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David Finck: The Bass, Scatting Offenses, and the Back Hoe

Dr. Judith Schlesinger By

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AAJ: Just playing devil's advocate. Is it that important to have a category?

DF: I think the problem is that it's almost like television—any schmuck can have a reality show. Any schmuck can make a record, too. I understand the Kickstarter thing. But everybody's making records, and most of them shouldn't. And NARAs surely isn't a great gatekeeper.

AAJ: Now we have Twitter. Wanna know what you like? Go see what your friends like.

DF: When hiphop started, people were selling it out of their cars. It was really fun, like the Sugar Hill Gang. As soon as the record companies saw the cha-ching going on, they bought them up. There's some industry responsibility there. I know it's all about the dollar bill, but at a certain point, you could upgrade a little bit. There has to be quality.

AAJ: Why should there be? And these companies are not even mom and pops anymore; they're conglomerates, and this is just an arm of the rest. The company probably owns a tractor factory. They don't care what the product is, they just look at the bottom line. Whose mission is it to introduce quality, if the consumer is willing to take whatever is new and sparkly and the flavor of the week?

DF: Well, again, we're talking about education. And really understanding that you might not like it, but there really is something to it that you gotta respect. Not what's someone done, but how they do it. I'm not a huge fan of early jazz—Bix Beiderbecke; I don't really like the way it feels.

AAJ: What makes the high-level stuff?

DF: It's well-executed, with great control over musical language that I might not speak, but can hear. That can be pretty intense stuff—a great tenor sax solo is pretty dense for a civilian to grasp. There has to be a way to teach people, at least, what's admirable. Whether it's to your taste or not. We can learn what's important about Michelangelo.

Some musicians lose sight of the fact that it's a form of entertainment. If you express yourself in a language so obtuse that musicians don't even get it, and then complain that nobody understands me, you forget that these people still want to be entertained.

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