Take Five With Chris Massey
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Well gigging regularly in NYC has its share of ups and downs indeed. In reality as a drummer living in the city the whole experience can be quite a hassle. Many venues don't have a full backline which means I am either lugging my 150lbs of drum equipment on the NY Subway system, or spending a large portion of the money I make on the gig for cab fare to and from the performance. This makes for a very precocious situation as a freelance musician in NYC.
Actually my favorite venues here in the NYC to play at are the ones that have Japanese owners. Many venue/booking managers here are quite elusive and do not want to be bothered with things such as...doing their job and booking a good jazz group. However the Japanese owners I have met with are very humble to the musicians and really treat you as if you are an artist and not just a product to bring warm bodies in the door. After contacting a venue owner to book a show they actually invited me down to their club and provided me a free dinner just to meet me in person to have a chat and a handshake before I performed there.
In an age where many clubs are not even offering a comped drink to the band seeing a venue that actually goes out of their way for the artist like that is truly worth noting.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Well, "Galactus" is my favorite recording out of my works thus far. I feel it really sets the tone for my concepts of sound, melody versus harmony, and intensity that I feel needs to be brought back to jazz music as a whole. Every time that tune is performed on a gig the crowd is always tapping their foot, bobbing their heads, or even dancing (which is impressive, given the song is in seven).
The first Jazz album I bought was:
Herbie Hancock, The New Standard. I remember listening to that for the first time when I was about 15, and not understanding what was going on at allconceptually or musically. My dad had a healthy collection of Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Coltrane, that I listened to alongside James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Sly and the Family Stone growing up, so I was no stranger to the sound of jazz music. But that was the first album I remember purchasing on my own that really made me dive into the music.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Simplicity. Jazz has gotten away from itself in the last few years (most of this is due to the influx of academically minded college grads), and is becoming more and more of a disconnect with the average listener.
Music is a conversation. A universal communicative effort. So even if you are a master linguist if you only speak in tongues then no one will get what you are saying or, more to the point, care about what you have to say. History's greatest humanistic speakers (be it actual speech, art, or music) were all masters at making the complex understandable and relate able to the human condition.
Swing hard and make the listeners tap their feet. Simple.
Did you know...
Well you may or may not know this about me (if you are clever or a good "Googler" then you would know) is that I am a huge nerd for all things comics and sci-fi. I get it from my father who is a scientist. Some of my fondest memories of him actually are of us sitting on the couch when I was a youngster and watching episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Jazz is in a state of identity crisis today. There seems to be a schism of the traditionalists versus the new wave of avant-garde/fusion artists. Those who believe that if it doesn't swing then it isn't jazz, and those who believe jazz in and of itself is really an abstract term that loosely defines improvisational music.
There has been a very sharp disconnect in the recent decades with jazz and the African-American community only to be picked up by suburban white youth, who have taken their academic backgrounds and molded the music into their image. Much of what I hear coming from many young groups sounds a lot like chamber music with jazz-related instruments.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Jazz is a genre of music that is such to evolve as society evolves. However, truly keep what we know of as jazz alive it needs to reconnect with the common listener. Young up and coming players need to realize it is not about writing tunes in the most abstract meter or complex series of chromatic progressions you can think of that make you "hip." It is that feeling you give the listener that makes them tap their feet, bob their heads, or leave the gig with a melody in their minds. This is key to the success and growth of the music.