Why Do I Write These Articles?
The following will be an exercise in candor. I like to see my name in print on a Majorthe major jazz web site. And I hope it will further better my record sales. I like to think that folks/people are finding things of interest in my remembrances that I've accumulated within my persona over a long life timemost of which was lived in and around the highly complex (yet very simple) world of jazz. And last but not least, it gets my dick hard! What that leads to is yet another storyalbeit a very short one. To have reached the age of 77 and having to practice the clarinet two and three hours each dayand a daily physical work out, five days a week, which includes light weightsfast reps of 100 sit ups and leg raises, and finishing with a one-and-a-half mile power walk up a 2% grade in 20 minutesbrings to mind the words of the only hero that I ever had, except as of late, myself, the greatest jazz clarinetist that ever livedMr. Buddy DeFrancoand that is, "to really play the clarinet good, that one must have an obsessive compulsive personality." I resemble that remark.
So now what do we have? Some freakin' old dude sitting in a little guest house in the middle of a cow pasture in south central Texas practicing scales, chords, velocity and tonal exercises for the above-mentioned times, and an occasional Jamey Aebersold record so one can play with a rhythm section that's always on and in timeno ego trips thereand one can hit the "off" switch at any time. That's pretty much my day in that I awaken at the crack of noon, lay around playing with my golden retriever Molly, listen to my weather radio, call out to my wife of 38 years Jeanne, as in, "Hi honey, good afternoon, kiss kiss and oh, is my oatmeal ready?" And like that!
When we moved here to our very little ranch by Texas standards from southern California, we both agreed not to get a TV set. We have a screen for DVDs, so I can watch my Charlie Chan and Twilight Zone DVDs, but we have very little contact with the haps of today's goings on. I've heard it all before and it's the same old soap opera just packaged (computer graphics et al.) differently as in who's doing what to who/whom-whatever! Dig, I just found out recently that, that moon-walking dude Michael Jackson is no longer with us. R.I.P. Jeanne and I dig just sitting on our porch and watching the deer and cows and the bull doing their thing I'll take a picture of that and use it for my next album cover, No, Not a Menage a Trois. Reminds me of that ol' T-Bone Walker tune, "Oh yeah, I said, give me a home where the buffalo roam and I'll show you a filthy house." Lets get serious! (What a line.)
When I first started doing these types of things (writing articles), I never asked my editors what I should write about; if someone has to do that, then they really don't have much to say, do they? So in keeping with what Mort Weiss is about, I'll just keep writing about how, and what I feel strongly about, and that is America's only indigenous art form, jazz! I also feel strongly about Schrödinger's cat- as in like did he make it? Also the dude that made a cottage industry out of not being certain, Werner Heisenberg. And the big one, as in what's it all about? The pictures from the Hubble telescopedeep space shots of distant galaxies. Ya know, I caught up with Alfie one day, and when I asked him, he merely shrugged his shoulderssmiled, turned and walked away.
I strongly feel that teaching young people to love and how to play jazz in high schools, colleges and universities should be made a class A felony across the land along with prison sentences! First of all nobody can teach someone how to play jazz. But if some poor kid comes along that is susceptible, they (the entity that teaches same) sure as hell can fuck with his head so they, the entity, can make their bread whilst doing so and after two or three years mom and dad can proudly sit in the bleachers cheering as their son receives his diploma reading that he is proficient in the performing arts, jazz improvisation! Sheeeit! Fucking analogous to selling smack on the school grounds.
OK. Let's revisit what I've just said. What the fuck is Mort trying to tell us? (Not trying, told ya.) All right, for those of you that at this point don't get it listen up! For those of you that doyou're excused. Do something useful, like ordering one of my albums and like thatbut come back for the big ending! OK, now, you're the teacher. You know how to play your axe. You've been out theredone the club scene, the rehearsal bands (no $$) for that. You've even been on the road. You have the $300 limit credit card with the $5,000 annual fee. You've been married two or three years. You look at her; she doesn't know it but you see the lines of worry, of being tired of trying to budget the unsteady cash flow that you bring in from the occasional recording date, the two-week engagement at the big club in townyeah, man, but you're known (among your peers) as a working cat; yeah, the kid needs clothes...oh, I didn't mention the kid. Well guess what! Yep, maybe this time it will be a boy.
OK, enough already (it's hard to write with tears in my eyes). You take out your BA/BM/BS (whatever). The local two-year college has an opening in the music department teaching jazz history and performance; you apply; you get the gig; life is good; you now have a credit card with a $5,000 limit and annual fee of $300; the new apartment is great; and all is well. So there you haI almost forgot, it was another girl.
Forget the fellow above, I used him metaphorically. This goes on in public and private schools nationwide. Let me digress for a moment. Two years ago I didn't know how to turn a computer on. Now that I'm involved in cyber-type thingse.g. this article, emails, etc.
I have navigated around the web looking at jazz sites I accidentally hit a porno sitedamn, whatever happened to plain ol' sex? (I seem to keep on accidentally hitting that darn site, must be a glitch in my Mac). At any rate, these jazz sites all have writers espousing how great things are in the world of jazz and no, jazz is not on its death bed (see my article hThe State of Jazz, Coltrane Clones and the Noose of Technology) and how there are jazz festivals all over the world (there are too, I've seen one advertised in freakin' Borneo. Some of these writers who are mostly retired doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs who were originally into Pink Floyd, Journey, Rush, Gentle Giantya know, things a bit hipper then Axel Rose or Johnny Rotten (although I think emo might be where it's at; been digging Jimmy Eat World lately, the dude has something in common with Bach ya know? Sam, not J.S).
Anyway, some of these cats (the jazz writers) travel all over going to one after another festival and or jazz venue, and writing about some wonderkind or some giant of jazz that they heard in Botswana or the Ukraine. So I now go to YouTube and listen to some of these cats. Man! Some of these people make Peter Brotzmann sound like Stephen Collins Foster. Point is, change is inevitable, and what it was it was. But please don't call what's happening in the music business $$ today jazz. These so-called critics (most of them) never paid their rent from monies made playing music. Like I've said in other places, I can take you to clubs in L.A. and show you Grammy Award winners playing for $70-$80 a night, and glad that they can keep their chops upand the clubs are closing up one after another. Yo, dudes (writer types); most of you haven't the faintest idea of what's happening out there. Don't worry I haven't forgotten about our perspiring young cat, bright-eyed and bushytailed, starting his first day at Jazz U.
Yeah, I'm forgetting about the young cat! To go any further with him would only belabor the issue. So, as a musician that was born during the halcyon years of the music (jazz and swing), grew up during the huge musical paradigm shiftenter Bird & Bop (the missing link being Prez)completely understanding what was going onloving it (words can't explain the emotions that were evoked that still exist to this day), and even then knowing (if only instinctually) that the never-ending hard work that it would entail, and never end until either you did, or you quit playing, would govern and/or dictate your life's journey... well, to try to impart this to someone who hasn't committed themselves to any discipline so demanding gives me pause in what I'm trying to disseminate to the musical weekend warrior (that was almost a life sentence!).
Please don't tell me about other professions that demand such hard work and study, I'm hip to all of them and I salute those of you who might be involved in same. But! In any other profession (except professional sports) if one is high up in the food chain of jobs: One, you always can find work; and two, you can take a year off and start back where you left off. A world-class musician or a boxer can't ever stop training; if one does, the phone is sure to ring! My old chum, Terry Gibbs and I agree on one or two things. Such as, when practicing or playing your axe at home, one should be playing like you're in front of a thousand people.
Those of you that are familiar with my articles know that I like to mess with peoples' heads a tiny bit! But I am deadly serious with my solution of sorts with some of the things going on in school, re: the teaching of jazz performance. It should be mandatory in the graduating of anyone with a BA in same, that they (as part of the curriculum), have undergone an extensive course in learning to be a plumber and are skilled enough as such, to be employable at day of graduation as a plumber! This would guarantee that one could find work other than playing jazz for at least ten to fifteen years from now. With the onset of new technologies happening almost daily, I think being a plumber would give one employment (for the above mentioned time period) before someone invents a process that molecularly disassembles fecal matter and sends it and other waste by products into the sun. Don't laugh, it's coming.
What to do with all the unused sewers that traverse our cities? Ever hear of lofts? Considered very chic to live in one; usually found somewhere off skid row in some no- longer-in-use foundry or warehouse setting, rents starting in the area of $5K and up a month. It's so totally awesome stepping over passed-out winos on your way home and like that! Well, some enterprising young person will buy the right away to certain areas of sewers, clean them up, knock out a little cement here and there and bingo! The newest in tony/chic living. You got it! Sewer apartments. Drain Pads (whatever). I can see it now. Oh honey, isn't that John's manhole cover? No, I think his is just around the corner, Oy! It's been fun talking at ya, but I've got to go practice now. You never know, the phone might ring as it did in my archived AAJ article, Getting Ready for ShowtimeWhen You're the Show. I'll leave you with a thought or two. This one kind of waters down some of my own strongest feelings and that is: "The future is under no obligation to mimic the past." George Santayana, I think.
And this one's killer. "No matter how carefully and assiduously and how deeply you bury shit, the American public will find it and buy it in large quantity. It's true, absolutely true." Artie Shaw.
Hey! It's been fun. "Live in the moment."
I remain, Mort Weiss.