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Take Five With...

Take Five With Craig Pilo

By Published: August 29, 2007
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Here's a secret, I'm not that good of a straight ahead jazz drummer, so I really have no choice but to bring something different to the table. I kind of fuse my jazz playing with grooves and styles that I've taken from other players, formats, and situations. I play jazz drums on jazz gigs, that's about the only thing I have in common with guys that play really well. I think it's important sonically to get as close as I can because that's what seems to fit best, but my playing and groove kind of force the jazz police to think a little left or right of what they're used to. I'm hoping Angela Carole Brown's upcoming CD "Expressionism will help illustrate my point a little better than I've done here.

On my CD "Just Play I took several tunes in a different direction in an effort to make more of a contribution. It was nothing earth shaking or revolutionary, but it definitely ruffled some feathers among my Latin friends and straight ahead friends Perfect! Mission Accomplished.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Well, would I be stating the obvious if I said I thought it was in trouble? Here's the thing, from a musician stand point there is no shortage of great players today. There's also no shortage of really great music by both well knowns and unknowns. I think there is a tremendous shortage of innovation and people thinking outside the box. With very few exceptions, most musicians are all playing stuff that's been done before. So from that aspect, it doesn't matter whether it's good, it only matters that it's been done. Same music, different band. There are plenty of notes left and there is good music yet to be made, where is it? I don't think this applies specifically to jazz either, I think it applies to all styles.

On the public side (non musician) I think music in general is in trouble. I read forums all the time with "claim to be authorities telling us everything we're doing wrong and why things are the way they are. The truth is nobody really knows where this lack of interest in music has come from. I'm dumbfounded that people in general would rather have 5,000 songs in an over compressed format on their ipod rather than a 5 or 6.1 surround mix of 1 good performance on their DVD player. Do I have an ipod? Sure I do, I use it on planes and at the gym, it's a practical thing, but my point is the public seems to be into high volumes of mediocrity rather than low volumes of quality. I don't have an answer why the state of jazz (or music for that matter) is the way it is, but I have a few observations/opinions that I'm happy to share.

1) Jazz caters to an intelligent and specific listening market. It's always been tough to sell.

2) The public seems to only like, listen to, and purchase what they've heard before. They don't like new things.

3) Unfortunately, image matters. Nothing wrong with marketing in any way shape or form, but if you take away a picture, image, or video and all you have left is the sound, how many artists would be left standing?

4) Smooth Jazz. The only good thing it's done is make a small portion of jazz accessible to the general public. I like some of it, but most I find quite unlistenable. The pattern seems to be fantastic players playing over simplified music. Some of the most quantized recordings in this category are extremely offensive.

5) See my answer to the next question.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Education. Take this however it fits. If it means educating children starting in elementary school, than we need to start doing it. If it means educating the general public on how to appreciate jazz, than we need to start doing it. If it means supporting our local jazz clubs and festivals, than we need to start doing it. We need to educate anyone willing to listen to the importance of keeping this art form alive and thriving.

The easiest thing to do would be to pass the blame or make a ridiculous, authoritative analogy stating the obvious. The hard thing to do is take some responsibility and go out and support live jazz. If you are a jazz musician, don't be selfish, get out and support your friends a few nights a month. If you're an enthusiast, go out and check out some live jazz by some unknowns a few times a month who knows, you might see something you like. One thing is for sure, if we all don't start showing some support, we won't have to worry about it much longer. I NEVER side with club owners, but how much of a beating would you take booking jazz in your club if night after night, nobody came to see it?

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