Jessica Williams, jazz pianist, composer

CURRENTS

Currents + | -

PS to a P.S.

PS to the guys and gals at Dundalk High Schoolnew window, class of '66 and beyond: I am deeply honored that you should put a mural up of menew window as a big, successful hot potato, sandwiched in between a really famous astronautnew window and a great jazz trombonistnew window. I have never been so honored and I will always try to live up to the standards that you have set, not just for me but for yourselves and your mates. Thank you for this wonderful tribute. (Now I must go and have my head shrunk. It won't fit through the door.) You people are really ahead of the curve, and your lives will determine so much of our futures. Good luck—and may this 'Verse cast blessings on all of your days.

Go, Dundalk!

When you change how you look at things, things change.

Change is the spice of life. It's why Pablo Picasso and Agnes Martin and Georgia O'Keeffe lived so long. It's why we need to LOVE what we choose to do. We have to be driven. Inspired. Passionate. Crazy head-over-heels in love with our dreams and our work, the work that we must invent for ourselves. Otherwise it is not ours. It is not so easy to love work that does not fit you.

It's like wearing an itchy sweater. Ick.

 

I thought I was a pretty good pianist at one time. And I suppose I was. I just wasn't doing exactly the music that I wanted to do. This was my own doing. I was playing the music that everyone else was playing, and trying to emulate all these masters.

Then I saw and heard Valentina Lisitsa, the great Ukrainian pianist. She shook me to my core by playing the three movements of what we know as The Moonlight Sonatanew window. For weeks I said one word only. "Practice", I intoned like a chant, like NamYoHoRengeKyo or AUM.

And I built a body of work during over a half-century of playing jazz. Over 500 pieces of music released. Many are still played on radio. And my music has crawled the web like the robots. I'm all over the world now. And I didn't even know it.

I realized just recently that I had trouble reading an analog clock. I needed digital.

We live in difficult but interesting times!

 

I liked my job as a jazz pianist. It was fun flying around and feeling semi-important.

I should mention that I like jazz still, but my music has grown. I use computers and software programs and use a Mac Pro and I have controller keys everywhere, and I also write what might be called "post-classical" music for films, when I can get the work. Movieland is quite a place!

And seriously, it was also great, really great, to see Paris and London, Tokyo and Seoul. Really. Breathtaking and life-changing to breathe the air of other countries. Other lands and other people that were completely open and loving and welcoming to me and the folks that did what I did. What an opportunity.

How did I break into jazz? How the heck did I do that?

1. As near as I can ascertain, the answer lies largely in attitude. Not luck. Attitude is everything.

2. Be quiet. Don't say much. Stay to yourself. Friends will come. If you play jazz, do not ever, ever try to be "one of the guys". Even if you are one of the guys. Jazz needs courageous new blood, and leaders to take charge. Be a leader always. A quiet one. Realize that the only constant in this 'Verse is change.

3. I was never one to take 'no' for an answer. If I wanted something, I'd be so determined that it might as well materialize right now, because, at some point, I would make it real. This was all in my mind, but it worked for me.

4. I was like a warrioress. I'd take one step towards my goal and then another. One step always led to another step. Eventually, when all the steps were done, I was there, my dream was there, real and pretty much like I wanted it. I hear that they train astronauts that way.

5. If you're a real trooper, do your own thing always. Build a team. Hire the right stuff. Have no prejudices against any color, ethnic origin, sex, creed, whatever. Avoid sameness. Think outside the box. Be different. Be unique. You can't get what you want if you don't know what it is. Own your own label or business. Pretend you're already successful. Mainly, dream and practice. Do the work.

If every single person loves your work, you're doing something wrong. Good music invites change, and great music demands it. Some people (mainly critics) fear change.

 

Hard Work + Passion + Talent = Miracles.

And it seems to work quite often. This feels like a law to me, like the three laws of thermodynamics or the law of gravity. Like it can't NOT work if you believe hard enough. But maybe that's my optimism showing. Because it's attitude, all attitude, and I'm an optimist. Lordy knows how I've stayed one this long, but I am an optimist.

If you have a bad attitude, cash in now and take your chips home. You're not going to win. On the other hand, if you enter the casino with a good attitude—even if you lose—you learn. And when you return, after watching the games and studying the math, you start to win a few.

It's about work. You do not get miracles if you do not do the work. So please do the work.

 

All over the world, people are waking up. Stephen Hawking thinks it might be a planetary consciousness-shift, a sort of push-pull situation where the big black hole that they think is in the center of our universe is causing vast gravitic, magnetic, and other lesser-known seismic effects, not just on planets, but on sentient beings. It would be like a searchlight, spinning, and when the light goes over your planet, everything changes.

We may start to get telepathy, in other words. We won't get to read minds or see the future. It won't help you pick the right horse.

We'll just know what our neighbor is feeling.

We will begin to feel what others are feeling. This will revolutionize our species and its interactions with other species. It was Arthur C. Clarke's dream. It was he who wrote the book, Childhood's End.

Think what could happen . . . the dentist will feel your pain. Suddenly the hidden dental technology will be available to everyone . . . the bad cop will look at his gun and shiver. The good cop will be sympathetic to the bad cop, and the bad cop will become good. At least better . . . the trillionaire investment banker will question the validity of the very concept of money. He will use whatever "power" he has left to start terra-forming Earth, restoring our planet to its healthy state, and thus us to ours.

Maybe? Ya think?

We will never understand or 'grok' this 'Verse because our senses are limited. But we can still love and believe in what we cannot understand. We must dream big.

If we can't dream big we can't survive. So dream big.

REAL big.

Peace and all the other good things in this world. — JW, Jan 20, 2015

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