Friday, July 18, 2008

A New Direction (almost) - Courtesy of Miles

My highs a couple of weeks ago living in the bubble of Jazz Camp came crashing down with a healthy dose of reality when I came home. I'm still saddled with limited talent on a difficult instrument trying to play a complex genre that nobody really cares about anymore.

During this whole time I've been reading Miles Davis' autobiography Miles. It just happened that, while I was at jazz camp, he was telling me about his days with Bird and Diz and about recording my favorite Miles album, Kind Of Blue. But Miles didn't stand still. By the time Kind Of Blue came out, he had already moved on to something else. He seemed to have been like that throughout his career.

When I got to the last sections of the book, he was complaining about how everyone wanted him to play "that old shit." But he refused to play it anymore because he felt that everything was said that needed to be said with the music, and that the world had moved on and he did too.

This got me thinking. Yes, I love listening to jazz. This, of course, makes me want to play it. But the reality is that I will never be able to play it at more than a rudimentary level. I just don't have the time available for that kind of intense study. And that's ok. As Miles stated, it's all been said already.

I promised myself some time ago that if I ever started playing again, I would not play music I don't like or don't listen to. So what else do I listen to? Well, my guilty pleasure is hair metal from the 80's, but I don't want to play that. I've done that before. I also love the music of the 70's that always seem so much larger than life: Queen, ELO, Rush. And let's not forget the true rock of the 70's: Led Zep, The Who, AC/DC, Kiss, VH.

So where does that leave me? Well, I ain't quite worked that part out yet. I was thinking it'd be cool to play in a cover band playing music from the bands mentioned above. I don't know that Queen and ELO get touched on much at the local bars, but I could be wrong. But, that doesn't really agree with Miles' philosophy; I'm just trading standards from the 50's for standards from the 70's. The only difference being that I have a connection to the music from the 70's and can actually play it. Maybe it's a combination. Find people with similar tastes, learn some covers together, then start writing our own.

My compass is wobbly, but at least it's moving.


Marvin Forte said...

My advice is to find something your passionate about and just do it. Don't worry about whether it's been done or not. Don't worry about how proficient you are at it, that will come. Just make sure it's something that makes you happy and you'll be OK, ;-)

MrMac said...

I agree with Marvin. Continue with your studies, play as often as you can (and as many styles as you can) and things will "fall in place."

Bass Is Life said...

I do plan to continue playing the upright, but I think I need to stop concentrating on playing jazz on the upright. It's hard enough just learning how to get around on the thing without throwing myself into the foreign land of jazz.

I'm trying to incorporate electric back into my practicing. And my thinking is that, once I find some people of a similar mind, I can incorporate both electric and upright into whatever we're playing. I did this some with the Intolerables.

matt the bass player said...


it's your fault i'm playing again...if you hadn't have suggested that i check out craigslist to find a band needing a bassist, i would still be playing alone in my secluded basement studio...and while i don't want to be forced to play anything that i don't want, and while playing covers doesn't fully satisfy the creative songwriter that i have inside, playing in cover bands is giving me the opportunity to rediscover the joy of making music that i stifled for nearly 25 years...between the rigors of running my own small business, dealing with middle school daughters and their respective bullshit, and maintaining a relationship with my wife, playing music is my only sanctuary...i'm the closest to anything "divine" when i'm playing's my what if i'm playing covers from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's? it's all about creating more joy in your own experience...however you can achieve that is fine with me...anyone who knocks you for doing something that gives you joy should just pucker up and kiss your ass!

Bass Is Life said...

Well, as it turns out, I may not be ready for this new direction after all. I just can't stay away from moves me too much. More than anything else I listen to. And damn it, I just need to keep on trying. I know I'll never be great at it, but if I can hold my own I'll be alright.

the browndogs said...

you'll always be alright by us tom. the browndogs.