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Music and the Creative Spirit

Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet: Bridging the Future with the Past

By Published: February 5, 2009
For all of us, it's about what's right now. And it's difficult because any artist is really doing the same type of thing. A painting isn't the result, it's a step in the process and that's why there isn't only one painting. So I think what Mats is saying is completely true. We are artists like any artists in trying to do the work. It's just that the work that we do doesn't have a specific place in our society because it's about live music which is already an endangered species. The general population isn't interested in the idea of live music. They are more than happy to go to a concert and have people lip sync. They just don't give a shit. So we are really strange. We play acoustic instruments, the old fashioned way and get up and play something different every night. Where is our place?

So we have to find it. Because after that is said, I think there is a place for us in society just by the nature of what we are doing. People are starving to have that experience and they don't even know it, so part of the problem is for us in finding those people. All societies hear music of some kind and that's a part of our tradition too. It's not just the jazz tradition or the improvised music tradition; I see myself as part of the tradition; the idea of journeyman musicians playing music in society in bringing ideas through music to different places. I see a large connection to that. It's not just Coleman Hawkins, it's from all different kinds of societies.

MG: It's way, way more important now than ever because of that media cake that Peter was talking about. It's really more important than ever to have live music the way we do it.

JM: I don't know if you noticed but at the end of last night's performance, people could not move from their seats; they were stuck. They didn't know what to do and they couldn't get out of the theater and that was amazing. That's what happens and why we are very dangerous. We are dangerous politically because we are the first people that Karl Rove is going to go after and try and shut down because ideas are terribly dangerous and threaten these conservative assholes. Max Roach once said, "It doesn't matter what people feel, they can love the music or hate it but they cannot be indifferent to it." You have to feel something and that's what we need to do, we have to have that kind of platform; have more opportunities to play. I mean, recording really doesn't interest me much. Once it's done, I have a hard time listening to anything I have done in the past.

PB: I hear you. Once it's done, I'm ready to move on.

LP: This reminds of a conversation I had with Wadada Leo Smith
Wadada Leo Smith
Wadada Leo Smith
, which had to do with the civil rights movement of the 60s.' It was believed that the political powers that be feared free improvisational music because it elevated the consciousness of the individual.

JM: Well, I'm labeled as a 60s free jazz musician and get stuck being placed into that period. But my music was very political and it was intended to scare the shit out of people and to get people energized and to do things to whatever extent that it could be done. And though I probably don't package it in the same way, it's still the same thing. I need to do that and that's my intention.

KV: It's like what Max Roach
Max Roach
Max Roach
1925 - 2007
said, if we are doing it right, you cannot be indifferent to it because we are projecting our commitment and it becomes a confrontation of what the music means right now. And this process that the audience and band face from different sides is an incredible experience. We are in a catastrophic time in the United States, if not globally, and just to have music and the poetry in the air can be overwhelming for people and it can be beautiful in the truest sense. And people never get that. It's a rare thing and I think that the fact that we even can get to those things in the work that we do from time to time, it's crucial that it's there.

MG: The scary thing is that people are not even aware that they need it. They don't know how to get it and they don't know that they need to get it.

KV: You cannot even begin to describe the level of idiocy connected to this festival. That's a book in itself. Somehow some people made it to the concert, despite every effort to keep them from getting there. And I know that some of those people have heard the Tentet before and they were excited that ok, they are going to hear the band but I don't think any of those people were prepared for what they were going to be faced with and how it was going to happen; on all of those different kinds of levels. It's like they were overwhelmed. Oh my God...It wakes them up out of their stupor that they may be in whether they know it or not. There were people who thought they knew the band but didn't know, and that's the way it should be.

PNL: People come wanting to hear what they heard the band play last time and not caring about what the band is doing today.

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