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Dave Liebman: If I had $10 Million in the Bank!

By Published: October 14, 2003
Sorry, but as hip as the music may be, the whole pop premise is for people to buy the music, period. It is geared, whether obvious or not, for people to love it and when I say people, I mean the common denominator, meaning the most you can get. A pop artist, with all the money that goes behind them must maximize their potential or they are finished. Opposite stands the artist who creates for their own needs in the pursuit of a sound, a way to play, a concept. This takes years of study and discipline without material rewards. Most of all it takes 100% involvement with no breaks for fun and games. Obviously most artists have to give up something in terms of time to devote to the art, whether it be for family, personal problems, necessities of life, etc. But one is at least artistically independent and in as much control of their life as can be expected. To give up that creative freedom (as musically agreeable as it might be) and have to heed someone else's interpretation as to what is right or wrong to play doesn't seem right. On one record date for a well known singer I played "chromatically" on a dorian scale for two bars and needless to say my solo didn't appear on the recording. This was after I was called in to "be myself"! Obviously if I am a sideman with a peer and want to help them realize their creative work, I will gladly accede to the leader's wish-es. Or if I play with someone ahead of me, a more experienced artist who has something of value to show me, the same is true. But to expend my energy towards music that is probably below my skills and aesthetic, taking into consideration all the sacrifices and time I have spent, for the sake of selling more product and glorifying something that is not what I wish to represent is wasting valuable time in my opinion.

I don't want to speculate on whether Trane would've done it, etc. Look at Miles, and even the great Sonny Rollins played with the Stones, etc, etc. Every situation is different but a good guideline in general when considering projects to play on could be: "Would I do play this music if I had ten million in the bank?" If you ask yourself that very basic, exaggerated, rather crass question or something like that, you may be on the way to an honest answer. Believe it, every note you play reflects the validity of all the decisions you make in life. As a young musician one should experience it all, but sooner or later you have to draw a line in the sand.

From Inayat Khan (Sufi writer/musician) on music: "If a person makes his own voice artificial in order to convince people, in order to be more audible, and in order to impress people, it only means he is not true to his spirit. It cannot be. It is better for a person to be natural in his speech with individuals and with the multitude, rather than he should become different."


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