Paris jazz

Fairly Wired – Skitter (video version)

The holiday season is just around the corner and I’m so glad I can share our new video with you all and give you something musical. I’m also very thankful that we have supportive friends helping out and throwing their creative talents into our band. Thank you my friends. You know who you are. Check out the video and share it if you like it!

 

Where it’s happening

 

Capture d_écran 2018-02-26 à 13.58.19

I woke up this morning (sure, around noon but I work nights, you know) and remembered a recent conversation with friends, which gives me a chance to drop a long overdue post on wellyouneedit. Ok, asked recently by longtime New Yorkers where to go hear some jazz in the Big Apple, I mentioned a few places, clubs and bars I’d heard of as well as the more hallowed historical venues. Ironically, I’ve never actually checked them out myself as I live in Paris, which also has its own jazz “scene”. So Smalls, Mezzrow, Fat Cat and the like are all pretty much good-sounding music fantasies in my mind, occasionally glimpsed on Youtube when nerding out on today’s musicians improvising after hours. To most people, including those who will half-heartedly admit they like “some jazz”, the music is mostly a defunct museum of long deceased people. Which is an interesting oddity as there are a lot more jazz musicians today worldwide than there were back in the golden age of jazz. The reasons they mostly fall off the radar of the cultural media are complex and difficult to pinpoint and I don’t want to get involved in this discussion.

However, I’d like to say this. The classic oneliner “jazz is at its best live” is still relevant today, and even more prominently I would say. In fact, it may be the only reason the music has survived and shape-shifted so much to this day. Because there is a slew of music lovers and performers committed to pushing the art form forward.

But going back to my New Yorker friends, I thought to myself, there is nothing really new about this. It’s always been hard to know where to go for good live music. Outside the well-advertised (not always advertised actually) top acts, catching a jazz show without anyone tipping you off can be challenging. You might see a familiar name in a leaflet or online magazine and decide to check them out, only to discover that the concert is cancelled or rescheduled. The music hides and its takes some tenacity to get anyone interested in looking for it.

Pianist Ethan Iverson recently spun off his popular and erudite Do the Math blog with a Do the Gig column (sign up here to receive the newsletter: https://tinyletter.com/ethaniverson) reviewing gigs happening in New York city. Here’s a screenshot I lifted from his blog. There are a lot of names I’m not familiar with but there are also big names that remind me how vibrant and diverse the music is. Given time and a little prompting from like-minded friends, I may engage in a similar endeavor some day, listing the acts that drift up on my local radar. Sometimes, you just have to get out – weather permitting – and hit the grimy streets like a hungry hound. You never know, you may stumble on something really, really good.

By the way, if you’re in town this Friday, our trio Fairly Wired will play at la Mairie du 3ème arrondissement, Paris. It will be cold outside. But we’ll make it warm inside.

Come out!

Info here:

https://fr-fr.facebook.com/events/145907389404023/

 

 

 

 

 

Sartorial humor

The reasons most people seem to develop a variety of skin rashes and hostile reactions when the word jazz is uttered in conversation are simply too complex to summarize in one neat explanation. As a jazz fan and practitioner I’ve come to the point where jazz no longer feels like a musical style but rather an art form that gets my creative juices flowing. People embrace the medium that feels right for them. Poetry, pottery, ornithology…jazz. In my experience, it’s the only school that you want stay in after classes. And I’m talking metaphorically of course. It’s a very demanding school that makes you acutely aware of the plethoric possibilities of musical human expression and communication, regardless of genre. Sure there’s a rich and fascinating history of jazz and a very specific language I wont’ bother to delve into right now. Sure, there are accessibility and insularity issues involved that tend to turn off the layperson. But instead of listing the many reasons why jazz is not a popular “genre” I’d like to indulge myself and venture a little crazy theory that popped into my head today.

So I got to thinking… Classical musicians must conform to a strict suit-and-tie code when performing in the straight-laced ambiance of the concert hall. Rockers arguably care as much about the music they’re offering to their audience as about how they’re dressed to perform it on stage. Every band has a well-honed sartorial style tied to the kind of music they play. Imagine the Ramones with crew cuts and baggy multi-colored pants? No. But I’ve noticed something about some jazz people these days. It’s not across the board but still. Except when performing at certain uptight concert venues, they don’t seem to care much about their looks. Back in the 60s though, watch any performance by Miles, Monk, Coltrane, you name it, they’re all wearing suits. You had to dress sharp. Jump ahead to the 70s, and guys have curling mustaches, gaudy Hawaiian shirts or even in certain extreme cases wife-beaters and terrible mullet hair! I was watching a YouTube video of a musician I like the other day, performing at some Summer festival in Italy, wearing open-toed sandals and shorts. I know it’s hot and you want to be comfortable but man, you DO NOT wear sandals and shorts when performing music of that caliber! It’s about the visual element. Regrettably, humans see you before they hear you. I’m not one to put clothes before musical content but you have to admit there are some lines that can’t be crossed if you want to be taken seriously!

Eureka! All my previous hypotheses went down the drain: It’s not the endless soloing, it’s not the mass culture stereotype, it’s not the fact that jazz musicians tend to keep their eyes closed when playing – a disturbing distraction to some people struggling with insomnia – it’s not the rhythmic convolutions and showy odd-meter shenanigans ( That’s cool man but what’s the point of playing the song in 11/4 if you already know it in 4/4), it’s not the sax-heavy instrumentation prevalent in the music and that some consider as jarring as a dentist drill mistakenly lodged in their ears, it’s not that jazz is too intense a style and people live way too stressful lives to take it all in and that they need easy stuff they can just forget about their miserable existence to, it’s not that jazz is mostly an instrumental music and people need vocals in their music, and relatedly, it’s not that the melody of jazz songs is often just weird and a lame excuse for pointless navel-gazing improvisation, it’s not that people are ignorant consumers of pop culture ill-equipped to appreciate genuine art, it’s not that jazz people tend to have obscure debates such as was Philly Joe Jones’s beat the right call for Bill Evans in the 70s or is Wynton Marsalis detrimental or beneficial to the appeal of jazz to young audiences, or did Ornette ever play the changes in his music, it’s not that jazz sold out to academia and abandoned its seedy after-hours club origins, spawning new hordes of virtuosic musicians that only get the good gigs with jazz forebears that could be their grandfathers and so they are virtually unknown to people under 60, etc.

No. The real reason why people have an issue with jazz is because frankly, jazz musicians’ clothes really SUCK! Come on guys, you need to dress up your act here. I know even your heroes also have their weak moments and walk on stage with matted greasy hair and mismatched tennis socks. But that’s a bad example. Have a little respect for the countless hours you spend working on your instrument and getting your chops together alongside your peers. Is it because you’re disillusioned about your craft in the digital age and fail to squeeze your way into the throng because you hate Facebook and won’t have your face Photoshoped into a business card on your musician website? If you want to make a dent out there, at least put a decent shirt on and lose the overgrown kid outfit.

At the end of the day, I doubt jazz needs to be saved or rescued from anything. It’s actually gotten more exposure with the new media boom of the last decade. Of course I’m just having fun with this silly theory, but I do feel that even the most serious music is good when humor and lightness are part of it.