Friday, May 30, 2008

It Is To Me

My post the other day asked "Is Jazz Even Relevant?" This post was brought to you by my well documented depression. And now that I'm on the other side, I can answer that question.

It moves me. I listen to it and I want to play it. Nothing else I listen to these days does that for me. I still like the classic rock/metal of old, but very little of the new stuff strikes me as interesting. So, even if there's no one to hear me play, as long as I enjoy myself, that's what counts!

BTW - I thought briefly about just deleting that post, but it contained links to a couple of interesting articles, so I left it in tact.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is Jazz Even Relevant?

Or is it the musical equivalent of taking Latin in school?

A recent article on asked the question: Have bass solos ruined jazz? I found this article through a double bass player's email list. What surprised me most about the response was not "bass solos belong in jazz" or "jazz is not ruined", but "bass solos didn't ruin jazz...this did!" There were different theories on what ruined it and why it's no longer popular, mostly involving its evolution into something only other musicians can enjoy.

So why is it still played? Why do people study it in school?

Of course, the death of jazz does have its upside: Smooth Jazz RIP 1985 - 2008?

Friday, May 23, 2008

All That Jazz

I grew up listening to rock and, to a lesser extent, country. My dad liked Johnny Cash and my mom liked The Eagles. When I began to develop my own tastes in the mid '70s, I included such artists as Kiss, Queen, Elton John, Steve Miller Band, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Alice Cooper. I did work backwards a little toward The Who and Led Zeppelin. As I grew older, my tastes grew heaver: AC/DC, Metallica, Anthrax, Iron Maiden.

Then, in the late '80s, I met a drummer named Jim Paxson. His mother is pianist Sunnie Paxson, who at one point played with Stanley Clarke. He pointed me to Return To Forever and Weather Report. This completely changed my playing and the way I listened to music. Bass playing became important, and not just a way to meet chicks.

It didn't take me too long to begin working backwards from fusion. I began to listen to more traditional jazz and really appreciate the sound of the upright. Meanwhile, I was a frustrated bass guitarist because I just couldn't find my role. I toyed with the fretless for a time and enjoyed it, but it still felt like something was missing. Plus, I was listening to less and less electric jazz.

Now I find myself totally immersed in "traditional" jazz: bebop, hard-bop, post-bop, modern. I find it to be the ultimate form of musical expression. Don't get me wrong, I still like rock - the heavier the better. Not overly fond of anything that's being released today, but that's probably because I'm old. Jazz, to me, has it all: emotion, musicianship, feeling, etc. Plus, the bass is not relegated to doubling the guitar.

So here's the problem I'm facing: I want to play jazz, but jazz is all but dead. Now that the Columbus Music Hall closed, there's nowhere left in Columbus to listen to good jazz on a regular basis. So, even if I do manage to ever learn to play it, I won't have anywhere to play.

Another issue is this: I'm 44 years old. My background in jazz is limited to the last 5 years or so. The upright bass is a completely different beast from the bass guitar. Playing jazz takes knowledge and courage. Can I play it? I'm signed up again for the Summer Jazz Workshop, but that doesn't help with the courage.

Playing with the orchestra does help. And I do enjoy it. But it's not my goal. Jazz is my goal. I just hope there are people who care to listen when I reach it.