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Being Here: Conversations On Creating Music

Ian Patterson By

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In attempting to describe music-making, particularly the on-stage communication, improvisation and self-expression, the musicians draw on a wide and colorful array of metaphors including magic, acupuncture, sex, heart surgery, sailing, healing and, time and again, meditation. Nearly all describe the element of mystery and there's no fast-track: "Hard work goes into it," says Blade. "A lot goes into it. Honestly, it does come from all the time you spend at the instrument."

Only two women are interviewed—pianist Maria Schneider and saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom—which reinforces the notion that the jazz narrative remains a predominantly male one. Are there really so relatively few creative female musicians in New York? If the gender discourse is notable for its absence then the racial one is more prominent.

Other issues that have long dogged jazz, those of the pressure to conform {..."some of the music that I was making was purely about how hip it was"—Jason Moran) and elitism (..."don't try to make it worse by coming over to our territory"—pianist Robert Glasper) are largely absent in Philip's thoughtful interviews; when they do occasionally surface they serve to emphasize the singular pursuit of individual expression and universalism common to most of these musicians.

What also emerges from this tome are the challenges, as Mark Turner puts it, of processing "fifty more years of music than musicians in the fifties had to..."

The wide-ranging material in these 450 pages provides a certain amount of guidance for musicians who are serious about their craft as well as plenty of insight into the creative worlds of some of the most celebrated of contemporary musicians. New York may be the main catalyst for creative music today but as these fascinating interviews reveal the cauldron's ingredients hail from every corner of the earth. Recommended reading.

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