I just produced Joe Lovano's new website. Yeah, that Joe Lovano. What a great gig.
I first met Joe in the early 90s, during my Jazz Times days, when we did a "Before and After." Then, after I helped start Jazz Central Station, the first mega Jazz site, I produced a multi-media web feature on his music.
During my tenure with GMN/Jazz Plus, I produced a live video webcast from Birdland with Saxophone Summit, featuring Joe, along with Michael Brecker and David Liebman, where I did backstage interviews and commentary.
I interviewed him again when we recorded his guest soloist set with the North Texas State Band at the 1999 IAJE Conference in New Orleans.
At this year's IAJE annual shindig in New York, I did another video interview with Joe, along with his Saxophone Summit collaborators, which served as a prelude to the liner notes I wrote for their incredible new CD, "Gathering of Spirits."
So, it did not come as total surprise when Joe called me to produce his website this March. At the time, I was just finishing Billy Taylor's website and I thought to myself, wow, the universe is really being kind to me to allow me to collaborate with two such remarkable creators.
Producing a Big Website Is Like Producing A Movie
The websites I've been producing lately allow me to utilize all the facets of my creativity. A site like Joe's, or Billy Taylor's, which incorporate pages and pages of content, video, music, etc., is just like producing a movie.
I used to work in film and television and doing a movie or a website is quite similar, bringing together a number of different elements, in a cost effective and timely manner.
Because these big websites represent such a complete, ongoing portrait of each individual, in essence a constantly changing multi-media biography, I have the opportunity to work very closely with these artists.
Joe's site took four months to produce so I've gotten to know Joe, which is of course, big fun. And that's one of the joys of my work, hanging with such cool characters.
Don't forget, I've been a serious listener since I was twelve. Jazz musicians were my role models. When I was thirteen, I wore a Dizzy Gillespie for President button to school every day. I feel this work I do must have been my destiny.
Jazz has always been one of the essential elements of my existence. When I finally got to New York in the late 60s to attend NYU Film School, I got to know a lot of the musicians I admired. That's only continued through writing and websites.
Of course they are still are people, although their music sometimes elevates them to somewhat higher status. Some really good people, and some not so cool. Nevertheless, knowing the people who create the music I love has proven fascinating and added a inimitable dimension to listening to the music as well.
Along Comes Joe
When Joe called me to do his site, I wanted to create something that would reflect the man and his music. That's what I try and do for each site, have it be an extension of the artist himself, not just some template. Joe's music is uniquely his own, a body of work that's been regularly documented since the mid 80s.
Joe's recorded legacy, on Soul Note and Blue Note, is amazingly diverse. He's also led groups of varying configurations, and played with lots of other folks as well. And he's an educator, at Berklee. Wow, that's a lot of stuff for a website.
And therein lies the challenge, how to present a lot of information in an easy to navigate, easy to digest way.
I decided to do that by keeping the look and feel of the site as simple as possible. It's about the content anyway, although some may feel that a high-end site means fancy graphics, and lots of Flash along other bells and whistles. I couldn't disagree more.
There's a simple definition of a good website that has informed all my work: great content, easy to access, frequently updated. Nothing more, nothing less.
I also chose a simple navigation and approach for Joe's content because consistency is key to the success of a big site. The interface has to be totally unobtrusive, almost a seamless link between the user and the content.
Another key element to the success of any artist's site is giving it a personal feel, so that the users comes away thinking they've gotten to know the artist.
I did this on Joe's site by putting a lot of his own words on the site. I created a database for his CDs, because all of the CD pages share the same look and content elements. Then I interviewed Joe and put together his comments for each of the CDs.
I also put his words elsewhere throughout the site so that when the user reads a page, they could, in essence, hear Joe talking.