We the Living
Maybe we don't get it yet.
Miles is gone, Monk too.
As they said in Little Italy, "a word to the wise."
Won't be another. Life goes on and the whole schema shifts. Can't replace, remake, revisit, recreate the past. It's a done deal. I play the "social music" now. What's "in the air." Like wearing clothes that don't fit, playing old music that's not in the social "air" is going to sound and look really funny, feel really uncomfortable to me.
You go to your instrument, it should tell you what to play. If you play it enough it's going to play it for you at some point. It will fight back if you try to make it do something un-natural.
You can fight it, try to "work it"...
Like art-rap. They used to call it having a "rap"; like GB hanging his paintings upside down. He just wasn't selling right-side-up so he turned them upside-down and they sold and then he created this enormous elongated rap about what the existential ramifications were, what the hidden meanings were, what the deep, cosmic, protean visions were that he was having. He was drinking a lot of Jack Daniels and turning his stuff upside-down is all. The rap was just that. A rap.
He should be hung upside-down.
So if you lay in bed and think: I'll put on a purple hat and I'll dye my hair blue and I'll walk with a limp and speak in monosyllables, they'll listen to my music, then you have a rap and you can "work it" but it never really works or fits you. The castles made of sand fall into the sea, eventually, as Jimi Hendrix said. Monk's hat was his hat. He wore hats is all. No big thing. He liked them, I guess. You wearing a hat won't make you Monk. We can't bring that back. All those videos on YouTube are great. Trane and Miles, Bill and Dex. All gone to dust. We love to watch and listen.
But then you have to walk on to that stage and be real (if you have courage, which I used to not have much of but now I have it all because me is all I have to give, and I believe in me totally now, believe in me being more than enough) and not care what ANYONE thinks.
It doesn't matter what anyone thinks! Get with that. The best? There is no best. No best dancer, no best trumpet player, no best musician. There are only the real ones and then there are the ones who hang stuff upside-down, the ones who wear purple hats, metaphorical or otherwise.
Does it matter to musician A that I don't dig his or her music? Does it matter to me that musician B doesn't like mine? Should it?
When you eat you usually chose food you like. You don't go around eating food you hate, you don't go around reading books you aren't into or listening to music that makes you nauseous, so don't go around playing music that doesn't excite you or vibrate with you or make you absolutely crazy with the love of life. Good food makes your senses reel. Good music does the same.
You're playing jazz but you really want to rock out? Rock out. Want to play free? Play free. The music comes from the OTHER place, and it's like food, it's visceral. You have to be you, I have to be me. The way you walk, the things you wear, the food you like, the colors you like, the way you approach and hold your instrument. That's you.
Our culture lost its soul a while back. Soul. Wearing colors and knowing which ones are YOURS. Cooking food that's YOURS. Speaking in ways that YOU speak, not like Rapper G but like YOU. Going to places YOU like to go. The library. A park. The desert. Not where everybody else likes to go. Playing in ways that YOU feel like playing.
Touching the notes on a piano, that's it for me. I touch them, they speak for me. I don't have to work them. They're there for me. Practice? I play. I don't ever practice. Neither did Glenn Gould. You can't practice how to dream. You can't practice how to love someone. You can't practice forgetting yourself and being totally absorbed right into and right out of your self.
I play, is all. It's no big thing, and it's everything when I do it. When I don't do it, I do what I like.
Sometimes I write, like now.
Style? Do I have one? Everytime it's different, because every day and night and minute and second I am different. How could I be the same? You know it's me when you hear me, like you recognize my face (it's a face, and I like it, I love it, it's beautiful, and it wasn't always, but that comes from way inside, and it takes years and years to be really beautiful) and you say when you hear me on the radio "that's Jessica" like if you see me in the market. Because I look like I play and I play like I look, like I move.
Not always the same, but it's a form. It's me, it's MINE. Don't tell me who to be. Don't tell me who I am. Don't tell me what to play.
I only like what I hear me play NOW. Not always, but a lot lately. Because I don't make it happen anymore, I LET it happen. It doesn't matter much who thinks what about it.
Some very nasty little man wrote to me and said he saw my video "Love and Hate" and he said it sure wasn't jazz, and I looked like I was hardly moving at all, like I wasn't really playing it. He said I should try to "emote" more, try to move around more.
It's called economy, nasty little man. You don't jump all around unless that's who you are. That's not me. It's all economy for me. I don't make faces or sing along or get all rapturous looking or grimace or throw my hair around. Sometimes I stare at the floor for ten minutes, playing all the time... I'm LISTENING to it, being amazed or confused or amused or repulsed or astonished by it. I don't have time to ACT. I'm no actor. I LISTEN.
And if it isn't jazz, nasty little man, good. I can finally say it. I HATE the word. Not what it was (the incredible BEAUTY and POWER, how in the world did Bill Evans DO that with his hands so swollen?) but what it's come to mean: a broken "gig" that pays 50 dollars a night for 5 hours of your broken heart's time so that you can be surrounded by other broken hearts and alcoholics and addicts and lost spirits and their smoke and fumes and their toxic delusions? And then you get a record deal and your music is stolen and your producer flies in First Class and you sit in coach and you get to see your tunes on the Airline's play-list, but you get nothing for them, and you can't afford an iPod?
(I could tell hundreds of stories that would break your heart, stories not about me but about the men and women I have known and loved and played with, and the things that were done to them, the dreams and money and lives that were stolen from them by ghosts of no talent or vision or ability: but that would be breaking a trust, and I am no story-teller. There are plenty of those.)
I avoid the panhandlers of the soul now. I know when a toxic one is around. So does my dog. She growls. A low guttural growl.
So it isn't jazz now. There's no jazz. It's museum music. The music of the 21st Century is what we're left with, and it's social music, wide open for innovation and creativity. Listen to the air and you can hear it. It started in the 70's and got louder. Now it's what we all hear so I play it. I love all the chords and all the complexities of the old music but I love simplicity and tonality more, now. I love beauty, and I love to groove and I love to tap my foot. I LOVE music that makes me want to dance. I dig it.
We, the living, need to embrace LIFE. The dead are dead. We love them still. But that song is over. It sounds old to me. It sounds over. As Time Goes By...well, it's gone by. A kiss is still a kiss, but we can't watch Casablanca forever.
And the sharks still circle, wanting more. They won't change. Ever.
So I NEVER let a promoter tell me what to play or who to play with. A guy said to me today to send him a CD of my new band so he could see if he liked it. He wanted to audition me. I. Me. All 6 decades of me, all 60 CDs of me. And I had played for him maybe 20 times, and every time he made twice the money I made.
See, that can't happen again. I am over that, past that. That's just plain dumb. So I threw out his number.
These are all good things. This isn't negative. It's what's HAPPENING. For those who don't SEE and HEAR it, that's fine. Stay in your holes. It's ok. It's safe there. You can live and die there. But don't cry when 16 people show up to hear you play. It's not how fast you play anymore. It's not about "getting over" and "being hip"...is hip even a word anymore? It's about being YOU. Sharing YOU. It's about LOVE and spreading that, it's about making the world BETTER. It's about service and dedication. It's about all the things you wanted and dreamed of and prayed for as a child.
Being that, doing that, becoming that. What's to lose? Are you doing what you LOVE and being who you ARE? Are you playing YOUR MUSIC or are you playing old standards (like a Top 40 cover band?)
Are you following the lines?