Ron McClure: Making Music
In the book I am working on, I have a chapter called: "Art vs. Entertainment". I've never really thought of jazz as entertainment. I think of it more as an ongoing search, like science. The media glorifies and thrives on sensationalism. Consequently, many people see no intrinsic value in doing art. Music is often ignored if it isn't presented properly. Some players expect people to listen to them, just because they are playing, but rarely works that way, especially in clubs, for example. I've noticed that there seem to be more clubs where the music is not presented properly, and very few people listen as they once did.
In my years playing at Bradley's in NYC, I learned a lesson from a regular customer, the late Robert John, who lived upstairs from the club. While complaining about the noise at the Knickerbocker, another club down the street, he said: "It's not a concert!" At Bradley's, an announcement of their quiet policy preceded every set, and it worked. If people made as much noise in any other workplace, as they a do in clubs where music is being played they would be told to shut up or leave. In some situations, I would rather have the night off!
A musician who can find pleasure playing with anyone has to have a love of making music that outweighs his or her need for getting attention. Making music begins with doing your job. It's nice if you can be a hot soloist, but do your job first, and do it well. Many rhythm section players sound like they are not really a part of the music until it comes time for them to solo. They are missing an exciting and rewarding part of playing music. Working with my fellow rhythm section mates is every bit as important and fun as playing solos. I've learned to assume different roles in any given musical situation, and that is half the fun.
Trombonist Bob Brookmeyer wrote about people who had influenced him, expressing how important he was to THEM! When I first came to New York City in 1963, I was impressed at how some of the older musicians took an interest in ME. Guys that I had grown up listening to, like bassists Chuck Israels, Bob Cranshaw and Sonny Dallas, invited me to sit in on their gigs just so that they and others could hear me play the bass. The real players and writers are the ones who are always the most willing to share themselves, and the most eager to help you, because they love and want to continue the process of making music.