Something about being color blind
Well, I'm not really sure i can really convey everything i think about this subject here, but i guess even a small taste will make me feel better.
About a week ago a saw an episode of the "inside the actors studio" series. It was the first half from an evening with Chris Rock. Now besides being very very informative and inspirational, as well as really really funny, there was this weird vibe to the whole episode.
Chris Rock sits there, looking pretty uncomfortable actually, and tells his amazing story about growing up in a rough neighborhood, among poverty and drugs, being the only black kid in a white school, working every night at a comedy club for 10 years, folding chairs for a chance to go on stage... really harsh stuff. And of course, he tells all this in a rather funny way, because he's a comedian and that's what they do. And of course, the predominantly white crowd, paying thousand of dollars of tuition to do what he did growing up, was laughing very very hard.
I could not but feel really awkward.
it was almost they found his life story and the hardship of the situation funny because they couldn't relate to any part of it. It might have been to them just a story, of a time long ago, in a galaxy far away.
and I could not but feel really awkward.
And then i got this feeling, although i'm usually quite radical thinking about "politics" and related subjects (and some would say that everything is politics and that the personal IS political); I got this feeling that assured something i've been thinking about for a while now. That being "Color-Blind" is not the answer. That as long as one doesn't understand where he comes from, what a are his privileges (or lack of thereof), and what is the "climate" now, he can never form his own opinion on, possibly even not understand, the matter of ethnic in-equality. And to do those things, you cannot be color blind, especially not regarding yourself. Understanding that all ethnicities are equal are one thing. Bringing this understanding to practice in daily life, requires a whole different paradigm.
possibly more about this later... For now, here's some great music from a mentor of mine- Omer Avital.
Theme from a brighter future.
A bit on Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan has always been a great inspiration for me. It's hard for me to explain exactly why, but i think it has a lot to do with the fact that he was just plain cool. His playing is always deep and meaningful yet very playful, and even in pictures he seems like a real cool cat.
I don't know exactly why this is going around now, but Helen, his companion and also the woman who shot him dead, has come out to tell her side of the story just a bit before passing away.
The link if from Jason Palmer's website. He's a great Boston based trumpet player, who also was a great source of inspiration for me since he was headlining a steady gig at the famous Wally's Jazz Cafe.
Another interesting point about this story is here-
This is from an interview with Billy Hart that Ethan Iverson did a while ago. There's a short mp3 file to stream with Billy talking about the day Lee Morgan died.
Together you get rather gloomy picture, but also a lot of interesting information about the jazz life, and about Lee himself.
A real interesting read.
An interesting point + Link
Here is a post by guitarist and composer Joel Harrison about funding and new classical music and jazz. It was posted on NPR's a blog supreme (which is great btw).
He present a really interesting point which i had the chance to discuss with some friends who make new-classical music and also (more about the lack of funding and funding diversity) with very creative jazz people. It's something worth reading and thinking about.
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Just an update
Just a small update about the band mentioned in the previous post.
They just had their CD release show @ one of the biggest and most important clubs in Israel. The place holds 1100 people and was sold out. about 200 people had to go home. I was only able to get in since 50 tickets saved for press got cleared for sale, and ran out within 2 minutes.
It was a great show, and they really did deliver a great experience. So... Guess they know what they are doing. Making great music (with great live shows), really believing in it and also knowing how to advertise it.But the last thing is only worth if you have the first two ;)
The Indie Disclaimer
Lately, coming closer and closer to my CD release, I've been reading a lot about independent artist and independent-minded business. It seems like so much has changed in the music industry and everyone has a new business model or a new plan or a new something these days that can work. I find some of this chaos to be really amazing. We live in a world where social media has emerged to be stronger than ever, and people really look to connect in a personal sense to their possessing. This opens up the possible ways to reach potential costumers in many, many new ways, since every person will have a different connection to something and might be persuaded by a different sales pitch. Hence, although many ways might fit many people, it might be said that for every different person you contact, a different sales pitch might be needed.
This really makes it much harder and much easier in different ways to many artists, and to many other people of the music industry. A quick look at most "Industry", PR or music business blogs will give you a hectic, but quite clear idea of what you need to do to triple your sales, book a million more shows, get everyone you meet to like your facebook page (or follow you on twitter) and how to send the perfect newsletter. It seems that if you only follow these steps, most of them so simple it's almost annoying not to do them, you will become this huge superstar (or at least a very successful "middle-class" musician). But one thing is always missing. It is
usually mentioned very, very briefly at the top or the bottom of the page. Especially not close to the lovely .pdf flow chart you can download if you just give away an email. And that one thing is-
MAKE GREAT MUSIC!
All the business, PR work, virtual or real followers, plays on Youtube, having a VEVO channel or whatever you might think of doing can, yes- CAN, really help you succeed as a musician. But the thing that's really going to count, at the very bottom line (of course assuming your interested in also creating art not just making money) is if you make great music that people want to listen to.
That's the most important thing- make great music. Not ok music, not "this is where I am right now, but it will get better" music, not even good music. GREAT music. One that has a personal, meaningful and moving message. And one that you, as an artist/musician feel100% (not even 99%) good about and believe in it with all of your heart.
Now, obviously, it's much easier to write about business, PR, or sales than about great art (being music for this matter). And it's even alright to assume that most musicians, having been working hard on their art and craft, know less in these areas and could use the help. But please, don't forget- It's about the music. And about really great music. And about saying something, and being someone, that is important to many.
On a side note, I'm writing/saying all this because a couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to see a few friends, who are in an "indie" band (meaning they do stuff by themselves, not trying to imitate the sound of those who do), do great promotional work for their music. And they do so by first and foremost making great music, then by having the biggest faith in it. So when they do ask you to come out to a show, or buy the new album, or sharing their video online- it is honest. And it is convincing. And there's the great music they've been doing to listen to. Which, again, is the most important thing about the music business. Making great music.
Just a weird thought
Just wanted to share this weird thought I had.
I was taking the bus somewhere, and of course was listening to music on my ipod. It was this collection I have of some Lester young tracks, mainly with Nat King Cole in their bass less trio (which may I say- wow, amazing music). And while I was listening to that, some young girl was listening to some Rihanna I think, on her cellphone (of course on speaker mode). And I was thinking, how weird would it be to her to know that I'm listening to music recorded over 60 years ago. Even more so, thinking about how comfortable I am listening to Jazz both from those years and from recent times, how weird would it be for her to listen to R&B from over 60 years ago. Assuming for a second that that is the tradition Rihanna is coming from if you go back enough.
Now, I love my lester young and my older jazz as much as I love modern day saxophone player and modern day jazz. But I have to admit, I guess it is kinda weird compared to the rest of the world. Also, since going all the way back to the roots is considered something you have to do to really appreciate and enjoy jazz, it might even be more weird. I guess it will be just plain crazy for most people. And maybe that is a thing we, as jazz listeners, should be happy about. Enjoying the thought that knowing the roots of our music is something we like to do. Enjoying the thought that there is so much music, that we can listen to from such a wide span of years and from such a wide array of artists. Kinda cool, no?
On A Recent Forum Post
There's a really nice jazz forum in Israel and the moderator, who happens to be a prominent figure in Israeli jazz, mostly behind the scenes raised a very interesting question.
He asked how come Israeli Jazz lacks social/political involvement.
It's a really interesting thing to think about. I think this is a problem with most of Jazz today, although things are getting better really fast.
If you think of the old days, Jazz had a real social connotation. It had much to do with the civil rights movement, which was also evident in a lot of different types of music, but really came forth in Jazz during those years. This socio-political connection was still evident even after the 60's (which are the highlight of the black civil rights movement) and is actually getting back to being evident in Jazz today, especially in the states.
I still don't have an answer about why we don't see this too much in Israeli Jazz, but I do want to link, for the time being, a lovely blog post from Jason Palemer, a Seattle based trumpet player. He writes some thoughts about Jazz and cultural relevance, it's an interesting read with a lot to do with this question.
You can find it here- http://oneworkingmusician.com/jazz-and-cultural-relevence
Like he writes there, it's more than just the political aspect of it. It's actually having something cultural connected into the music. If you think of it, it's as if the people he mentions (and many more) actually play their cultural selves- meaning they play who they are culturally. I feel that this is really starting to come forth nowadays, especially with the change in business model the music industry is going through.
To me, this cultural connotation and connection is something to strive for as an artist. I feel that once you manage to play yourself, to play who you are, your music becomes simply true. Which is the best. The highest point of artistry.
anyway, I hope to have some more insight about this soon. In the meantime, check out Jason's post, it a fun read.
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Some thoughts about copying
First and foremost, I want to make one thing clear. I am not writing this to hurt anyone, to vibe anyone or to hate. I am putting this disclaimer here since this subject has a tendency to make a lot of people angry, and that is not what I wish to do. Nor is what I am about to write supposed to be provocative in a cynical way. However, it should be thought provoking.
I have much respect and love for the tradition of Jazz. I have spent countless hours listening and studying the music of jazz greats of the past, and there are more endless and countless hours ahead of me, dedicated to more learning. My respect to those masters is abundant and I do my best to show that respect in my music. I also have the outmost respect to those people who are alive today and wish to preserve this tradition and that the masters of the past are their pillars of inspiration. I do my best to show my respect to these players as well. However, I have recently been through a rough experience with such musicians and I feel obligated to write something about it here.
I went to a jam session at one of the famous jazz clubs in NYC.
I came when the band was still playing, which might sound as something obvious to do, but you will be amazed how many people come to play at the session, but pay no respect to the musicians who actually have the gig. I must say that the band sounded good. They were playing some lesser-known bebop tunes, and they were doing it well. To me, when people do this, many times the music sounds like a time capsule, as if these musicians are not influence by anything done after 1958. This would make a very unfulfilling musical life for me, but I assume these guys like what they do very much, and again I have much respect for them, because they know and love this music, and most important- they sound good.
After a while, the session opened up and this guy started playing. The song was "How High The Moon", the guy looked to be about 35-40-ish, a tenor player. He didn't play the head at first, nor at the ending (which again, to me, shows much disrespect to the song. At least play the head out!!!), and he had a general feel like he just finished a GB gig and came to the session. Ok, I'm not trying to hate here, these guys deserve to play too, and if he doesn't want to play the melody, ok. But the worst thing about him was that he was a trane copycat. Now, I know trane was very influential and many great musicians were, and still are, myself included, very influenced by him. But there is a HUGH difference between influence/inspiration/assimilation and copying. Especially if you're a grown up man/woman/musician. Now, when I say he was a trane copycat, I'm not just talking about the sound or an occasional lick. The guy was playing whole sections of trane solos. Not just the devices, or whatever, but note for note sections.
Usually I would just ignore him, but I noticed the band really liked him and urged him to keep playing. The same thing happened later on when the band was playing "All God's Chillun (Children) got Rhythm" and the piano player was playing half of Bud Powell's solo, and the band was getting killed. I think this is terrible!. It makes me want to get up and shout- man, this is sad, I'm going home. Playing like this is simply the lowest you can get in terms of Jazz improvisation. Do I have to explain that this kind of playing makes me very upset? .
Coltrane and Bud Powell were innovators. They pushed the music forward. And more than that, they had a musical persona that came through as their own. People talk about not being able to copy Monk, because his style is too personal. Well, to me, Bud's phrasing is as unique as Monk's and Coltrane's intensity, even in the Hard-Bop era is entirely his own.
Now I realize that not everyone needs to push this music forward all the time. And that even though Bud Powell was an Avant-Garde-ist musician for his time, as well as Coltrane, or any other big innovator, doesn't mean that everyone today should be dealing with the AvantGarde. I know I don't. But, come on, at least respect the fact that all of these guys were trying to make something of their own, to reflect their life and experiences, and get your own sh!t to play. I did not fly half the world, rode half an hour on the subway, drank cheap beer cause I can't afford a good one, and waited for 8 horn players to blow for 20 minutes (each) just to hear a piano player play Bud Powell's sh!t.
Now, as a sidenote, quoting a little bit of someone's solo or a melody is entirely different than playing someone else's stuff. Quoting has been a part of Jazz since it's beginning, and it shows respect to other musicians. In fact, quoting has been part of black (African-American) musical culture from those days till these times (with much evidence to this in rap and beat making). And, sorry to go there, Jazz is, in its root, Black music.
But again- playing someone else's sh!t, is completely different. And by playing a whole A section of someone's solo at a session/gig, you are not paying your dues, you are copying. And if you're good enough to be playing at a jam session or at a club, being a student, or being young does not count. You are on the same level as anyone else there, and the only thing that matters is how good you play. And if you're copying someone else, don't expect me to respect that.
And another thing that bothers me about these guys is that they are usually really talented players. They have good command of the instrument. There's this one guy who goes a lot to the sessions here who sounds exactly like Joshua Redman. And it makes me so sad, because this guy plays amazing on the saxophone. He has really an amazing control over the horn. So it just makes me very, very sad to hear him play, because if he just had some originality, something of his own to shine through his playing, he would have been an amazing musician. Instead, he is stuck in this state of sounding like someone else, and now I don't want to listen to him (and hopefully other people as well, because if not, and people do want only copycats then I'm in big trouble).
So what I'm trying to get at here is that people should be themselves and find something of their own to play. Not to say that everyone needs to reinvent Jazz or whatever, but have your own personality and make it shine when you play. To me, this is perhaps one of the most important parts of the Jazz tradition. Cats used to come up with stuff, and tried not to sound like someone else. It was a big issue back in the day, and should be even a bigger one nowadays.
when i eat i eat, when i sleep i sleep
So I've been thinking about this for quite a while now, but it really hit me a couple of days ago. It's actually funny to say it like that, since I have no exact idea what I'm talking about, it's all pretty abstract, but it seems like it really hit me.
I came back to nyc from a show at the Blues Alley in DC which was really fun and had some really nice music. And after being home for about 45 minutes I left to sit in in this show/jam at a place in park slope. So we were playing there, and it was great, but when I came back home, i felt not so good about it, and it really made me think a lot.
I've talked about this with some of my friends, and it's really been amazing to hear what they said, and we were talking about a lot of things, but two of them stuck with me and I felt like sharing.
So first thing- we were talking about the Zen like quality of just playing, and not thinking about it. For many years whenever I used to play, immediately I would be bombarded with information about what to do and what textures to use, and then of course a terrible judgment (usually negative) about anything I play. It came to a point where absurdly enough, I would not enjoy the thing to which I have dedicated my life. I've been fighting this for a while, and actually got a lot better, but lately I've just been failing very hard. And I was thinking- when one makes love, he doesn't think "well, this is nice. I think in about 5 more second I'm going to put my hand here, and do this with my leg… ok, execute!". It's more just about doing, and being committed to your actions. So it only makes sense that one should play Jazz like that (because the two are very similar). We were talking about how the younger cats in the session, were in n out, sometimes enjoying the music very much but then not being so into it. While the older guys who were there were constantly happy and constantly in the moment and in the music. And i think that part of it is because they were not thinking about playing, but they were just playing. Something that might do a lot with age and experience, as another friend suggested.
This also brings me to another point we talked about after that gig/jam thing- having no shame when you play.
It was more related to actually having no doubts, but shame is also related to that. Meaning, just accept who you are and what you do, and do it. Again, in bed, its really funny if you start doubting yourself, or if you're too ashamed to do something (not saying there aren't thing you can't do if you don't like them, but being ashamed of them is a bit foolish I think). So my friends and i listen to this song from Keny Dorham's Whistle Stop, and on one of the songs, the hits are kinda funny. But Philly Joe Jones, the drummer at that session, plays with such a great vibe and with so much personality and command, that it sounds amazing. It sounds truthful. But the point is, that it sounds like these guys had no shame in themselves. they were living their life, playing their music, doing their thing. And it was more about the vibe and attitude (and many more subtleties) than actually hitting every singe hit exactly where it is. So I'm not old, and come from a very different generation, and haven't talked to any old-school musician about this, And I'm sure they cared about the arrangements and such, but to me it feels like the right attitude and swing where much more important to them. And that has a lot to do with having no shame, no doubts, just playing being personal and truthful.
in quite a funny coincidence, i just found out someone uploaded this to youtube a few weeks ago...
So, I don't really have a point here…. Just some thoughts about this. I think that we should just accept ourselves, know our shortcomings and make them better, humbly accept where we are musically, and do our best to play as personal and truthful as we can. And by we, I mean first of all myself.
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Ethan Iverson w/ Tootie Heath
So here is a great interview Ethan Iverson did with Albert Tootie Heath. I think every jazz blog i've been reading lately has posted links to this, but i thought i should put it here as well.
It's really well written and Ethan really manages to get Tootie to tell some really nice stories. To me the few sentences about comping, the left hand and getting too excited were really amazing to read. I was just looking for some good comping examples lately for piano players and was having a hard time to define what i like and dont like, so it was nice to hear two masters discussing this.
Ethan also has an amazing interview with Billy Hart, which is much longer and more in depth. I read it a few times (it also has an mp3 file of Billy talking about the day Lee Morgan died, which is amazing), and it's really a great piece of information about the Jazz life.
So if you have a few minutes, check it out. It's worth it
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A bit about moving to NYC and more
It's a very slow weekend for me here, so i thought i should write something. I know I haven't done it in a long time, which is NOT ok, but I've been busy with moving to nyc and stuff so....
anyway, so i've found this really amazing studio next to my nyc israeli mafia friends, but unfortunately, turns out the place is infested with roaches. So I've been in the city for a month now, and can't really move to my place yet. But looks like it's going to end early next week and that i'll be able to move in real soon. So that's a good thing. Besides that, well... the city is amazing. Really inspiring. which is another subject I'll write about soon, I promise!
And now, since i have so much free time on my hands and can't really practice my music because i can't move in to my apartment yet, i've started reading a lot of jazz blogs (yes there are some really good ones!). Which made me think about a lot of things. The first one, related to a NPR post which you can find in the related link, dealt with the relevance of jazz.
It's been a while now that i've been telling everyone i know, that i think Jazz is becoming young and relevant again, even if it doesn't show in large numbers of CD sales. I think more and more young Jazz artists are making really beautiful and inventive music, which really talks about my (or our) generation. This is music i can feel connected to, and that deals with experiences and textures of my life. Or at least makes me feel like it does. So to me jazz is very much relevant, perhaps the most it has been in a very long time.
And on that note (although written very shortly here), here 's something Sonny Rollins said, don't know when or where, I found this link at the NANA jazz forum in israel. It was posted by Barak Weiss, the moderator of the forum who's also a great festival director. I hope you like it-
"I think that the relevance of jazz depends on what you think jazz is. For instance, if you think that jazz is a piano trio playing in a small nightclub — they're good musicians, maybe have a girl singer — and you come in and there are people smoking and sitting at tables … if that is your conception of jazz then of course jazz is not relevant, because that refers to a time and place. Jazz is something which is much bigger. Jazz has to do with freedom of expression. So is jazz still relevant? Of course, because there are always people trying to express themselves in music. I think of jazz as having the big umbrella, so that a lot of styles of music that have merged over the years all fall under the umbrella of jazz. The act of trying to create something musically and spontaneously is something that is a part of life. It's like the weather — it's always there. Jazz as something that fits into a narrow little remembrance, no, that kind of jazz is not relevant. But jazz is as relevant today as the yearning for people to be free. That's how relevant jazz is"
Hope this makes you think a bit about this. How relevant is this music to your life?
Old and Dramatic, but maybe worth it
I've written this a few months ago. I was thinking about blogs and stuff and thought it's about time i post something here....
I've written a few posts in Hebrew, published elsewhere, that i will translate to English and post here soon, but until then- here's something. It's really dramatic, much more then it should be looking back on those events, but at the time, being drunk, i was actually scared a bit, so that might explain it. Hope you like it, or that it will make you think a bit...
It's a blessing and a curse.
I've learned something tonight. I understood it. Can't tell you exactly what or how, but it happened.
I've been loved by a friend tonight, and i loved a friend back tonight.
I've admitted weaknesses to a friend tonight. I've said thanks to a friend tonight.
A friend was there for me tonight. I hope i was there for my friends as well.
I've loved with silence tonight. Realizing sometimes it's not my time or place to try to mend things.
I've loved with silence tonight. Thinking of this girl i still love, but cannot be with.
I've seen a loving couple tonight. Angry but hugging, loving without saying a word.
I've seen friends part tonight. Standing at a crossroad, leaving for different paths.
I've seen friends fight tonight. Loving each other for a long time, acknowledging differences.
Parting in a terrible way tonight. Drunk and fighting, angry at each other. Hurting.
It wasn't my place to take sides. But i did what i could tonight.
I've grown up tonight. realizing the path that needs to be walked to reach a goal.
I've grown up tonight. Realizing that things can get ugly.
I've grown up tonight.
I've learned about myself tonight.
I've seen a girl with no make up on. She was not made up for anyone but herself.
I've seen the best friends punching each other. and one was able to walk away.
I've seen a friend stopping a fight. Being mature enough to understand they need him.
I've seen a friend being hurt tonight. Betrayed by someone he loves.
I've seen myself tonight. through all of this.
I've remembered why i want to be a musician tonight.
i've remembered what is it that i want to say.
i've remembered how i want to say it.
I've learned something tonight.
It's a blessing and a curse.