the jazz authority; random dubiously zappy rants about 'the musicians music'.: Repost: What's important to you?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Repost: What's important to you?

What is important to you? It's a general question - one that requires more context perhaps. When you listen to music what are you listening for? When you play, what do you hope your audience will hear? Would you rather play a show with an awesome audience and little pay, or great pay and a lousy audience? (that one's obvious - the pay...good crowds are always somewhere to be found, but the cash is what pays the bills).

Is improving your craft the most important thing in your life today? If not, what is? Man, I don't know how I got into this headspace, but I guess i should call up a buddy or something. Obviously I'm not getting many answers as I type this, and I'm sort of an 'instant gratification' sort of personality type.

Everyone listens to music in different ways. I hear Miles Davis' Bitches Brew album and I hear some funky $#!T, and some great musicality. I hear unique bass lines and chord progressions, while others might hear be listening to the melody, solos, or the groove. Maybe the goal for us musicians is just to reach as much of the audience as we can at any one time.

Years ago when I was about 16 or 17 years old I was obsessed with jazz, woodshedding constantlty, and i somehow got a spot in a local reggae band. It was really hard for me to hold back and play cutesy in-the-key solos that the crowd could dance too, and often i just let loose with unbridled wankery, much to the dismay of my band mates. Years later I had the oportunity to sit in on a show with Chris Murray - a well known ska artist (remember king apparatus?). My friend was playing bass with him on a Canadian tour and when they got back to my hometown I sat in. By this time I had learned how to express myself without feeling cramped by the different genres. I blew a fine solo, had the crowd smiling, and it was all good. I guess my point here is that what was important to me then was having fun, entertaining the crowd, and staying true to my art. I did.

So post back. I know someone is reading this, and I want to know what is important to you.



Michael J. West said...

...Wow. That's a heavy question! As a non-musician, I have to say that what I listen for is completely intangible. I don't think there's a hard-and-fast rule; there seems to be just an "I like this" or "I don't like this" feeling in my gut.

Right now, for example, I'm listening to a brand new copy of Filles de Kilimanjaro. And I can tell you that it's got the darker elements of Miles' later fusion records: particularly the minor modes, the ominous colors of the electric piano, and the spooky whisperings of Tony Williams' cymbals; but the horn charts and the compositions themselves are more typical of the '60s quintet's acoustic recordings.

But none of those observations really explains what I find so compelling about this album. There's just some unidentifiable something about it that makes it impossible to ignore. Maybe what I'm hearing is the musicians' devotion to their art, which as you pointed out here is pretty much what makes the best music.

That's the long answer. Short answer: I don't know what I look for in music. Just something special. :-)

By the way, I'm a music writer, and I do think that polishing my craft is my highest priority in life. How'm I doing?

Rainier Beer said...

What's important to me when listening to jazz? Soloists with personality and a rhythm section that guides my entire soul through the listening process.

There is nothing I love more then hearing 8 measures of a solo and knowing intstantly that only SOLOISTS NAME HERE would play it that way. (Notice would vs. could). I like to hear strong musical personalities. It seems to me that this is the common thread tying together the people who have gone down in history as the greatest soloists (who else phrases things like Dexter Gordon?). For me it is the deciding factor on whether I can become interested in a modern musicians playing. (Since every modern player seems to have flawless technique).