What is your purpose in life? What and how do you dream? Are you satisfied with your circumstance in life? These are all questions that we ponder or have pondered from time to time. Sometimes, we are certain of these answers and at other times we are as perplexed as the universe is vast. From time to time, I will include words of encouragement and inspiration to help provide you the reader and myself the author the fuel to dream. As long as you have breath in your body, you can dream.
A bit about me… At a very early age I had a burning passion to be a musician and a flyer. Most children will tell you that they want to be many things when they grow up and this changes depending on the day of the week. I was a bit different; I was steadfast and determined to be a music star and a pilot.
I grew up in the 70’s when talent dictated success, no talent no deal. If you could sing, play or dance, you had a chance. Combine that talent with hard work, a bit of luck and an unstoppable desire to succeed and voilà, you were on your way. Bands had lots of amazingly incredible working musicians. I remember hearing Isaac Hayes around age 7 at the Overton Shell in my hometown, Memphis, TN. He had a full orchestra with violins, horns and a spellbound audience. At the risk of sounding like an era snob, I will say that today’s talent pool of popular music is more about entertainment than it is melodies, love and skill. Music should be something felt, something that leaves the listener with an experience that enriches the soul. This is why I love just about every genre of music. There is no formula; if it speaks to me then I connect.
In those times, television had real musicians. I still think about and hum melodies from all of those great shows, Perry Mason, The Carroll Burnett Show, Welcome Back Kotter, The Odd Couple, Too Close for Comfort, Baretta, Taxi, Family Ties, Sanford & Son, Night Court, The Tonight Show Band, Chico and the Man, Saturday Night Live. I can’t even begin to do this list justice, because it’s just too long, but you get the idea. If you were a horn player, there was work. Even the number of production plays with full orchestras has dwindled.
Napster & The PC
If you are old enough, you will remember wax records and 8-track tapes. You would have to physically drive to the record store, which there were plenty of back then, and buy the entire album, if is wasn’t sold out. Sometimes there would only be one good song on the album and you paid $10 back then for it, which was a lot of money. You couldn’t listen until you got home and put it on the record player until the advent of the 8-track tape player. Along with the 8-track came portability. Now, you could listen to your favorite music in the car. The Floaters sticks out in my memory as a kid in the back seat of my step-dad’s 1976 green Ford LTD, with the lyrics cutting through the shag speakers, “…hi my name is Larry…”. Artists in those days were wealthy if they had a good contract and lots of record sales. People couldn’t pirate their music and the industry was thriving. Bands were large with huge horn sections, background vocalists and did not dependent upon smoke and mirrors. People were entertained by composition, melodies with intervals, character and personality. Unfortunately, the industry is in a state of flux as a whole. The revenue stream has become a difficult venture.
Increasingly, venues are asking musicians to “pay-to-play”. Before television, entertainment was radio and live performances. Nightclubs across the country hosted amazing live acts nightly. Musicians could virtually find work anywhere and at anytime. They were not only able to hone their skills by playing all night, but they could pay rent. Now even the best musicians have to “supplement” by teaching at universities, film scoring or other creative ways to generate income. I can’t begin to imagine how many great musicians missed their calling because of the career choices.
Jazz & Culture
I’ll take another risk. I am not a “jazz snob”, but I am extremely passionate about the art form and cultured experiences. We now live in a society were reality T.V. catapults people with no talent into stardom. Great music doesn’t necessarily dictate a record deal or even a spot on the radio. Mastering an instrument and art form takes decades and even then, there is no end. The greats recognize(d) that and this is why they are great. The paradox lies in the work and reward. Our society as a whole now seems to not truly respect the efforts of the great musicians of our time. It is not uncommon for a jazz festival to have only 10% of their billing contain true jazz artists. This is not to say that jazz is the only great genre, it’s just making the point that if you are going to bill a festival as a jazz festival, why not have at least half of the acts feature jazz groups? The answer is simple. Economics. Booking agents know that if they have only jazz artists, their bookings will go down. As a result, they “protect” their business by booking more mainstream artists. This ensures a certain turnout and allows a certain return on their venture. In my opinion, this has gotten out of hand. It is rare now that you find a true jazz festival. Personally I’m okay with the mainstream artist, it is variety. However, I would say that 2/3 of the show should be jazz artists.
As cliché as it sounds, it’s true, jazz is the only true American art form. Our country should rally around these musicians and support them. This is why I am starting my own KickStarter campaign soon to fund my next project. I also want to be instrumental, pun intended, in helping to reintroduce jazz to the public. I truly believe that people just haven’t been exposed enough to great jazz. We are bombarded with music that we are forced to listen to by the powers to be.
More to follow…
Keep your eyes and ears open for more blogging soon…