Tag Archives: Links

Links: Another Thing I Do Instead of Practicing

Some of you may know that in addition to playing the trumpet, writing music, doing unnecessarily complicated illustrations for my CD, battling raccoons in my garden, and catching up on Japanese soap operas, I also sometimes waste time writing short internet humor pieces which may or may not provide minor amusement (and definitely do not provide even minor financial rewards).

Today I’ve got a new one up at McSweeney’s (everyone’s favorite way to spend 11 minutes procrastinating on the internet) called “I WILL Kick You Out of Bed for Eating Crackers“:

Listen, Kate Upton, we’ve been together for a while now, and while you are undeniably extremely attractive, and I would love to spend countless nights gazing longingly at your barely clothed figure here in our softly lit boudoir, the fact is I am going to have to go against my every instinct and kick you out of this warm, inviting bed.

Yes, because of the crackers.

You can read the rest here.

And in case you’re looking for more ways to make it to the weekend while doing as little work as possible, here are some other bits of mine they’ve previously kindly published:

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

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
  • 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 $@#*%! 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.

Pop-pocalypse Now?

The always-interesting Ronan Guilfoye has a great anti-pop music screed up today over at his site, Mostly Music. The gist:

This music… this sticky treacly manufactured international pop goo, whose sticky effusions have polluted the entire planet, springs from no culture other than money. It represents only the international corporate business behemoth that has taken the name ‘music’ into its title, despite having no interest in the concept of what music really is. It is unprecedented in human musical history – a music without any culture. A music without any message. And ultimately a music without any true humanity.

Tell us what you really think, Ronan!

Seriously, though–although I have a great fondness for this kind of crotchetiness, and I don’t like most of the music he’s talking about either, I have three objections to this critique:

  • This stuff is immensely popular and important to millions of (mostly) young people and serves as the anthems of their generation the same way that the popular music of your generation or mine did for us. YES, it’s shoved down their throats by multimedia conglomerates, but the fact is that people have access to a whole world of music, and a great plurality if not majority of them are choosing to listen to this, because it resonates with them. To deny the music’s humanity is to deny theirs, I think. And I would say there are millions of fully human, vibrant, intelligent young people in the world who nonetheless have crappy taste in music. (If you disagree, read this guy’s blog for a while. He writes incredibly intelligently about what does not, to my untrained ears, seem to be especially intelligent music. But that makes me think twice about writing it off!)
  • I’m pretty sure the major purveyors of music, art, and literature throughout history have pretty much never cared about quality as much as they have about capital (at least since the end of the patronage system). Singling out today’s pablum for special condemnation smacks of end-times-ism.
  • In spite of the incredibly annoying production values of most of today’s top 40, there are still plenty of catchy tunes out there being written by actual human beings. It makes me angry sometimes, since they’re so annoying, but I defy you to not get something like this stuck in your head. (And it even has a repeating modulation! Suck it, Jerome Kern!)

All that said, I really do think Auto-tune is going to ruin peoples’ ears for real singing, and I do think the globalization of pop is going to continue to weaken a lot of regional music (as globalization has in every other aspect of culture, as inexorable as that is).

Thinking about all this did make me think of my dad, however, who likes to respond to any overheard pop, hiphop, etc. by saying, “they’ve finally come up with music for people who don’t like music.” This from a guy who listens to Schoenberg!

Jazz According to G

Ted Panken (who I used to listen to on WKCR all the time) has a great new blog, which has already featured some gems–among them, this classic interview with Kenny G, in which Mr. G advances the curious claim that Charlie Parker was nicknamed “Bird” because his reed squeaked. The jazz Twitterverse jumped on this with a vengeance, and has since been abuzz with hundreds of other surprising #kennygjazzfacts. Arcane jazz-nerdery meets humorous lists? I’m there!

My contributions (so far) to the fact-fiesta:

  • They called Louis Armstrong “Pops” because he founded the Boston Pops, and ate Corn Pops, and had so many children.
  • They called the album “Kind of Blue” because Miles was suffering from hypothermia.
  • “Birdland” was actually named after the movie “The Birds” and Harold Land.
  • They call it the saxophone because the first one was actually made out of a phone.
  • “Take The A Train” was supposed to be either “Take The Train” or “Take A Train,” not both!
  • Few people know that “Songbird” was actually a reharmonization of “Ascension.”
  • Who knew that jazz would grow from its beginnings in David Lee Roth’s “Just a Gigolo” to become a worldwide phenomenon?
  • No family has done more for jazz than the Jones brothers–Elvin, Thad, Hank, Tom, James Earl, and Barnaby.
  • Coltrane called his tune “Giant Steps” in honor of Wilt Chamberlain’s feet.
  • Chick Webb was an inspiration to every chick with with webbed feet who dreamed of playing jazz.
  • Few people know that Herbie Hancock got his nickname because he Goes Bananas.
  • Jazz evolved in the late 1800s when rustic field hollers began to incorporate synth bass, DX-7s, and QuadraVerb.
  • WC Handy was such a big sports fan that he named his most famous composition after his favorite hockey team.
  • The word “jazz” was a common American slang term meaning “as exciting as basketball in Utah.
  • I used to think Charlie Parker was great, until I found out he was just reading all those solos out of the Omnibook.
  • Jelly Roll Morton changed his name because “Croissant Morton” sounded too fancy.
  • Coltrane took such long solos because he had lockjaw, which is how he got the nickname Eddie “Lockjaw” Coltrane.
  • King Oliver’s nickname came from his favorite movie, “Oliver!”
  • Joe Henderson wrote “Inner Urge” after waiting in an especially long line for the mens’ room.
  • Everyone knows Kenny G invented jazz, but few remember Wynton Marsalis invented classical music.

More of my questionable attempts at internet humor can be found here.

UPDATE: Some of my favorites from other folks:

  • Is that the “Jazz Masters Cemetery” up ahead? Good–pull-over. I gotta pee. (@AtmosTrio)
  • Tina Brooks is a huge influence on me, both as a saxophone player and as someone who constantly gets mistaken for a woman. (@keithflentge)
  • Trumpeter Booker Little was not only a librarian but a dwarf as well. His real name remains a mystery. (@peterhum)

And I’m grateful to WBGO for giving a shout out to this list! (I’d be even more grateful if they’d give my CD a spin.)*

*No really, why have I had more luck getting attention on the web by being funny than by playing jazz? Is the universe trying to tell me something?

New York: Jazz Mecca, Economic Hell, Talent Sap?

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”?