The Courage to Really Play...

AAJ Staff By

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By Matt Lavelle

People have dedicated their lives, suffered and died in pursuit of becoming one with a music that, at its core, is a music that makes being a human being really mean something.

This music can save lives. People hold on to moments in this music when there is nothing left to hold on to. These moments are something that you can hold right in your hand, right in your heart and once heard, they can never be taken away. Trane's Live at the Village Vanguard has helped me get through difficult periods in my life and although I wasn't there, I've sat on the stage with Trane many times. Everyone deeply involved in this music has these moments. A great musician once said that when you're about to play, you should feel like you're about to change someone's life. Maybe you can open their heart and get them to ask themselves questions they have always been afraid to ask. Maybe even better, you can help them through their fear. Could be any kind of fear: fear of being themselves, fear of loving or fear of being loved.

How many of us today are playing music to uplift others? So many of us are afraid to really play, mostly afraid of ourselves and what we might find inside. Many of us have no story to tell so we try to tell someones else's story - it's safer that way. When the people that are afraid to listen believe in the people afraid to play, we get a kind of mass denial no different than someone thinking that Britney Spears might really be on to something.

There's so much intellectual music and past recreation going on because it's safe for the players and the listeners. Some are at least being honest. If the feeling ain't there then it's just not there. It has never been more difficult to have your own sound and be yourself than in today's jazz world. To stay on that path and never give up - though it may take years - is an honorable quest indeed. What's out is when people without their own thing are celebrated at large. Another helping of adversity for today's jazz player.

One thing that the musicians can count on is that the real history and the real experience of this music belongs to us. Listeners and writers will never know what's it's like to have your sound filling up a room and going right into the hearts of those present through their ears. Listeners and writers will never understand the countless hours of dedication to our craft and the eventual musical and spiritual dividends that follow. Ours is a perspective they see, but never really feel. The real history of this music belongs to the people making it and the people who gave their lives in pursuit of being a branch on the great tree. Listeners and writers can look at the tree and talk about whether they like the tree or not but they are not, or ever will be, a part of the tree. Trees like to grow. What we need now, more than ever is the courage to REALLY play.

Photo Credit
Peter Gannushkin

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