Music as a career has always been met with considerable skepticism. This stems from a basic misunderstanding of the types of music involvements that are possible. The concept of the "starving musician" is but one of the many stereotypes. This installment of "The Art and Science of Jazz" is devoted to illustrating other alternatives.
Music can be an avocation, a dedication, a business or a profession. They are not necessarily distinctly unique. Mixtures of these various roles are always possible and perhaps even common.
The part time musician (avocation) interests us least for now since his priorities have obviously not been set up in favor of music. However, those who pursue music in this manner are important since they provide a vital link between the "professional" musician and the "lay man." If dedicated musicians are going to find an audience for their work, they must rely at least in part on some type of music education for the public. This of course does not refer to education at the expert level. Rather, it refers to a level in which increased awareness and appreciation of musical forms and subtleties are the goals. The part time musician frequently pursues some type of music education for himself and since he is in the public community of other professions, he has the opportunity to influence people. The majority of the public has little or no training in music. This does not refer to technical training alone but to appreciation or listening training. The part time musicians with their typical exuberance toward music are in a position by association to gradually, slowly affect the public conception of the significance of serious musical performance.
Since the school systems in general have not emphasized the universal importance of music and the arts, we must hope for four primary sources of assistance: private music education, increased awareness of the significance of music in the school systems, improved standards in the performers and their repertoire and the influence of part time musicians.
Music as a dedication is an ideal but it is a realistic one. It has the capacity to direct one's life and decisions since it is so powerfully internal. It is at the same time physical, emotional and psychological. All these factors blend together to provide a most satisfying way of life. This way of life does not in and of itself provide the income necessary for an "acceptable" standard of living. Thus, we introduce music as a business and/or a profession.
Many would consider the two terms interchangeable but a distinction does exist. Music as a business tends to dehumanize the art. Adding machines, invoices, accounts receivable, etc. tend to be a deterrent to the feelings of simplicity and beauty necessary in music. Net profit begins to loom more significantly than the sound of music. One's desk tends to be cluttered with calculations and paper work. The difficulty is energy drain. Music requires such extraordinary energy that the individual can not really afford the tension drains of business and expect to remain untouched. The distraction of business is more time consuming than it may appear. The physical time spent on such matters is obvious. However, it also takes time to divorce oneself from the business attitude. This atmosphere of worry and aggravation that comes with the pursuit of business, fatigues the musical sense. Thus, the recovery time needed to transfer the consciousness from the business state to the musical state consumes time and energy. The total time of business involvement is difficult to calculate but it is extraordinarily distracting to the aesthetic pursuits of music. Naturally, it is for precisely these reasons that many musicians have others handle their business matters. This quite obviously sets up another group of problems. Finding someone who is qualified that you can trust is a most difficult job.
Music as a profession stresses pridethe pride of a professional pursuing his work to the best of his ability. Jokes abound in this area." When are you going to get a real job?" etc. In reality, it is difficult to find a profession that demands more from its members. This is of course premised on the assumption that the musician is totally committed and involved. Lack of involvement and commitment are not peculiar to music. They plague aspects of all professions. Our concern here is only for those who have committed themselves to their music. The time required for excellence in music goes far beyond the time so obvious to the public. The musician is not compensated for practice time yet it is an indispensable part of his profession. The consistent pressure of music can be attributed to the fact that it calls upon physical, emotional and mental capacities of the musician. It can never be "left at the office." This constancy of music can become a serious problem or it can remain a beautiful, flowing undercurrent of one's life.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.