Shelly Berg: New Moon Over Miami
AAJ: That's the Holy Grail, right there.
SB: I think this school can change the world.
AAJ: Sounds like it to me! One more thing: I wanted to ask you about something else you said yesterday, that you think society tends to trivialize music. Could you riff on that a bit?
SB: Music is trivialized in a few different ways. One of course is by the sheer ubiquity of it. A hundred years ago, music was a rare commodity: you had to travel far and even sacrifice to go hear great music, or you had to play it yourself. Now, movies have too much music, so that it loses its power, and it's in every shopping mall. I went to a pizza parlor, and they had [John Coltrane's] A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964) on and really, really soft, like Muzak.
That's wrong on every level. Plus, if youïre trying to create a vibe in your pizza parlor, A Love Supreme played really soft would be like Chinese water torture: people would probably be getting anxious, and not knowing why. So music is trivialized because it's so available, we don't see its value.
AAJ: It's diluted.
SB: Very. Also, education tells us that other things are more important: we're losing the science race with India, everything else is crucial, while music is just a prop or a frill.
AAJ: It's the first thing to get cut in schools.
SB: Yes. It's cheaper to have a pencil than a tuba! In truth, music is what allows humanity to not become inhuman. Appreciating and experiencing beautyespecially in the real time of musicis a critical element to humanity.
AAJ: And yet music is dangerous to a lot of people: they donït want to feel that much. They're too busy, they don't have time to be distracted.
SB: And what are the repercussions of that?
AAJ: Um...we're going to hell in a hand-basket?
SB: Yeah, and that's too bad, since, regardless of your race, your economic station, or your political or religious views, music is that one thing that can bring us all together, feeling the same thing at the same moment. It helps us understand that we are all together in this world. I'm hoping that I can affect music in a good way.
AAJ: I think you already have, Shel.
Shelly Berg, Follow the Sun (Concord, 2008)
Various Artists, Forever Ray Charles (MCTS, 2007)
Shelly Berg/Frank Potenza, First Takes (Azica, 2006)
Shelly Berg, Blackbird (Concord, 2005)
Various Artists, Ultimate Mancini (Concord, 2004)
Carmen Bradford/Shelly Berg, Home With You (Azica, 2004)
Ron McCurdy Quartet, Once Again for the First Time (Innova, 2002)
Jeff Jarvis, Following Footsteps (Amherst, 1998)
Shelly Berg, The Will: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson (Cars, 1997)
Bill Watrous, Space Available (Double-Time, 1997)
Shelly Berg, The Joy (DMP, 1996)
Bill Watrous, Bone-Ified (GNP, 1992)
All Photos Courtesy of Shelly Berg/Open Door Management