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Steve Swell: Appreciating the Avant Garde Today

Victor L. Schermer By

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AAJ: And that way, you'll be developing your own vocabulary.

SS: Absolutely! That's the primary directive of what an artist should do.

AAJ: Bobby Zankel made a similar point. Rather than try to fit in with the whole jazz scene today, he's focusing on his own bands and working on his own path and vocabulary.

SS: Yes, it's so important to find your own path and stay with it.

AAJ: Bobby also said that when he started out, he tried to play as much as possible in bands with more experienced musicians so he could learn from them.

SS: Yes, and even now I try to get with the guys who influenced me and see what else I can learn from them.

AAJ: So maybe what we're saying is that mentorship is essential.

SS: It doesn't necessarily have to be a formal mentor relationship. Just hanging out and exposing yourself to someone you admire and appreciate, talking to them, you're going to absorb a lot just being around them.

AAJ: To wrap up our conversation, what's the message you'd like readers to take with them?

SS: I would say, whether you're a fan or a musician, go to hear live music more. Check out venues and musicians who are new to you. Expose yourself to new music. Go with an open mind and listen to what the music is all about. Think of it as listening to a painting. It's a great way to get away from your daily preoccupations and just let the music overtake you. You may discover a solution to a particular problem in your personal life or work life while listening to live music. It's important for all of us, musicians or not, to stay open to new experiences. That's what makes life worthwhile and fulfilling.

Photo Credit: Ziga Koritnik

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