Saturday, June 19, 2010

I say...Pt. 2

So, Mr. Marsalis has clarified his point in an essay you can, and should, read here.
I have to say, that I agree with most of what he has to say. It's a shame that the rave that was uploaded was such a mis-representation. He really shouldn't have been at all surprised that a Marsalis raving about the state of Jazz today received so much attention.
As I mentioned in my original post, and Marsalis clarifies in this essay, the main issue is not odd-times, or whether the music is straight or swung, the main issue is about knowledge of a broad range of the history of music. Marsalis says:
"There’s information in Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Cecil Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Weather Report, Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, Genesis, Nirvana, Common, John Legend, just to name a few."
Personally, I agree with the notion of listening to music as diverse as this, so that you can be better informed in creating music.
Another interesting point here, though, is that I know musicians who are influenced by (comparatively) very few musicians, and make music that is just as strong, considered and powerful as anyone else.
Here we stumble into the debate, which many students seem to ask themselves, of "when do I just start to concentrate on developing my own thing?". This really a question without an answer, and one that borders on the irrelevant. You, simply, just do what you want to do, work on what you want to work on. If you're doing something you don't feel like doing, stop doing it. Back to the topic at hand though....
In his conclusion Marsalis makes two points. The first brings into the equation his personal bias. It has a place (he is a performing musician after all), but in as essay that seems to have been conceived to produce a kind of clearing-up-of-an-argument effect, it sticks out as unnecessary, and, similarly to the orginal video, political in motivation.
The second point he makes is that there needs to be an overhaul of the music education system. I'm sure it's more pronounced in the home of Jazz than here in Australia, and this is really a discussion for another time....
so long

Some links

Now there's no excuse for not knowing more than the Monk tunes contained in the real books....

A great, small, audio clip of Allan Browne, I love hearing this guy speak, about pretty much anything.

Here's some really great music by a guy who doesn't make enough records of his own...

Here's a link to some great resources, by a guy who definitely knows what he's talking about...

Here are a bunch of recordings you should definitely check out

Have fun.....

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I say.....

It is unfortunate when someone who at first appears quite articulate (visually and audibly) allows there argument to degenerate into generalisations and accusations at anonymous parties. Furthermore, the emotional intensity to which Jason Marsalis' diatribe builds to only serves to make him sound like an upset toddler who hasn't gotten his way. This results in an argument that is disjointed and ineffective. Granted, this video seems to be shot off the cuff, and without rehearsal (and maybe even without a clear thought process), but, seeing it seems to be doing the rounds, I thought I'd write something about it.
As an introduction and conclusion Mr. Marsalis emphasises 'playing for the people'. According to his argument, playing 'for the people' means playing 'standard tunes' that 'hundreds upon hundreds of people have.....sung along...and learned', say 'George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer' etc. etc.. It also means, at least I'm surmising this from what he goes onto say, that it does not mean playing in 'odd times' or playing 'straight rhythms' or 'playing chromatic solos'. At the closing of the video, Mr. Marsalis paints the picture of someone playing all of these things to (presumably) some lamen that is not 'getting it', and a bunch of other J.N.I. members who are cheering him on because of the technical achievements in the music.
Unfortunately for Mr. Marsalis, this argument is dealing with unsubstantiated generalisations. In the case of audience, it is unrealisitc and even arrogant to assume what audience members want to, and should, hear. An artist's job is to respect his craft. To explore and refine his or her conception and methodology. The artist should not allow himself to be affected by what he perceives to be consumable and fashionable. When we follow this road, we end up as people playing functional music and nothing else. The most obvious example of this in our society is the 'D.J.', who plays hits from whatever era that they know almost everyone will sing along to.
Rather, audience members are free to make their own mind up about a set of music, free from politics and competing ideologies. In fact, if I have a stab at some of the musicians who Mr. Marsalis is referring to, I know J.N.I. members are open to many, many different kinds of musics, (unlike, seemingly, our orator), who only wish to create music that is informed and highly crafted. They understand that experiencing music is just that.
When we consider this approach to music making, we can see how it contrasts with arrogance and bigotry presented in this clip.
What this speech really highlights for me though, is that some people's experience of creating music is about labels and politics, and others are concerned with something greater. It takes all kinds, from Art Blakey, who played the same style of music his entire career, to John Coltrane and Miles Davis, who were never willing to be bound but what 'should' be done. The key thing to remember here (and probably what Mr. Marsalis should be reminded of) is that it is not our place to judge peoples tastes, it is out place to make what we consider the best music possible.