Hey, This Is Nice!

DB1408-62_risingstar_tptI am under no illusions that the Down Beat Critics Poll is an absolutely objective affair where artistic merit is the only factor (how would you even do that?)—so I absolutely am not getting the idea that I am in the “top” (whatever that means) 20 non-famous (“jazz famous,” that is) trumpeters out there (since I can think of several even within a few square miles of here who regularly kick my butt all over the bandstand), but still—this is nice!

What I take it to mean is that at least a few people (somewhere between 5 and 27) who know this music very well remembered who I am, and that they enjoyed my playing, when filling out their polls—which in this day of hundreds of jazz records released every month is not something I take for granted.

However, I have to say that I’m pretty sure two very big factors contributing to my cracking this list for the first time were:

  • I released two albums in two years; and
  • I hired a very good publicist to promote them.

I know there are many outstanding trumpeters out there who either didn’t release as frequently, or weren’t able to hire someone to bug reviewers to seek them out in the deluge, and they’re at a disadvantage. The whole publicity discussion is one for another time, but I’ve made my peace with the fact that even though a good publicist can encourage a reviewer to dig through his or her overflowing inbox and give a particular album a spin, it doesn’t guarantee the reviewer will like it.  (As a few reviews I could’ve done without can demonstrate.)

That said, I’m absolutely glad the critics remembered me (even though my last record came out way back in February—practically the stone age!), and I’m especially glad to see so many deserving friends, teachers & colleagues—Evan Francis! Dayna Stephens! Maria Schneider! Reggie Workman! Satoko Fujii! Donny McCaslin! Ben Goldberg! Howard Wiley! Kirk Knuffke! Jacob Garchik! Mike McGinnis!—showing up elsewhere in the poll.  I hope we all get more gigs!

(P.S. For an interesting and very detailed breakdown on how one voter approached the ballot, read this.)

2 thoughts on “Hey, This Is Nice!”

  1. Ian,

    Congrats on that. These polls are a strange beast indeed and I think releasing CD’s and having a publicist really help a lot. The other thing is touring either on your own or with a larger name. It seems like the old model was to get a gig with someone more famous but now that there aren’t as many gigs we all need to launch ourselves which takes $$ more than anything, I think. I always take these things with an extreme grain of salt because I can look at categories of instruments I don’t play and see many, many examples of choices that don’t line up with my own tastes. In fact, most of the players that have inspired me and who’s records I listen to never end up at the top. I think my tastes and what inspires me are just quite different from the majority of the critics who vote.

    All that being said, whatever can enable us all to make more music and play for more people is a good thing whether it lines up with my own musical orientation or not.

  2. Thanks Mike, congrats to you too! I did neglect to mention that there are definitely still people badass enough that they are able to get attention based on their music alone, but that number is dwindling (and if you’re badass AND can hire a publicist…).

    A more disturbing question is whether the ratio of promotional dollars (publicity, radio, photos, etc.) to musician earnings (whether that’s recording or performance wages) ever actually approaches 1:1. I unfortunately have to admit I’ve lost money on every record I’ve made (which would be one thing back in the days when the record companies footed the bill, but now…). Just recently I had to laugh at a photographer who quoted me a figure for a half day session that would’ve been over half of the budget for my entire album. (I didn’t begrudge her asking for what she felt she was worth, but I also wondered if she’d misread my email and was under the impression I was a lost Rothschild heir looking for a wedding photographer, or maybe Wynton Marsalis.)

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