many Jazz musicians here in NYC that have been banned from Paris? Who have gotten in gunfights? Sidney Bechet was a wild man with a HUGE musical personality.
Louis Armstrong: The KING of early (and Jazz in general, in my opinion). A masterful technician and an intuitive improviser, Satch' lived a varied and colorful life. He smoked reefer and took laxatives every day. He wrote a diet book. 'Nuff said. Badass.
Coleman Hawkins: The Bean was known by that namesake for a reason; he could eat! Guys would tell stories of his eccentricities from his days touring with Fletcher Henderson. He would fly into rural, Midwestern towns in a huge, expensive car. Then, he would proceed to eat 2 large meals at a local diner. He also never used a bank and kept large amounts of money on him at all time.
Lester Young: Prez barnstormed all over the southern states with his father's territory band before settling in Kansas City, MO and changing Jazz music. He was a hard living, hard drinking character who invented a hip form of the english language; used to alienate those "not in the know". Whenever I pass 52nd st. and Broadway, I think of the hotel that Prez died in, drinking himself to death. He would sit in his room, listening to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, drinking all day and watching the front door of Birdland.
Benny Goodman: How many nerdy Jewish guys do you know that slept with Billie Holiday and Helen Ward in addition to marrying a Vanderbilt? He was a trained classical musician in addition to being the "KING OF SWING". Benny Goodman's early small groups changed the direction of Jazz and contributed heavily, in my opinion, to the bebop era.
Artie Shaw: This man was married 8 times (including marriages to Lana Turner and Ava Gardner). He was extremely well read (I believe his library consisted of over 10,000 books) and an accomplished writer. He decided that he didn't want to deal with the INDUSTRY (haha, who knew?) so he quit playing in the early 50's.
Charlie Parker: The most mythical figure in Jazz history, Charlie Parker led a life of heroin-induced debauchery. His music has a spirit that will always live in the hearts of many jazz musicians. Among the legends that exist, my favorite is the story of him living in a storage unit, strung out in Los Angeles. Howard Mcghee found him and drug him to a recording session for Ross Russell's Dial label. After barely being able to stand, he playing his heart-throbbing rendition of "Lover Man". After the take, he threw a whiskey jug at the control booth, breaking the window. He was then taken to Camarillo State Hospital, where he regained considerable strength.
I'm losing track of time and my point telling stories. Obviously, I could go on forever, however I'll move on now. My point is simply....where are the characters today? We need eccentrics and wildly passionate people to play the music!