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The Jazz Life

The Jazz Life is a monthly column that aims to be a different take on how we write and read about jazz–stories of individual experiences, funny, sad, maddening and profound. A community talking to itself about what’s really important, or at least interesting to its members.

THE JAZZ LIFE

Does Talent Matter?

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A good friend of mine, who is a recognized great guitarist, once said to me as we were standing at the bar of the old Birdland, “Charlie Christian really wasn't that good a player, you know." I looked at him for a moment, then said with a smile, “Are you trying to pick a fight with me?" He laughed. Busted! Not so long ago, another friend who wanted to be a novelist and had worked hard at it ...

THE JAZZ LIFE

Growing Older Jazzfully

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So there I was the other day, taking a yoga lesson, trying to loosen my aching muscles. I'm at that age where it aches if I do exercise, and I stiffen if I don't. The instructor was a young woman with the flexibility of a baby who can suck her own toes. She asked us to lie on our backs and make a figure 4 with our legs in the air, then grasp a thigh and pull back... You get ...

THE JAZZ LIFE

The Little Metal Buddha

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A short piece this time. But sometimes saying what you want, like playing what you want, in as few words--or notes as possible, is really the way to go. The Jazz Life is an interesting project I'm engaged in, writing and searching for things to say that focus on what we do in order to live and perform as jazz musicians. I'm interested in hearing from anyone via All About Jazz who has a story to tell about ...

THE JAZZ LIFE

Indecent Heroes and All That Jazz

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Bill Cosby's deserved fall from Grace, perhaps more than anyone else's--and there has been a dizzying final reckoning for a bunch of them--has really hit me. I've been trying to figure out why that is and it's not obvious. But I think it's partly about how the accusations against Chuck Close have been handled. The problem is not whether or not these guys should be defended--it's the more profound issue of whether we can or should separate the artist from ...

THE JAZZ LIFE

Intermission Riff: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cat

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In 1958 I was 20 and in my second year at Swansea University. I also played guitar in a small group with my good friend Russ John. We lived in a small village called Trallwn, four miles outside of Swansea. Swansea was a centre of heavy industry and extensive pollution, yet a few miles away was the Gower peninsular, one of the most beautiful regions of Britain. Sunday in our village was for chapel except for our family, communists and ...

THE JAZZ LIFE

Getting Past (E)Go

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I like to play squash, and the best advice a pro ever gave me was this: “Hit the ball in the middle of the racquet." Do you have any idea how difficult that simple piece of advice is to master? Not so long ago, a friend (Brent Vaartstra) posted a great podcast about overcoming low self esteem as a musician. This is something that has plagued me on and off most of my musical career, and I've been ...

THE JAZZ LIFE

Telling Stories and Singing Songs

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“I believe if you're paying a man to play, and that man is on the bandstand and can play, he should get a chance to tell his story." --Lester Young Prez was once asked how to improvise, and reportedly he said, “Tell them a story." Telling stories about living the jazz life in the early 21st is the heart of what this column is going to be about. Pour yourself a beer or a glass of wine, and ...