Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

  • What They Taught Me: Bill Kirchner

    Date: 2012.10.04 | Category: Thoughts | Response: 3

    Reading Ethan Iverson’s long, detailed interview (does he do any other kind?) with saxophonist-composer-arranger-author Bill Kirchner got me thinking about the valuable things I got out of the arranging class I took with Kirchner, which in turn got me thinking about all the myriad lessons I’ve learned from many teachers/players/friends over the years, and BOOM! A new blog feature idea was born.

    So I hereby inaugurate a new semi-regular gig in which I’ll talk about some lessons I’ve learned from a variety of people–some of whom I studied with directly, some I shared the bandstand with, some I hassled for a few minutes in a club, and probably even some who died before I was born. Partly I want to do this to pay tribute to these people and give credit where it’s due, but also I think it’ll be a good way of thinking about my own development, how I got here (wherever “here” is), and maybe reminding myself of advice I may have forgotten, and which might be worth a second look.

    So I’ll go with Bill first since he indirectly gave me the idea.

    Lesson #1: There Is Some Very Happening Music Out There You Don’t Know About
    It is shocking to me to realize, but there was a time I didn’t know who Jimmy Giuffre was. He was just one of the musicians and writers whose records later became touchstones in my development which I was introduced to in Bill’s class. I heard Denny Zeitlin, Johnny Mandel (Bill played us a version of “The Song is You” which felt like the musical equivalent of falling in love with a beautiful woman who then punches you in the brain), Bill Holman, Bill Russo, Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto, and many others for the first time, and I remember he really got us beyond “Wow, man” and into thinking about how they did what they did. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 16 Easy Ways for Jazz to Build Its Audience and Remain Relevant

    Date: 2012.05.24 | Category: Thoughts | Response: 19

    Stuff like this can really help.

    Once again, the Jazz/BAM internet is abuzz–abuzz, I tell you!–with opinions on how the music can grow its audience and remain a culturally relevant art form in the 21st Century. Well, I’m happy to say they’re all wrong! Musicians and fans, just follow these few simple steps, and before you know it, Jazz will be partying like it’s 1959!

    • Provide iPods at every gig so audience members can listen to their own choice of music during the show
    • Bring contemporary audiences in by covering tunes by hot new pop bands like like N’SYNC, The BeeGees, and Scott Joplin
    • Have the band begin the set naked, and offer to put on one piece of clothing each time someone claps
    • Three words: ZOMBIE LOUIS ARMSTRONG
    • Play more standards
    • Take advantage of social media platforms by limiting your solos to 140 notes or less
    • Build a “Jazzyland” theme park in Orlando, featuring thrilling attractions like Sun Ra’s ArKoaster, the GraviTrane, the Tilt-A-Wayne, Jazz Argument! (with Animatronic WyntonBot), Keith Jarrett’s FLIP-OUT! and the Bitches Brew Album Cover House of Horrors, plus exclusive shopping at The Ahmad JaMall and a hot dog stand run by Anthony Braxton
    • Reinvigorate jazz by incorporating elements of rock, hiphop, Salsa, polka, Bluegrass, Tango, Death Metal, Tibetan throat-singing, New Wave, Death Bluegrass, Drum and Bass, Drum and Bass and Mariachi, Thrash Electro-Industrial Housegrass, anything with tubas, the “Dukes of Hazzard” Theme, jazz, and Paul Anka
    • Get every jazz group in the world to play nothing but “Misty” for the next year, over and over, just to cure people of wanting to hear that fucking song (Next year: “When the Saints”)
    • Accrue thousands of dollars in debt getting a degree in jazz from an accredited educational institution–once people learn how qualified you are, they’ll have no choice but to buy your CDs!
    • Book non-jazz acts to headline every major jazz festival in the U.S. for several years, until audiences forget what jazz is–just kidding, that would never happen!
    • Play fewer standards
    • Make the music more palatable to a wide audience by avoiding unpopular elements like improvisation, swing, acoustic instruments, “blue notes,” syncopation, harmony, melody, and rhythm
    • Save yourself the time and effort of practicing by just running “Kind of Blue” through the house speakers while your band pretends to play
    • Start an island colony to raise a new jazz audience from childhood in isolation, exposing them solely to the highest quality of musical influences; watch them grow into passionate and knowledgeable listeners, only to see it all go to hell when a crate of Justin Bieber CDs washes up on shore
    • Stop playing all that noodly stuff–people hate that.
  • New York: Jazz Mecca, Economic Hell, Talent Sap?

    Date: 2011.01.20 | Category: Thoughts | Response: 5

    Over at Mostly Music, bassist Ronan Guilfoyle has some really insightful thoughts about the joys and challenges of the New York jazz scene, its impact on players there, and the repercussions on the US jazz scene as a whole of having such an overwhelming percentage of the country’s best musicians in one place. Since I agree with pretty much all of it, I’m going to just present a big excerpt:

    On the one hand there’s an extraordinary concentration of great musicians in a very small area, making for a hothouse creative atmosphere and an abundance of players on every instrument who play on a very high level… On the minus side it has to be said there are just far too many musicians in New York for it to make any sense on an economic level. … The abundance and availability of musicians and the lack of places to play drives the price musicians can charge for NY gigs down to below subsistence levels. … A lot of the New York musicians I know work in (often menial) day jobs that have nothing to do with music, and the reality for them is that they’re not going to get out of that situation anytime soon.

    Been there, done that. It’s the biggest reason I left after 8 years–it was painful to be surrounded by so much creativity and yet be so burnt out by a demoralizing but necessary day job that I had very little time or energy left for the music. But that’s not the only problem:

    As a jazz scene New York reminds me of one of those huge edge of town malls that arrives in an area and sucks all the economic life out of the high streets of any town within 50 miles of it. Nearly the entire US scene is based there, and this ‘gotta go to New York’ mentality means that it’s almost impossible for a regional scene to hold on to its good players. They in turn all arrive in New York where they have to scuffle and jostle for financial crumbs. … Let’s imagine that say 30 players of every instrument were to leave NY tomorrow and go back to their home cities and expend their energy there and develop their own scenes there, how much healthier would both those regional scenes be and how much better economically would the New York scene be for giving the musicians there a little more economic room to breathe?

    I think this does happen to an extent–here in the Bay Area, for example, there are players coming and going from New York all the time, largely for the reasons he mentions above: going there to learn and test their mettle, coming back to have more time for music and feel like a human being again. But as much as I like it here, and know there are great players, how are we supposed to keep good musicians in town when all the clubs are closed and DJs have most of the gigs? Jam sessions are fun (here, I mean–New York, not so much) but they don’t pay, not even for the house band.

    I also think he has a point about a higher level of musicians creating a better scene–I firmly believe that having bad jazz played in public is bad for jazz (since any given performance a passerby witnesses is likely to be his only exposure to jazz that year, and if it’s bad, that person will be lost as a potential fan). Of course, you have to play bad jazz before you can play good jazz, and I wouldn’t suggest developing players not be out there working through their shit–just that if there isn’t plenty of good stuff to show people the music’s potential (because most of the best players have already left for NYC, for example), then locals won’t be inclined to go to jazz shows and the scene will wither.

    Anyway, lots of food for thought. Anyone agree/disagree? Ideas to rectify this other than (as Guilfoyle jokes) “forced repatriation”?

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