Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jazz Today

Jazz Today.

Joel Frahm and Amy Cervini at the 55 bar(NYC) proving Jazz isn't dead.  It is just a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it.

I call this photo: "No one misses the early 2000's more than Kurt Rosenwinkel."

Another packed night at The Blue Note(NYC), one of the most famous Jazz Clubs in the world.

Here at the Zinc Bar(NYC) this big band puts on a performance for the wait-staff.

"Do we need to make a reservation at the Jazz Club tonight?" .."Nope." (Somethin' Jazz Club, NYC)

Sad Vijay decides to play anyway even when no one came to his concert.  Somehow he still got really good press coverage.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How to become a Successful Jazz Musician in 2015

Becoming a famous Jazz Musician today is harder than it's ever been before, since today Jazz is less popular and more widely hated than ever before.  Here are 6 simple tips that'll help you reach your goal of becoming a successful Jazz Musician in 2015! 

1) Alienate your audience
My #1 advice is to do as much as you can to alienate your audience.  Make them feel like you're not someone who could even be spoken to or approached.  I find an air of superiority is always quite useful.  One of the easiest way to go about this is to make sure you look down on everyone around you, including your peers.  Remember, people that are more successful than you are just 'sell outs' with no artistic integrity.  Also, look really disinterested at all times.  Treat everyone like this and they'll be thinking "who the hell is this guy?" in no time. 

Historically, Miles Davis did a great job of alienating the audience by refusing to acknowledge their very existence; playing with his back to them.  Today it's a little harder to maintain that distance while giving Jazz fans access to your life and opinions via social media.  I'd like to praise Nicholas Payton for doing a fantastic job at alienating the audience while maintaining an online presence with his blog.  By renaming Jazz into "Black American Music", he's alienated a whopping 85% of the audience; who are white.  He also does this brilliantly by accusing anyone and everyone of being racist, while maintaining white people have never added anything through the entire course of Music history.  I know for this reason I can't wait for his upcoming album "Fuck white people" to drop in late 2015. 

2) "You don't get it, you're not smart enough"
If people don't understand your music because you can convince them it's too complicated for them to understand, you're on your way to becoming a famous Jazz Musician.  One good way of doing this is to tell them your music is based on advanced math formulas.  Another way is to set up grooves that feel really disjointed and uncomfortable.  Jazz fans will be so busy trying to count and figure out the time signature and what the hell is going on that they won't realize the music totally sucks.  It's important to remember, your music doesn't need to actually sound good if you can convince people they're not smart enough to 'get it.'  Chances are, they'll pretend to like it or understand it anyway as a way to alienate their peers(see advice #1.)  Steve Lehman knocked it out of the park this year using this method, thus scoring #1 on NPR's "Critics choice best of 2014" list.  His website even has his graduate dissertation listed: "Liminality as a Framework for Composition: Rhythmic Thresholds, Spectral Harmonies and Afrological Improvisation." I have no idea what half of those words even mean. Bravo. A+

3) Selfies with Famous People 
it is important to be seen with other famous musicians as much as possible, to maintain the illusion of being important or seen as "Someone people should know about/Check out."   Jazz Fans will judge you off of those associations and project more relevance on you than you actually have.  Remember: Perception is reality… and reality doesn't actually exist in Jazz.  If you're seen with important or famous people, you're perceived as important by association.  Also, if you thought selfies were just for 14 yr old girls, WRONG.  Vijay Iyer has done some really excellent work with Selfies.  If you have to, go old school and have someone else take the photo if need be but make sure you post these photos excessively on every social media platform that exists.  Your stock will be rising in no time!

4) Finally it doesn't hurt to be a girl:
It is very important to have an old Jazz musician say you're good, so that the audience will also think so.  Remember, unless someone tells Jazz Fans you're good, you won't be considered good.  Jazz fans really dislike making up their own minds, that's far too much work.  And since everyone knows old Jazz Musicians are dirty pervs, being an attractive girl can really help you on your way.  Old Jazz musicians will just be so shocked there's actually a girl in the Jazz club, you don't even really need to be that attractive!  So if you're a girl, seek out an older pervy Jazz Musician to "Mentor" you.  I'm sure he'd love to give you a good "Mentoring."  (The best part is you don't even have to actually sleep with them, they'll just be so happy a girl is even talking to them)

5) The Soulful Path
Okay, so you're not an innovator, and probably haven't had an original thought in your life.  You can still become a famous Jazz musician.  You're going to want to adopt a southern accent, a soulful old timey persona and just go back to being as 'roots' as you can.  Talk about "The Tradition" as much as possible.  Bring up 'The Blues' until people start becoming annoyed with you.  Ignore any cultural, musical or societal changes that have occurred in the last 60 years.  Also, it's good to claim some obscure influences.  I recommend Harold Land, Carmell Jones, Booker Ervin, Hampton Hawes, Curtis Counce… you get the point; anyone no one's ever heard of.

6) Publicists
Regardless of your musical ability, you can still become a famous Jazz musician if you have enough money.  Unfortunately most people don't have enough money to afford a career in Jazz.  You'll just need the right publicist(there's actually only one.)  But if you can afford him, he will get your album to the critics and they might even actually listen to it(or they'll skim through it and put it on the 'best of 2015' list anyway.)

Best of Luck in becoming a  Famous Jazz Musician in 2015!!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Whiplash (Movie)


Whiplash is a movie about a weird socially awkward kid who wants to become a great Jazz Drummer, should be a perfect fit.  Most of the movie doesn't really make that much actual sense nor does it have any relation to Jazz, but the kid doesn't get laid throughout the entire movie, so that was pretty accurate as far as the Jazz life goes.  In fact, there aren't any female characters in the entire movie with the sole exception of his girlfriend, who only likes him before he mentions to her that he loves Jazz…and then they break up.

Anyway, the kid is practicing playing fast, since that's all that matters with regards to the drums, and he gets drafted by Fletcher, the asshole band director, to join the Varsity school Jazz band.  I use the term "Varsity," since there's not a single word mentioned about Art or originality throughout the film.  Jazz is treated like a bench-pressing competition.  Fletcher convinces the entire band that playing old corny charts will somehow make you a "Jazz Great", thus once again completely ignoring any thoughts on how literally every "Jazz Great" brought something new to the table.  The one thing I agree with Fletcher on is that the band does suck.  They play shitty high school charts throughout the entire film.  The best part of the big band is that I'm pretty sure most "Jazz Greats" wouldn't have made it in the group.  Charlie Parker would have been thrown out for chirping his reeds, Miles Davis for lack of technical master, Coltrane for questionable tuning and Monk for ..well, just being a weirdo.

The kid does better in the band, gets berated, practices, and eventually scores a big gig with the group.  On the way to the gig he gets in a terrible car accident, is literally covered in blood and still makes the gig…but because he has a concussion(and is covered in blood and glass) he fucks up and then Fletcher makes fun of him.  The kid loses it and attacks Fletcher and thus gets thrown out of the band.  Apparently Fletcher is such a dick that he doesn't care that the kid is literally covered in blood at the gig..somehow that's not a good enough excuse.

So next, the kid testifies (secretly) in court that Fletcher is a dick and so Fletcher gets fired.  Soon after the kid quits the drums and is walking around the streets of NYC when he sees Fletcher playing at a club.  Fletcher is playing the lamest bossa nova I've ever heard in my life at a shitty Jazz club and we realize that THIS is apparently what it is to be a success in Jazz.  THIS is the dream the kid has been chasing.  I think this is the moment that the audience realizes that Fletcher has no idea what it even means to be a great artist, since he's convinced that playing old standards somehow makes you "One of The Greats."

Fletcher talks to the kid about how his being a dick was to bring out the best in the students, then he invites the kid to play at a big Jazz festival.  The kid agrees.  <<cue practice montage>> ..(it's like the training montage from Rocky, only much much lamer.)  The kid shows up to the festival and it's a packed house(they must have bused in the senior citizens.)  One of my favorite lines of the film occurs when Fletcher tells the band before the show that all the important people in Jazz world are in the audience and that this is how Lincoln Center picks new talent.(apparently someone didn't tell him that people get all those gigs from being close friend with people already in the band.  Skip the shed and hit the bar with guys who have the gigs you want.  Also, new talent??  That band has had the same people for the past 20 years!)  

Right before they play Fletcher whispers to the kid that he knows he testified against him and got him fired, then he calls out a song that the kid hasn't ever played before in order to make him look like a dick.  The kid eats shit on the tune and storms off stage, has a quick cry and then comes back to show Fletcher what's up.  He calls off the tune he practiced and plays super duper fast.  Fletcher is surprised and impressed and feels vindicated for his dickhead behavior.  The kid finishes his drum solo and the audience is silent…probably because like most Jazz audiences they have no fucking idea what's going on at all times.  If you're at a Jazz show you just wait for other people to clap and then you clap too.

My biggest take-away is the totally misguided nature illustrated by all the characters in the film.  I suppose the movie inadvertently does a pretty good job at pointing out how little emphasis there is on creativity or originality in Jazz school and how misguided the kid is in thinking copying someone like Buddy Rich will somehow make him one of "The Greats" and help him will become remembered in the Jazz lineage.  Too bad history forgets copy-cats.  I'd say most of all the movie does the best job a portraying a certain futility… and after all, isn't that what Jazz is all about?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Christian Scott - Atunde Adjuah

I've decided to do this review as I listen to the record, like a live-blog. Wanted to keep it super real that way, cause Christian Scott is just so goddamn real too,  Let's do this!

So the album kicks off with Christian just rippin' a solo, and he's in deep from the first beat of the song…no need for foreplay, Christian knows what you're here for.  He knows you don't give a shit about a melody so he's not gonna waste your time playing one.  He's Christian fuckin' Scott, and you're here to listen to him blow his favorite trumpet lick over and over, so that's what he's gonna give you.  Now that drummer is just hitting whatever cymbals and shit he's got! I wanna rock!…oh wait.. now everyone suddenly stopped… just the guitar player alone now, figuring out what chords he knows that he's probably gonna use later in the song, he's going through thinking "Okay, got that one, and this other chord I could use, check" ..everyone is just kinda letting him have a second to figure it out aaaaaaAND they're rocking again!!…I'm so amped up now I'm moshing in my apartment! I just punched a hole in the wall ARRRRRGGG!!   Someone get me a GODDAMN Beer!!  I slam it and crush the can against my forehead!  Christian playing his favorite lick again!!  Give it to me brother!  Now they transition to some sort of other section…still no sign of a melody, cause fuck it, who needs that!?  Rip me some more trumpet!!  Where's that lick at??

Okay, on the second track now…um, kinda sounds a lot like the first track.  Christian back in rippin' his trumpet lick.  He knows you didn't get enough of it on the last track..so he's gonna give it to you again.  Still no melody..cause who the fuck needs one of those! Okay, there's that lick again…not as cool as the first dozen or so times, but okay.  It's fine.  I mean, how many licks does one player need? Okay, there it is again.  I need a youtube break this lick is getting old real fast.

Shit, just found this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N5zLS_o6-c) where Christian Scott talks about how much he loves playing his lick.  He's got one, how many do YOU have?? …Zero. That's what I thought.  A good Jazz Musician only really needs ONE lick anyway.  Okay, I've decided I'm going to play "The Christian Scott Drinking Game"; every time Christian plays his lick I'm gonna take a shot of whiskey…should make this album, which has quickly become pretty fucking annoying and repetitive, a lot more tolerable.

Okay, I made it through two more songs and I'm fucking hammered.  The drinking game was a bad idea..I know this now.  Fuck this album.  Fuck that goddamn lick.  Can't come up with anything else?!?  Ugh, taking another shot of whiskey.  I'm only on track 5 now…sounds pretty much identical to the first, second, third and forth.  Still no melody.  Another shot of whiskey.  Christian Scott knows you'd probably like a melody at this point or something...anything.. it's long overdo ..but he's not gonna give it to you, he's Christian fuckin' Scott..he doesn't have time for that shit.  Oh dear god, I just realized this is a double album…. I'm fucked.  Why on earth would you record a DOUBLE Jazz album?!? Especially when you've only got one song and one lick?!?

Okay taking a break to watch some youtube interviews.  Did you know Christian Scott fucking INVENTED the trumpet he plays?? That's right, apparently he's an engineer or some shit, knows metal-smithing, tooling.  I assume he does since he never mentions or gives anyone else credit for those things.  Did you know Christian Scott INVENTED 'The whisper technique'?  That's where you drop your jaw, relax your embouchure and let a little more air into your sound.  Christian Scott probably taught that shit to Clifford Brown, and Ben Webster and all those guys.(I assume he probably also INVENTED a time machine. Badass.)  Did you know that Christian Scott INVENTED a new style of music?  Apparently it's that one song he keeps playing and it's called 'Stretch music', it doesn't matter that I heard about this 'Stretch music' thing way before Christian Scott ever mentioned it…cause Christian Scott INVENTED that shit…cause that's what he said.  Ugh, give me another shot of whiskey, he played that lick again, I feel nauseous … thank god for auto-correct, because I'm completely plastered.


I just woke up, it's 3 hours later, I passed out(blacked out) briefly from that entire bottle of whiskey I drank while playing that stupid "Christian Scott drinking game."  My head hurts, but I seemed to have slept through the entire second disk.  Saved from having to actually listen to that, thank god.  I'll take the hangover over having to actually get through the second disk.  I'm going to bed, I'm going to feel terrible tomorrow morning.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Ambrose Akinmusire - The Imagined Savior is Far Easier to Paint

So I decided I'd start doing some record reviews since people seem to like my thoughts about Jazz.

Because I refuse to actually purchase a Jazz album, I found Ambrose Akinmusire's new record available to stream free online since he's who the Jazz press seem to be pushing at the moment.  His new record is called 'The imagined Savior is far easier to paint' and it's on Blue Note records, a label that actually sold albums about 60 years ago.  I guess he's supposed to be the 'Jazz Savior' referenced in the title, even though in all the interviews I've seen he's refused to explain the title at all(classic pretentious Jazz move, love it.)  So if you go into the album thinking he's the 'Jazz savior' in question that will be your first of many disappointments.

The album starts out with them sound checking which I thought was pretty cool; Ambrose kind of noodling around and the piano player just kinda doing whatever…then after about 2 and a half minutes or so I realized that this was actually supposedly a song.  Shit, it's gonna be really tough getting through this whole album.

Next up they play a tune called "As we Fight."  Pretty sure there's zero chance of me getting this melody stuck in my head, which is nice since I don't like to have Jazz stuck in my head anyway.  It sounds like Ambrose is still figuring out how to play the changes of his own song, that's a cool Jazz thing musicians do….they like to keep it fresh that way by not rehearsing.  Mistakes are cool in Jazz even though mistakes are mistakes to the rest of us.  They all go around taking turns soloing…I get bored and fast forward ahead…I mean, you didn't actually expect me to really listen to this whole thing, did you?

After this comes a song called "Our Basement(ed)"..which I guess is about getting a shitty education in a basement or something since 'basement' isn't actually a verb and thus can't be put in the past tense.  "I had a great weekend, I spent it basementing" :/  Anyway, this song has Becca Stevens on it, she's singing about a homeless man or something.  It would make sense that a Jazz musician would feel so bonded to the homeless, after all they're really just one step away.  Ambrose continues to desperately try to find any note that fits the chord they're playing.  He fails.  The tracks ends with Ambrose and Becca doing some weird quasi-sexual moans…I say quasi because I'm more confused than aroused.

It's about this time that I get kind of bored listening and go onto Amazon.com to see how many used copies are on sale.  "47 like new" and "15 used." ..I love it when critics and press folks sell all the free promotional albums they get.  Gotta make SOME money off this shitty Jazz biz, right?!?

The next few tracks kinda blend together.  The guitar player sounds like every jazz guitar player I've ever heard, I'd include his name but I don't care enough to look it up.  Ambrose takes the same exact solo a couple more times in case you hadn't gotten sick of it yet.  I get bored and check my email.  Ambrose does a pretty sweet impression of a dolphin on 'The Beauty of dissolving portraits", so there's that.  Then Theo Blackman shows up for a track.  I get suspicious and google-search him, he's white. Talk about false-advertising.  More rubato simmering…endless rubato simmering.

yada yada .. bass solo you can't expect me to actually listen to… yada yada .. more rubato simmering .. yada yada…some generic "soulful" singing by someone else who apparently wandered into the studio that day.  Really trying hard to get through this thing.  Next shit gets really weird when a baby shows up to read a bunch of names.  I'm not even joking, that's actually an entire track.  Then there's a little pause while they re-tune the piano and trumpet…wait, this might be a song…impossible to tell..