Samuel Chell

All About Jazz user Samuel Chell

Sam Chell is a champion of the composers of the American Songbook and the musicians who keep it alive.

Contributor Since: 2003 | From: United States | Profile Views: 27,194

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I'll confess that I'm an academic and not an experienced journalist, jazz writer, computer wizard, or internet traveler (not even Facebook). If I remember to take the music seriously and not myself, it seems to work for me. Also, I've always admired Socrates, ever since reading as a college student the Apologia, where he claims he was wise simply because he could admit to himself that he knew nothing. His whole life was about asking questions, especially the ones that would lead him into new areas of discovery.

Many followers of this music talk about its presence and influence in their homes as kids. That's fine for them. But for just as many others, it's an identity thing. Growing up in the northern boonies of Wisconsin, I simply required an alternative to Dick Clark, Cousin Fuzzy, Elvis, the Beatles and Stones. So I taught myself to like jazz (all the easier because my parents hated it.)

Perhaps this background qualifies me all the more to encourage anyone who has refrained from submitting articles or accepting editing responsibilities out of a sense of inadequacy to become involved. Any teacher who is candid about his work must confront two humbling facts. The first is related to a quote sometimes attributed to Faulkner-- the things most worth teaching can't be taught: they can only be learned. From this follows the second--teaching something, or simply writing about it, is the best way to learn it.

I wish more young people (in spirit as well as years) would take seriously the benefits of writing / editing for a publication like “All About Jazz.” First of all, it's a team effort to produce the biggest, most consistently awarded (and substantive) jazz site on the web, and the results are there for all to see on a daily basis. Second, it's a learning experience. I know of few great musicians who consider themselves ”experts.” Music may be a universal “language,” but it continues to challenge (and sometimes frustrate) its users; the same is true of a verbal language. But the more you read and write and edit, the more you push yourself to improve in your command of a language-- and that's a satisfaction greater than any notoriety or monetary return.

Alto and tenor saxophonist Sonny Stitt was as close to being an ”expert” on his horns as any musician I've followed closely, yet he understood that words like “creativity” and “originality” don't meaning anything without a point of reference. Sonny insisted that musicians should play to entertain people and, to that end, make their music ”simple...just like Art Tatum did”--and he wasn't being ironic.

If I can indulge in a bit of esoteric talk (forgive me, Sonny), Stitt appeals to the yang, or my Apollonian, left-brained logical- perfectionist side; Bill Evans the yin, or my Dionysian, right-brained emotional hemisphere; Coltrane the Promethean idealism and lingering theological anxiety that most of us carry. But that's verging on the academic. The challenge is to say it simply--and never take yourself seriously (despite appearances, no one else will).

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