Viewing: Encouragement - View All Posts

A FEW THOUGHTS ON JAZZ & COMPETITION 

To my ears, “Jazz Competition” is an oxymoron. 

We’re going to have a contest to see who can be the most vulnerable? The most sensitive or sincere? 

To find out who among us can best lay bare our soul and play from the heart?

Every year on tour I hear dozens of excellent high school groups, all over the country, investing hours of rehearsal time, polishing the same Duke Ellington charts in preparation for the annual Jazz Hunger Games. 

While it’s gratifying to witness Duke’s music being disseminated so widely, I wonder if these young musicians might be better off exploring a larger repertoire of sounds and styles, learning to sight read, listen and improvise.

Of course, there is such a thing as “healthy competition” in the arts. Setting challenges and overcoming them is how we improve.

Competitive, however, is not the correct mindset for quality music-making. This art form is interactive. It’s about listening and openness. Conversation, not competition. ​


Personally, I don’t feel that I’m in competition with other artists. I’m competing with Netflix, spectator sports, video games, social media and all the other distractions that vie for your leisure time, attention and dollars. 

I welcome opportunities to work alongside and learn from my betters. I always try to surround myself with talents greater than my own. Art Farmer said “if you’re the smartest cat in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” 

One time Nicholas Payton dropped by my gig in San Francisco and schooled me on a ballad. It was like a ten-minute graduate seminar on understatement and grace. 

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a tribute to one of my longtime heroes, Tom Harrell, along with Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Sean Jones, Johnathan Blake, and several other world class musicians, including the man himself, who has never sounded better. 

Everyone involved was more capable and experienced than I. It was humbling but thrilling. I learned a lot and felt nothing but love and support in the room. There was no vibe. Everyone was there for Mr. Harrell.

Wynton Marsalis says a cutting session is like a debate. And debates have their place, especially in the classroom. But wouldn’t you really rather have a conversation? 

Personally, I think cutting sessions are a drag. Everyone posturing, posing, showing off, going for house. The atmosphere of a cutting session is like a Michael Bay movie full of explosions. I usually end up resenting the audience for enjoying such tripe. 

Here’s a challenge: let’s play lower, softer, slower -- with intensity.

Let’s play more soulfully. 

Let’s just play.

RESOLUTIONS 


Practice Art Farmer improv method religiously.
Finish writing Jazz Noir material for 2016 recording.
Create and learn fresh DMG sets: 11 tunes, 2 original.
Pay health insurance first every month, no matter what. 
Walk or swim daily. Lose 5 pounds monthly, 60 by year-end.
Increase number of workshops nationally from 54 to 100.
Increase touring income by 20% while playing 20 fewer shows. 
Bump per gig average by 5% and increase total net income by 27%.
Eschew cynicism, laugh often and see the best in people.
When the time is right, get a dog!

 

 

 

Remembering Grant Wolf 

Dmitri Matheny, age 17
1983 NAU Music Camp

Stumbling across this ridiculous photo today (31 years later), I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for GRANT WOLF, who somehow was able to see past the silly clothes and cocky attitude, and steer this kid onto the right path to a beautiful life in music. Wolf was an inspiring teacher and was one of the first adults to take my jazz aspirations seriously. His encouragement was profoundly important to me at a critical time in my development.
I wish he were here so I could thank him.

Sassy's Spicy Hoppin' John! 

Sassy's Spicy HOPPIN' JOHN is almost ready!

Here at the Maricopa Cabana, Hoppin' John is one of the ways we celebrate the beginning of a New Year. Traditionally served with cornbread and greens (collard greens, mustard greens, chard, kale or cabbage), the main ingredients in this delicious winter dish are black-eyed peas, rice, chopped onion, country bacon (ham hock or fatback), green peppers and spices. Sassy always adds a little Arizona Gunslinger for an extra kick. Enjoy Hoppin' John on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity throughout the year.

Be sure to eat your fill: the peas represent coins, the greens are cash, and the cornbread, gold!

The Frugal Flugel Recommends: The Portable Travel Kitchen! 

The Frugal Flugel recommends the portable Travel Kitchen!
Find values online and make your own for less than $85:

1. RDT Travel Bag ($29.95 on Amazon.com)
2. Mini Hot Plate ($19.99 on Casa.com)
3. Portable 1.5 Cup Rice Maker & Warmer ($12.39 from Target)
4. Insulated French Press Coffee & Tea Mug ($.99 on Ebay)
5. Mess Kit ($4.99 on Rothco.com)
6. Flat Pocket Cutlery ($1.49 on Ebay)
7. Electric Kettle ($14.66 from Walmart)
Prepare thrifty meals and healthy snacks on the road.