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9

Billy Childs: Pushing Past Preconceptions

George Colligan By

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GC: Well it seems like a lot of times there's an agenda or there's preconceived notions not based on anything that has to do with the sound of the music. Because if I was listening to your music I wouldn't think, "Oh, this is an LA vibe." I would just hear it as some killing stuff.

BC: Well, I appreciate that.

GC: Yeah. I don't like to think of things in that way, because certainly there's a lot of things that come out of New York that don't have the "New York sound," whatever that is. Your music certainly has as much intensity if not more than a lot of stuff that comes out of there.

BC: You know I have to say—a lot of times I use a New York rhythm section because it's still hard for me to find drummers and bassists that are playing like the ones in New York. In LA you're not going to find any Antonio Sanchezes or Clarence Penns or Brian Blades. Actually you would—he lives there, doesn't he?

GC: You know, I keep hearing that, I saw him last year and he seemed to imply that he wasn't really here that much. But there's Brian Blade sightings once in a while. So I'm not really sure. He's not on the scene at all. But you never know. Portland seems like it's getting a good reputation as a good place to live, I'm sort of wondering if more cats are going to move out here.

BC: Hey, you ever play with Ron Steen?

GC: Yeah, he does a bunch of jam sessions.

BC: Tell him I said hello when you see him. I used to see him with Joe Henderson, Tom Grant, and Patrick O'Hearn.

GC: That's amazing! Tom Grant's still around too. Hey Billy, I should wrap it up, but I really appreciate this. Good to talk to you, always.

BC: I appreciate you interviewing me for your blog! Your blog is much better than most blogs concerning jazz. You know, I've always thought that musicians should critique the critics! There should be some sort of thing, 4 stars, on what we feel the guy knows. How sound he is on history, his grammar, his fucking punctuation...

GC: I hear you. It's a touchy subject, I certainly wouldn't want to alienate all critics, but we should hold them to as high of a standard as they seem to like to hold us to.

BC: There should be more rebuttals. A lot of musicians, including myself, tend to think, "Well, I'll just let the music speak for itself, I'm above that, I'm not going to lower myself to get into a battle of words over music." The time for that is getting old. They're just fucking writing what they want, and giving that impression to thousands of people.

GC: I think creative music is not in a great position now and these critics are people that claim to love this music, yet nitpick something. I've paid out of my pocket to do some of these records, and then to be crushed by some dude who didn't even listen to it, is an insult. They don't realize what we're up against.

BC: Yeah! Or maybe he listened to it but didn't like it for some reason. Instead of saying "this guy is obviously great, I just didn't get it" they'll say "this sucks" in a very declarative, definitive way, like it's an empirical truth that you suck.

GC: But then you have a bunch of reviews like that, and you wonder why nobody likes jazz. The stuff that's really good will fall by the wayside, the people who are already doing well in the industry—they're always going to get a good review. So the people one or two tiers below have to really struggle just to be mentioned. And then when it's a bad or unclear mention...it just feels unfair to me.

BC: I'm with you. I don't think I've ever—and I've been doing this for 35 years—I don't think I've ever gotten a good review from a New York critic about anything that I've ever done. Which, to me, is upsetting.

GC: I would think they would dig your stuff the most. I don't get that.

BC: I think I got one good review from the Wall Street Journal on my last record. Chick Corea tells me I'm good, Herbie...I think I must be good.

GC: Yeah, they should know!

BC: I'm glad that you called me. Hope we can hang soon.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Unlimited Myles Publicity

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