Saturday, March 24, 2012The jazz nexus
4:34 pm edt
Get ready for a post that is so deranged it could be harmful to your health. Don't blame me if you come away from it insisting that America go on the gold standard.
In 1994 Paramount released the first Next Generation Star Trek film, entitled, appropriately enough, Generations. It was a good film, not a great film, but one that I enjoyed when I saw it in its original release, as well in subsequent viewings on cable. It featured the epic meeting between Captains Kirk and Picard, as well as the destruction of the original Enterprise. What's not to like?
For this post, however, I'm going to focus on a small portion of the film -- a five-minute sequence in which Kirk and Picard find themselves marooned in the Nexus; an extra-dimensional realm in which ones thoughts and desires shape reality.
For Picard this meant re-discovering a love interest from his youth whom he had abandoned for the sake of his career. For Kirk it basically boiled down to going horseback riding.
No matter, though, they were happy, at least for five minutes. Once they realized that they had to get back to saving the universe they left the Nexus and returned to reality, or at least what passed for it in the Star Trek universe.
Which brings me to the jazz portion of this post. It is my belief that there exists a jazz nexus. That is to say that there is a zone that can be entered in which the beat becomes wide enough so that the musician possesses unlimited powers. While in the jazz nexus he can do no wrong and so is capable of executing an unlimited amount of ideas with effortless fluidity.
It's not an easy place to get to. It takes a symbiotic and cohesive unit, as well as a nurturing performance space with a sympathetic audience. It's not somewhere you can get to on your own. I believe that's why musicians have chosen this life, which at best is a non-lucrative existence that comes with years of dues paying and struggle.
As for me, I believe that at some point in my youth -- I can almost remember the exact night -- I stumbled into the nexus and was given a brief glimpse of what it had to offer. Once I had the bug I dedicated my life to trying to get back there.
Musicians such as Wynton Kelley and Hank Mobley lived in the nexus. Mortals such as I are allowed in for a brief taste every so often -- long enough to keep me going playing $50.00 gigs secure in the knowledge that I will return.
Friday, March 2, 2012Louder!
9:25 pm est
Have you all noticed how loud life is getting? I'm not talking about the street noise of a bustling city -- I like the mayhem of honking horns and people screaming good-naturedly, or angrily at each other. I'm talking about ancillary noise that did not exist a decade ago.
When you go to a movie, even before the trailers begin, there are commercials playing at an uncomfortable volume. Forget the feature, which is deafening.
When I lived in New York I used to dread walking by the Peruvian folk bands playing on the street, or in the subway stations. You know those guys: They're the ones with the amplified pan flute players. What is it with the pan flute anyway? First of all, the instrument itself is an abomination. Second of all, nobody wants to hear it. And third of all, they are particularly offensive when PLAYED THROUGH MARSHALL STACKS!
Closer to home, I am distressed about how loud jazz music has become. In the old days bass players didn't have amps -- they were felt more than heard. Perhaps this explains why they felt so good! These days you have bass players playing through amplification at uncomfortably loud levels. The drummer ends up having to play louder, and the horns and piano require micing. Ultimately, unless you're playing at a serious listening venue, the audience talks louder. It's a vicious cycle. Or is it a vicious circle?