...to keep playing The Music...
1 It's great fun
2 It makes people happy
3 It helps listeners feel their spirit, their soul, their center
4 It helps musicians feel their spirit, their soul, their center
5 It brings people together
6 It heals the mind and the body
7 It transcends ego
8 It makes us part of the solution
9 It moves civilization forward
10 It speaks, in a tongue that is universal, of love, freedom, attainment, peace, and perfection
11 Your reasons here
It's not about 'me'
Rent a video of Miles Davis, from any time period in his career. Hear how every note and see how every movement of his body speaks the TRUTH.
This is why, when the fulminating, self-aggrandizing soloists who practice 48 hours a day are off the scene, their presence will fade.
From an old movie I saw on the Turner channel:
'I had a dream; in this dream was Napolean and Beethoven. Napolean made speeches, and Beethoven wrote music. Then in my dream they were both long dead. And no one was listening to readings of Napoleon's speeches, but everyone was still listening to Beethoven. Now, why do you think that is?'
Beethoven lived for others; Napolean lived for himself.
It's one thing to play scales and practice for days in a cubicle. It's one thing, too, to play a smoky joint full of drunks.
It's another thing to keep people rapt for 2 hours, to make time stop, to heal people and make the world whole again, if just for a few moments.
It's not about chops and how BAD or HIP or COOL or GOOD I am.
It's not about ME.
A good cop says 'This isn't about us, idiot. It's about those people that depend on us.'
A bad cop says 'What can we get away with? How can we avoid getting capped?'
A good cop says 'If I die today, I did my job, and I'm OK with that.'
It's not about him or her. It's about the job, and all of the people that depend on them.
When we went to hear Bill Evans we expected to be moved. And we were moved.
When we went to hear Monk, we didn't go to hear a great pianist or a speed-demon at the keys; we went to laugh and weep and groove and FEEL.
The first time I heard Tony Williams play live (I was in his living room in Marin County) I didn't hear a drummer playing licks.
I experienced an artist painting an aural picture in the air.
Birds rising in flocks from the grassy plains in Africa.
I sure didn't hear paradiddles.
Glenn Gould chose music that he said he hated playing, just to prove that it could be musical. He said 'Mozart died too late, not too soon'... and the world press nailed him!
I have a feeling he loved Mozart, but only when HE played it. He said that he wasn't there to play the music the way it was written; he said he was there to interpret the music the way it sounded to him.
Sometimes, his interpretations were unrecognizable! He would add runs and ornaments, and he would discard whole passages. He would disregard tempo markings, and play a 'ppp' passage at 'fff' volume.
He didn't take his music, or himself, seriously enough to endear himself to the critics.
I guess I'm like that.
I know some 'critics', but they're folks like Scott Yanow (who is a sweet and eminently fair journalist; a fine writer to boot); the ones that write critiques of other people, the ones that trash musicians, I don't want to know.
Imagine. You have so little to do in your life that you write disparaging remarks about people who have devoted their LIVES to making beauty.
When we walk onto the stage and play our hearts, we are defining our lives in the most selfless, courageous act we know how to do; we are stripping away all of the guile and the detritus of day-to-day life, and are speaking in the language of the Universal. If we have a bad night, be gentle.
This is not a sporting event.
Believe it or not, even Coltrane had bad nights.
We aren't playing ball here, and there is no scorecard; we are supposed to be DIGGING FOR TRUTH.
We are supposed to be HEALING OUR AUDIENCE.
We are supposed to be PROVIDING AN EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL SERVICE.
It's not about us. It's about the people, and it's about the music.
Every time a critic writes something foul about me or my peers, it diminishes the art and the truth just a little bit. Most of us work in relative obscurity for little pay. We tend not to be millionaires, or even thousandaires. We keep the windows of our souls wide open so that everything can get in, and everything can come out when we play.
Many of us are tired of proving our 'instrumental superiority' everytime we play in public.
I have come to believe that this single paradigm, the 'ego-driven performance', is one reason that jazz is sometimes considered a dying art form. It certainly is not vital, nor is it ubiquitous in the US or anywhere else that I know of.
While pop and country stars flourish, jazz struggles along with little funding and little interest. Some players are starting to realize that ego-playing is a waste of energy and time.
Listen to Dexter Gordon.
Get 'Dexter Calling' on BlueNote. That's ego-less playing.
Some critics still say Dexter played too many cliches and that his time was bad.
I was there, critics.
Dexter made us ALL swoon.
He filled our hearts with that sound, and every note was as real as the ground we walk on.
And you could set your watch to his sense of time.
If we learn from the past, if we learn that it's not our speed or our coolness or our hipness or our clothing or our physical beauty or our 'mannered style', if we learn from the past that the job of a musician is to MAKE PEOPLE FEEL, we'll all be a lot better off, and maybe even a bit more employable.
Who wants to hear scales and paradiddles anyway? -JW, 5. 2002