Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Short & Sweet

My Beloved Readers,

I suppose I should start off with an apology. I meant to update this blog on a regular basis and look what's happened! It's terrible! I hope you'll find it in your hearts to forgive me, once you see what's below this. I've been hard at work, finalizing this & that over the past few weeks, and the results are ready for your enjoyment!

Attached is my first album, Some Dark, Beautiful Morning. Please take the time to check it out. And I promise, I will have a real update in the very near future, so don't unsubscribe from me just yet. Until next time.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Kickstarter Success!

Well, I was going to write about my tenuous foray into online fundraising via Kickstarter, but in the 5 days since I launched the project, I've reached 138% of my goal! I'm rather sure anyone reading this has checked out the site, but in case you don't know what this is all about, take a peek: http://kck.st/g8i7mB

The project has been a huge success, and we're not even a week into it! The challenge now is to keep the donations coming in, so I can reach my secondary goal of $2,000. This would allow me to press the EP onto vinyl, which has been my dream all along. It's going to be a challenge to coerce those who haven't pledged to spend now that I'm above my primary goal, but I'm going to try!

In any case, I'm super excited about knowing that the end is in sight for <i> Some Dark, Beautiful Morning.</i> I'm a completely different musician than when I started the EP, so however much I love it, I'm also over it in a way. It's taken so long to get out there that I've already formulated my next project: A Yoko Kanno tribute, where I arrange her work so that everything except drums is played by me. This one will be free in order to avoid copyright issues, so once the music is finished it will be available to all of the internet. Really pumped to get started on this!

In conclusion, my deepest thanks to everyone that has contributed thus far, and to everyone that will contribute before the fundraiser ends. It is truly inspiring that my family, friends, and fans are so supportive of my creative endeavors, and I plan to make the most out of the funds gained.

Hopefully the next blog post will arrive in a more timely fashion. I don't like to make my 2 followers wait! Anyhow, next post will most likely be a review of an album, probably by Reign of Kindo or Jaga Jazzist. I don't always know what I'm going to write about in advance, y'know :-)


Sunday, January 9, 2011

What Is Jazz? ...No, Really!

What do Igor Stravinsky, Pillip Glass, Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Pat Metheny, Allan Holdsworth, Kenny G, John Mayer, Bob Dylan and Issac Hayes have in common? They have all been described underneath the umbrella term of jazz. When I tell people that I'm a jazz cellist, I have no idea what sorts of artists they associate with the term jazz, and usually they haven't heard that combination of words before, so I have no idea what sort of picture I'm painting for them. In fact, it's kind of a nuisance. Now, we could have a completely different conversation where we debated the effectiveness of categorizing music into genres, but that's for another blog. I'm interested in what is jazz, now that it's 2011, after 100+ years of existence?

At the National Museum of American History's Smithsonian Jazz (http://tinyurl.com/37fkeoc), there is a digestible definition for the art, stating that "Jazz is one of the United States greatest exports to the world". But the rest of the description says that jazz can have any emotion, and that jazz values itself on being distinct, so we need to go deeper.

I've had a wonderful book for many years, entitled Jazz Styles (http://tinyurl.com/29v7zj9), that tackles the subject head-on, summed up into "Defining Jazz: Four Views".

1. As long as music is associated with the jazz tradition, it is therefore jazz. "In other words, the meaning of the term resides in the use to which the term has been put." With this logic, I can, at this very moment, coerce any artist or band to become that which they've feared most: a jazz musician! I think I should exercise my powers immediately. Kayne West is jazzy, Justin Bieber is a jazz singer, and Coldplay's hot new jazz album will leave you... speechless. 
...I feel dirty now. I don't think that this is my definition of jazz.

2. If music has a jazz swing feel, it is therefore jazz. This was true for many decades, but in recent years there have been waves of well known jazz artists that do not use a swing rhythm. Did you hear any swing on Orchestrion? (OK, you did, good for you. I'm glad you were paying attention. Now what percentage of the album was swing? You get the point.) So this doesn't work for me.

3. If music has any improvisation, it is therefore jazz. That covers the Pat Methenys of the world, but what about other world music's that have improvisation, from India, Bulgaria, etc? And don't forget that many rock and country musicians improvise. Not quite right, either.

4. When music has both improvisation and a jazz swing feel, then it is jazz. I believe that the common layman has this point of view, and it is a very understandable definition; there are clear parameters, and since the average layman has never been to an actual jazz club, then they can freely assume that music played there has this definition. It should be of no shock at this point that this is no longer true. At my hometown's jazz festival (http://www.rochesterjazz.com/), you can hear musical styles so diverse it will make your grandparents uncomfortable. This is not my viewpoint, yet I understand its prevalence.

So it looks like I'm going to have to lay down my own guidelines for what jazz is. Let's start with a big one.

Jazz is an art music, it was created to be appreciated by itself. Jazz cannot be popular music today because it contains subtlety and nuance, which commercial music usually lacks. It is also difficult to dance to most modern jazz artists, which hurts its popularity. My favorite albums, jazz & otherwise, took me many listens to truly understand, and some albums were not approachable until my tastes became more sophisticated. Hejira, by Joni Mitchell, took me well over a year of half-digesting listening sessions before I began to really accept the melancholic beauty of that album.

Jazz is about individuality, about expressing your voice whether or not it coincides with musical convention. Commonly, the jazz artist's voice is expressed through improvisation, but that is not to say that improvisation is a requirement. Rather, it is beneficial to the jazz artist since it allows stream-of-consciousness composition, just like a debater might formulate a rebuttal on the fly. Regardless of method, the jazz artist will strive to push the boundaries, no matter what they may perceive as the boundaries of music. They do this to express the greatest messages only deliverable through music, and they define these messages as only they can.

The jazz musician has three sources of composed material: their own composition, the composition of another jazz artist, or a composer outside the jazz realm. As you can see, that literally covers every type of music, but that is the most exciting part: with this concept, any type of music can be molded into jazz. As long as the jazz musician puts their unique voice into the composition, it is deemed jazz.

The most esoteric element of this definition, individuality, is the one that is my favorite part of jazz. Individuality means being polarizing, putting your music out to the world and not worrying about who likes it or not. As long as you are confident in the expression of your voice, your audience will exist. Pretty cool.

All opinions are welcomed, whether they are with or against mine. Next post: Kickstarter Announcement!


First Post

Hello everybody! Welcome to my shiny new blog, about jazz, string instruments, the evils of the music biz, and anything else I deem necessary to slap up here. I figured I'd give those of you that actually read the first post an idea of what's gonna be going on around here.

Frankly, I think there's a lot that's wrong with the state of music today. The major labels have stopped signing new artists, while every twenty-something with a guitar and GarageBand is hawking their trite "music" to anyone willing to pay attention; causing an enormous glut of no-cost, low-quality media. The average person is glued to their computer, TV, whatever (http://tinyurl.com/cbys3n) and has completely forgotten how pay attention to anything that isn't punching them in the visual cortex. That means music has become a footnote, another form of distraction while you drive/work out/sleep. Whatever happened to just listening to music? Meanwhile, the RIAA is suing single mothers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santangelo_v._RIAA) and spending millions to prosecute, yet musicians are making a meager $.0019 per performance over internet, radio, etc. Does anyone else see the problems here?

Well, I will not sit by while my muse, my livelihood spirals into darkness! This blog is about music as an art form, and re-establishing it as one. "Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny" is a quote by Frank Zappa, and I agree with him. There are too many great artists out there to have Kenny G and Michael Buble represent the jazz world.

For those that agree, I'd love to hear your thoughts! For those that don't agree, I'd love to observe your remarks before snuffing them out with the heel of my boot. Next post's topic: What is Jazz?