Monday, December 29, 2014

The 2014 First Annual Colligan Awards

Since I've been on the subject of movies lately, one great film I saw recently was "Birdman," an incredible vehicle for Michael Keaton, who plays a former action star trying to produce a darkly serious play while trying to keep his dark mental difficulties at bay. The acting by Keaton and co-stars which include Edward Norton, Zach Galafanakis, and Emma Stone, is solid. However, the cinematography and special effects are absolutely amazing. Furthermore, the musical score, which is mostly solo drum set, really blew me away. It sounds somewhat improvised, but it really fits the emotion of the story, as any good score should. ( When I think of my disappointment with "Whiplash," it's nice to hear truly great drumming in a movie.)

I recently discovered that jazz great Antonio Sanchez is responsible for the score for
"Birdman." I also discovered that his score was rejected by the Academy of Motion Pictures for consideration for an Academy Award. Sanchez' fans are wondering why. The reasons the Academy gives have to do with the amount of original music related to known songs, I think bottom line it's because the Academy is stupid. And racist. And just plain evil. Do I think the Academy and it's members are worse than Hitler? That would be pushing it a bit too far. So then the answer is yes. 

Antonio Sanchez is an incredible drummer, having played with Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Miguel Zenon, and plenty more of the heavyweights. He's very successful as a musician, so I'm betting that he could probably care less about whether he is snubbed by the aforementioned Worse-Than-Hitler-Academy of Motion Pictures. However, since so many of these awards are so pointless and arbitrary, I'm starting my own Awards.

Good Evening And Welcome to the The 2014 First Annual Colligan Awards. I'm your host, Ellen DeGeneres. We have a really great show for you. We have many special guest, and so many great song and dance number. I have lots of great joke(Rim Shot)......ahem..... Moving right along, presenting the award for Best Musical Score is Jack Black.

Jack Black: ( In a loud, rock and roll type voice) Hey everybody, the nominees for Best Musical Score are:

Antonio Sanchez for "Birdman"(Roll Clip)
"Birdman," Antonio Sanchez (Roll Clip)
(Roll Different Clip)
" Big Momma's House 13," Kanye West ( Roll Clip.....Ugh..)
" Indian Jones and the Quest To Find A Good Hip Replacement Surgeon," John Williams( Roll Clip, I guess...)
Antonio Sanchez for "Birdman"(Roll Clip)

And the Colligan Award goes to......
Antonio Sanchez for "Birdman!" 

( This is Antonio Sanchez' first Colligan Award....)

Anyway, I have a vivid imagination. I recommend the film, Antonio Sanchez got robbed, and F the Academy. 

“What's with all these awards? They're always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.”
Annie Hall (1977) – Alvy Singer (Woody Allen)

Awards are like hemorrhoids. Sooner or later every asshole gets one.”
Swimming Pool (2003) – Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

There Is No Theory......Only Sound

"Man those cats be playing some THEORY!"
I'm finding that one of the huge challenges for teaching jazz at the higher levels is as follows; how do you teach skills, the history and the rules while also getting students to think for themselves, think outside the box, and be creative? I find that all of us may tend towards one side of the brain or the other. I'm left handed, so they say that I'm most likely more right brained, which is the creative side of the brain. I've always felt that the piano for me was more of a vehicle to find something new rather than try to play all of the existing repertoire. I try to practice classical pieces, but lately, they just make me think about how to let those pieces inspire me to write my own music. Yet I find myself stressing skills to many of my students. I have so many students that need to focus on sound, reading, knowing tunes, jazz vocabulary, rhythm. A lot of these things are pretty concrete. I believe that the skill side is needed as a foundation for creativity. However, I acknowledge that it's possible to get bogged down in the technique and never learn or love to be truly creative.

Music theory is not music. Theory is how we analyze and understand music. How do we get beyond the rules? Sometimes breaking the rules is not only acceptable, it's essential to making good music.
This recent video made me think about this:
Ok, Marta Altesa is cute, let's move on from that. The cool thing about this Jamiroquai song is what? Well, the bass line is killing for sure. The groove is great, it's got a nice melody and a catchy hook. But it occurred to me that the harmonic movements are actually the best part about it for me.
The song starts in D minor and simmers there for a while. Then we jump to Fminor, with one of those sort of reverse progressions you hear in R&B often: F minor, C minor,7 Bb minor7,  Gbmaj7, Fmaj7, Bb minor 7 Eb7, Abmin7, Db7, Gmin 7, F#7( or C7 at the end of the phrase). And then it jumps back to Bb7 to D minor. Later the verse has the progression G-7 to A7 ( altered I think) and then F min7. This really lifts the song for me.

But wait a minute. A7 to F minor7. When was the last time you studied a progression like that in theory class? Usually we spend so much time on ii V I's and their variations. Everything has to be justified as a substitution of something. A7 to F minor 7 is a pretty jagged movement. It's particularly jagged because many of the other chords are rather functional. But for me, it's the best part of the song. It's the hippest part of the whole thing, for me.

So why don't we teach that in theory class? Why don't we start with A7 to F minor?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Haitian Fight Song

Chris Rock in "Top Five"
I recently wrote about my disappointment in regards to a movie I went to see with my wife; part of my lament was that I don't get to actually go to the movies often. Well, I actually was able to get out again to see "Top Five," a hilarious film starring one of my favorite comedians of all time, Chris Rock. I was a fan of his HBO program in the late 90's, although he hasn't made a ton of great films. I really enjoyed this one, especially one scene with a famous rapper surprising us with some of his "unknown" talent( don't want to spoil it for you). Rock  and supporting actors Rosario Dawson, JB Smoove as well as a host of other surprise comedians really made this one work for me.

Rock is great with observational humor, but he's not afraid to push the political envelope. Rock's character, Andre Allen, is a comedian turned actor who had financial success with a string of "Hammy The Bear" films. Allen, a recovering alcoholic, decides he wants to make "serious films" (perhaps a nod to one of my favorite Woody Allen films, "Stardust Memories") and ends up starring in "Uprize," a movie about the Haitian Slave Revolt of 1791-1804 in which thousands died and Haiti gained independence from France. It's amazing to me how Chris Rock is able to make the idea of this film ( which I'm fairly sure no one, even a Hollywood superstar would have an easy time financing) into something hilarious. It's kind of a complex idea; it's funny because it's such an intense departure from the silly "Hammy The Bear" character; it would be like Tyler Perry doing a movie about Nat Turner.....( actually I would pay to see that!) During a scene where Allen sneaks into a theater to see whether people like his new movie,  I was pleasantly surprised to hear Charles Mingus' "Haitian Fight
Song" as the background music. ( I wonder if Questlove, who is credited with the score, was responsible for that choice?)


All levity aside, the Haitian Revolution was no joke; considered the most successful rebellion in history, it culminated in driving out the French and appointing governor-general Jean-Jaques
Haitian Rebellion
, who in 1804 ordered the massacre of almost all of the remaining whites on the island. I guess I can't help but wonder why we study the French Revolution, the American Revolution, and the Russian Revolution in school- but not the Haitian Revolution? It seems like this would have been interesting to mention.....

In the fake "Uprize" movie within a movie, the Allen character plays Dutty Boukman ( which I hate to say but it sounds like somebody from the Pootie Tang bits from the Chris Rock Show......never mind, I'll be quiet...) who was a voodoo priest and leader of the Maroon slaves. Haitian voodoo religion originates in Africa and uses mystical dance and music ceremonies where spirit possession is involved. This reminded me of a recent performance I saw while visiting Birmingham, U.K. A young composer named Bobby Avey recently released an album entitled "Authority Melts From Me." This is a large form suite which is inspired by the Haitian Uprising; Avey actually traveled to Haiti and recorded actual voodoo ceremonies, transcribed them, and used the musical and political inspiration to create some incredibly intense music. Pianist Avey and his all star band of Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone, Ben Monder on guitar, Jordan Perlson on drums, and bassist Michael Janisch created a dense musical jungle full of dense chromaticism and brain-bending odd meters; the severity of the music made me see things differently upon completion of the performance. 

I need time to study the Haitian Rebellion. I think it's strange that such a striking and significant event seems to be relatively forgotten. I'm under the impression that the tragedy of modern day Haiti may have a lot to do with the circumstances under which it became a nation. I didn't expect a history lesson this evening, but I'm glad to get to laugh and also learn something.

Hey, what about Tyler Perry as W.E.B. Du Bois? Ok, never mind, I'll shut up.....

Letter from Richard Dorsey

Couldn't find any photos of Richard, but this is his family business  where we worked for years
Richard Dorsey, a wonderful tenor sax player Baltimore native was the first great jazz saxophonist with whom I got to play. He recently sent me this written recounting our first meeting in the late 80's.

Recently I came across a blog post about George Colligan's first gig. I was amused and entertained by his well-written recollection. What a surprise to find out the first time he and I played together was his first job as a pianist. As I read about it didn't take long to start wondering if I had  tapes of any of those nights. I knew I recorded at least the first night at J-K's Pub in Columbia, Md., a place I characterized as a "fern bar", regardless of whether it had ferns or not. That term was still in use in 1988, referring to attractive places just like J-K's Pub. Clean walls. Neon lights. Up-scale pick-up bars in upscale areas, with background music like Christopher Cross and Journey. I have not much against all that....not entirely, anyway. But it seemed an unlikely place to have a welcome mat out for the brew of music I was carrying in the front door.

I recall those gigs at J-K's Pub pretty clearly. It was the first time meeting George and bassist David Ephross. I had met drummer Chris Perry socially, and always liked him, but had never played with him.

I'm pretty sure David secured that playing job, then got my number from someone in town and called me. When David phoned he said he couldn't decide which of two pianists to get. He said one guy was a pianist. I thought to myself, "That's good, isn't a pianist what we need?". David made even less sense when he stated the second option, saying that the other choice was a trumpet major at Peabody Conservatory who was learning piano. OH MY GOD! I had visions of a serious crash and burn gig. Not only did it sound like there was this trumpeter, someone who might not actually play piano, but also that the bassist, the leader David, might not know the difference whether this trumpeter could play piano. The scene was highly suspect at that moment.

At that point on the phone I said to Dave, kind of firmly, "NOOOOOOOOO! Get the first pianist, not someone just starting !" or something like that, something driven by deep fear from the way I heard David present the options. It seemed apparent to me that David was going through a thought process involving me looking toward getting the answer he wanted. It was evident that Dave had made the decision for George to command the piano chair.  As my phone call with David was coming to a close he held his ground for George as the pianist, sticking with it so firmly that he convinced me of the choice.

Arriving at the gig I saw drummer Chris Perry. I decided no matter what happened we would lock in and keep it together. George and Dave seemed friendly and confident.  We started with Coltrane's "Moment's Notice". I thought in case there might not be much piano solo time taken I would stretch out from the start and assure a reasonable song length. Perhaps I did play 25 choruses. Then everything rolled along smoothly. George played without incident, the way it always was thereafter. It sure seemed like he'd done this all before. I wasn't wiser, just somewhat older. I quickly realized not only his skill, but David's bass playing acumen as well. We played that same gig, well, perhaps three, four times. That was at least more than I thought we were going to. Termination came not as much of a surprise as being there at all. After all, though, we jazz musicians play wherever we get the chance.

Starting shortly after this, I was happy and fortunate to play with George over the next four-five years with a group that included Alex Norris called the Peabody Underground. On and off. The usual opportunities. We had a year-long weekly (mostly) gig at Chambers in Baltimore that people seemed to like and talked about. Of course, not like they talk about George nowadays. And along the way I learned another thing: George could also play the trumpet pretty darn well.

Richard Dorsey

December 11th, 2014
Baltimore, Maryland

Friday, December 26, 2014

Kansas City Lightning: The Rise And Times of Charlie Parker

Say what you want about Stanley Crouch's opinions on jazz; I've always been impressed with Crouch's writing. "Kansas City Lightning: The Rise And Times of Charlie Parker" is an enthralling read. It's history that reads like fiction. Crouch gives an intimate account of the humble beginnings of Parker, arguably one of the most if not THE most important early figure in jazz. Crouch is so descriptive, you feel like you are actually there in depression era Kansas City. Many books on jazz history can be dull, easily getting bogged down with names and dates. Crouch's presentation draws you in not only to the twists and turns of the life of a troubled genius, but he also helps us understand the foundation on which Parker's genius was built in terms of jazz before bebop: why Kansas City was important in the development of blues and swing in jazz, why musicians like Walter Page, Jay McShann, Count Basie, and Buster Smith were essential to the next step in the development of the music.

Reading about music and musicians can often make one want to put down the books and listen to the music instead. Crouch may assume that the reader is already aware of Parker's musical genius. Crouch's in depth descriptions of the drama of Parker's personal turmoil, whether with drugs or his first wife Rebecca or his yearning to be a great musician beyond Kansas City, will hopefully make the jazz novice seek out recordings and make jazz aficionados revisit Parker's music. I've definitely gained more detailed inspiration for my jazz history classes from this book. "Kansas City Lightning: The Rise And Times of Charlie Parker" will make you look at the transition of jazz from swing to Bebop in a whole new way.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Jazz Is The Worst: LMAO

Musicians have been telling me about jazzistheworst for a while. I've read it a few times, but the one I read today made we want to comment on it. "How To Become A Successful Jazz Musician in 2015" is presented with bone dry sarcasm; it made me laugh, although it's so funny because it's so true. This blog, somewhat reminiscent of Seattle based jazz pianist Bill Anschell's hilarious " Mr. P.C.'s Guide Jazz Etiquette and Bandstand Decorum" column, is anonymously written, although some jazz insiders claim it's author is the brilliant trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, possibly because the first review on the blog was Akinmusire's CD. I only have hearsay and conjecture as evidence. Be that as it may, "How To Become A Successful Jazz Musician in 2015" , for somebody like me who would love to be successful in 2015, is right on point. 

jazzistheworst calls out Nicholas Payton for alienating his audience, Steve Lehman for his "Liminality as a Framework for Composition: Rhythmic Thresholds, Spectral Harmonies and Afrological Improvisation" being too abstract for audiences, Vijay Iyer for his "selfies with famous people,", and various successful female musicians for, well, being female. The anonymous author also skewers the posers who

 "adopt a southern accent, a soulful old timey persona and just go back to being as 'roots' as you can.  Talk about "The Tradition" as much as possible.  Bring up 'The Blues' until people start becoming annoyed with you.  Ignore any cultural, musical or societal changes that have occurred in the last 60 years." 

Finally, he mentions "publicists," affirming my belief that 

"Regardless of your musical ability, you can still become a famous Jazz musician if you have enough money.  Unfortunately most people don't have enough money to afford a career in Jazz.  You'll just need the right publicist(there's actually only one.)"
 Regardless of your musical ability, you can still become a famous Jazz musician if you have enough money.  Unfortunately most people don't have enough money to afford a career in Jazz.  You'll just need the right publicist(there's actually only one.)

Whoever this blogger is, I suspect he or she is someone who is inside the industry in some capacity. 
 Whether this is true or not, I appreciate the honest perspective. I'm going to go back and check out some other posts from this blog.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Whiplash: Two Thumbs Down

I remember when I graduated from Peabody Conservatory in 1991; I was already earning a living as a jazz pianist in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area. I had no other responsibilities( no day job, wife, children, etc...), so I spent a lot of my free time going to the movies. It was hard for my friends to see movies with me because usually I had already seen everything.  My idol was Baltimore pianist  and movie buff Tim Murphy, who not only was an incredible musician, but also told me that when he would play a gig  at The Closet, he would play one song at the beginning, and then-

" there were so many guitar players who wanted to sit in, I would go see a movie, come back and play the last tune, and get paid for the night!" 

The world has really changed since then. I'm a father and a husband and a professor, so I don't get to actually go to a movie theater often. Not that anyone needs to go to an actual theater to see a movie; now you can stream every movie that has ever been made on your phone, if not your ipad, laptop, Roku, or whatever your favorite device happens to be.

So when I do actually have a chance to go to a theater and sit in the dark and concentrate on a movie, well, it had better be worth it. Recently, I went with my wife to see "Whiplash," the story of a young jazz drum student pitted against the most abusive music professor in modern history. This movie was recommended by a lot of non-musicians, and has been almost universally praised in the press as well as sites like Rotten Tomatoes. My mother-in-law AND my father-in-law insisted that I and my musician wife would LOVE this movie. I had high hopes to say the least.

Fifteen minutes in, I was ready to leave. "Whiplash" is, to begin with, so technically inaccurate that you wonder whether the director bothered to consult with anyone about basic things like:

What's it really like  at a music school?
How does jazz music work?
How does one set up a set of drums?

and so forth......

 I wish someone would have called me; I would be the cheapest music consultant in the world. I'm not saying that a movie about music school has to be 100 percent accurate. I'm saying that this movie is SO inaccurate that it puts in the comically bad category for me- the same category as gems like, "Plan 9 from Outer Space," "Ishtar," "From Justin To Kelly," and so forth.

How inaccurate, you say? Let me count the ways:

1.Most of the things Andrew( the drumming student) practices are just terrible.

2. Nobody practices or plays drums day after day and bleeds all over the kit. (Sure, people develop tendonitis, but I guess that doesn't look good on film.)

3. Young jazz students today look up to Elvin Jones, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Stewart, Brian Blade, and bunch of other folks, perhaps in addition to Buddy Rich, but I'm willing to bet money that you will not find a young jazz student who singularly idolizes Buddy Rich. More young students know about Eric Harland and Ari Honeig than Buddy Rich.

4. The way Fletcher conducts and rehearses the band is just ridiculous.

5. Sure, some professors are tough and they might even yell and perhaps make people upset. But Fletcher's abusiveness, even if he had tenure, wouldn't be tolerated for one second, especially in today's world of higher ed. There would be so many student complaints that Fletcher, if he wasn't fired, would be marginalized by teaching something where he couldn't be abusive. They wouldn't be able to handle all of the lawsuits coming their way. I wish I could say that this opens a discussion about the spectrum of discipline in music education. Unfortunately, Fletcher (played well by JK Simmons- I'm glad he gets a starring role) as a character is so over the top that even the scariest of band directors would be appalled by the character's behavior. Lucky they are in college; if this kind of professor was in high school he might very well end up in jail!

6. When Andrew walks by the jazz club and sees Fletcher as a special guest, he enters the club and hears the "great" Fletcher play piano. It's just embarrassingly bad. Afterwards, Fletcher talks to Andrew about the greats of jazz. Clearly, Fletcher is not even close, but this irony seems to be lost on folks who don't know the difference between what Fletcher plays and pretty much any decent working jazz pianist.

7. Andrew breaks up with his girlfriend because he says he needs time to practice and become great. I guess he didn't know what we call a jazz drummer without a girlfriend- homeless!......(thanks I'll be here all week, try the veal.....)

I could go on and on. I believe that these things will be obvious to most musicians who see the movie. What's telling is that non-musicians are not bothered in the slightest by these issues. When you consider how medical shows or legal shows or even historical movies seems to spend a lot of effort on painstaking accuracy, why would a jazz education movie clearly not even be bothered. If you saw a medical show where the doctor referred to the heart as part of the skeletal system, or ask the nurse to hand him a scalpel and she handed him a stethoscope, you'd be rolling in the aisle! That sounds more like a Zucker Brothers parody than anything else. It would be akin to if went to "The Passion Of The Christ," and instead hearing the dialogue in the historically relevant languages of Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, they just talked like they were modern day twenty somethings from California:

Caiphas:  So, you are like a king or something. Where  is this, like, Kingdom, Bro? I mean, you know, like , totally! You are, like a carpenter or something? Why don't you say something?Why don't you, like, tell me what's up, dude? Jesus:  Yo, Bro! I totally told everybody what was up with this, man!. I was like, all up at the Temple and what not, you know, like, I was totally all like, Hey everybody, I'm down with whatever...
  Temple Guard:   Bro, you need to like, chill when you talk to the High Priest, I mean, like, duh!
Jesus:     Come on, man, be cool, my man! Let's all just chillax, my homies.....

I think I've made my point. I think this speaks to the divide between musicians and the general public of today in a society which has cut music programs in schools, has let corporate monopolies control our radio and television so that they can bombard us with music which has no artistic merit or substance, and distract everyone with gadgets so that no one has any time or money left over to go out and see a live jazz band in their town. It's ironic to me that Andrew is hoping that Fletcher is going to make his career. How? By recommending him to Wynton Marsalis? Please! The idea putting up with Fletcher's abuse in order to have a career is just preposterous.

I decided to stay and watch the whole movie, and not just because my wife needed a ride home. I wanted to see if there was a point to the movie. I thought the ending was a good climax in terms of the story. I'll say this: "Whiplash" could have been a great movie if they had spent maybe an hour or two talking to a real jazz student. Again, I'll offer my consulting services for an extremely affordable price!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Everything is Great!

The older I get, the less I care about what others think of me. I'm not saying I don't care at all; I'm saying that it concerns me a lot less than in years past. It's also kind of a relief to accept that there are always going to be people that just don't like you and never will, regardless of how many Hallmark cards you send them. Although my 4,967 friends on Facebook( ha!) might make you think I'm universally well liked, I do think some folks think I'm somewhat negative at times. I wouldn't consider myself to be a negative person in general, although I do go on about negative things, whether in my blog, on facebook, or even in conversation. Hey, why spend the time and money whining to a therapist when I can whine to the person I'm talking to right now!

I suppose it would be logical to say that we don't tend to gravitate towards negative people. Indeed, the Saturday Night Live sketch " Debbie Downer" shows the epitome of this type of person. You might be enjoying your birthday at Disneyland, and Debbie Downer can't stop talking about the nuclear disaster in North Korea......( Actually, this sketch is great not only because of the character and the great performance by Rachel Dratch, but also because of the trombone sound effect, plus the fact that Dratch and company couldn't stop laughing...)

I suppose we have all had friends like this. It's never really bothered me. I would rather talk about reality than try to pretend that life is always a bowl of cherries. Obviously, we want to acknowledge our good fortunes. I think it's only human nature to see both sides of the coin.

I remember one tour where one of my band mates chastised me for being too negative. " Man, you are always talking s*$t about something." OK. I decided then that my friend would only see the "positive" side of me....

Hey, good morning! I slept so well, did you? You look rested. Have you been outside? It's such a beautiful day. We are so blessed to have the sun shining today. I'm so glad we are on the road together. You are one of my favorite drummers, did you know that? Do you realize how lucky we are to get to play music together? I'm so glad we are friends. Here, come here, I want to give you a hug.....

After a few hours of that, the consensus all around was that I should " go back to being normal."

I think negativity is normal. But don't just take it from me. The New York Times recently ran an article called " The Problem With Positive Thinking."  According to the research done by author Gabriele Oettingen, women who tried to think positively about themselves lost less weight than ones who were less positive about their ability to lose weight.

Fantasizing about happy outcomes — about smoothly attaining your wishes — didn’t help. Indeed, it hindered people from realizing their dreams.

Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving that we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.

The article doesn't recommend a Debbie Downer approach; actually, the hybrid approach is better. Think about your goals, clearly see what stands in the way, and figure out what you can do to remove the obstacles. I think of this as "honesty" or "realism." The truth shall set you free. Some people can't handle the truth. I think it's better to get to the truth sooner rather than later. To solve problems and improve, we must be honest with ourselves.

This is how I approach teaching. This week, I was a guest teacher and performer at the Birmingham Conservatoire in the U.K. I told the student ensembles that I would be positive first, and then give them the bad news. All of the students were very cool with it, and it made for an incredibly satisfying performance. It's not negativity, it's just honesty. I don't want to bum anyone out the way Debbie Downer does. However, I will continue to "be real" with things as much as I can. Of course, someone may give me constructive criticism about this. I'm willing to take the lumps.

Monday, November 17, 2014


GC: Son, let's work on the alphabet. Let's take a break from TV and work on our letters, OK?
GC: Why not? We've watched a lot of shows, let's just take a five minute break! What's the problem?
GC: But son, you need to work on letters so you can learn to read! 
GC: OK, OK.....what's the problem? Son, come and talk to me.
LC: Daddy, I'm only good at some of the letters! I can sing the alphabet song, but some of the letters I'm not good at....
GC: Ok, listen, daddy is going to explain. So, let's not think about letters for a minute. Let's think about construction workers for a second. Let's imagine construction workers building a skyscraper. How long do you think it takes to build a skyscraper?
LC: ....Mmmmmm, I don't know?
GC: A day? Two days?
LC: Maybe..... one hundred days!
GC: Maybe even longer than that. And, this doesn't take into account how long it takes to build the materials for the skyscraper. So, do you think that the construction workers give up if they can't finish the project in a day?
LC: No....
GC: Of course not. They work all day, and then they go home at night, and then they come back and keep working on it. Plus, during the day, they work, and they take breaks. And they know that eventually, they will finish the job. They don't get mad because it didn't get finished in a day. They didn't cry. It's what we call a LONG TERM PROJECT. Or we call it A WORK IN PROGRESS.
LC: Oh.
GC: So I'm trying to make what is called an ANALOGY.
LC: But I'll never have an analogy....
GC: No, you don't.....I mean I'm telling a story that relates to your letters. You are doing great with letters. It's a WORK IN PROGRESS. We don't get upset if you aren't perfect right away. We just do a little every day, and then eventually, you'll be able to read. How are you going to teach your little brother Ruger to read if you can't read?
LC: (laughs)....his name won't be RUGER!
GC: Ha, ha, maybe it will be....MILLARD!
GC: OK, do you feel better now?
LC: Yes. We can work on letters now.
GC: Son, I'm so proud of you, and I love you so much.
LC: Can I have pumpkin pie?
GC: Yes, you can have pumpkin pie.....AFTER we do letters.
LC: (sighs)....OK, Daddy.........

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Clickety Clack!

Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
Bring that man's baby back.
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
I want my spirit back.
Clickety clack
Bubble music being seen and heard on Saturday night
Blinding the eyes of ones that's supposed to see.
Bubble music, being played and showed, throughout America.
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
Somebody's mind has got off the goddamn track.
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
Won't somebody bring the Spirit back?
You didn't know about John Coltrane.
And the beautiful ballad he wrote—wait a minute—
And the beautiful ballad he wrote called "After the Rain".
You didn't know about Lady Day and all the dues that she had to pay.
The Beatles come into the country, they take all the bread,
while the police hittin' black and white folks upside their head.
Tom Jones and Humperdinck got everybody uptight.
They make people that can sing wanna get out and fight.
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
What is this madness that Nixon has put upon us?
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
Won't somebody bring the Spirit back?
Who will it be?
Who will it be?
It certainly won't be someone that says that they're free.
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack
Won't somebody bring the Spirit back?
Clickety clack . . . clickety clack . . . clickety clack

Rahsaan Roland Kirk was truly a unique musician. Blinded at an early age due to bad medical treatment, Kirk was known for playing not just one, but two and three saxophones at once. Adding flute to his array of winds, he also played lesser known instruments like nose flute, the stritch and the manzello( two  obscure types of saxophones). Historical texts put Kirk in the Avant-Garde category, which is a bit misleading; in some ways, his musical offerings are more conventional than one would assume. However, the above poem shows Kirk's political leanings during the turbulent 60's and 70's.

I've got to spend more time checking out Kirk's music. I had "Rip, Rig and Panic" many years ago, but I'm not so familiar with his discography, which is pretty large. Listening to to the music and poetry here makes me think about where we are as a society now. Who is the modern day equivalent of Roland Kirk? These days, most jazz musicians are trying to figure out how to water their music down so as to gain "wider appeal." We don't even have a forum to be political, because we don't even have a gig! My lament is not only the loss of interest in jazz and creative music in America, but the loss of the edge, the willingness to take a risk and put one's soul into the music. As the man said:
Won't somebody bring the Spirit back?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Blue: Mostly Other People Do The Killing's Transcription Homework Assignment

Mostly Other People Do The Killing.....I mean, wait.....
Mostly Other People Do The Killing is quite a provocative name for a jazz group. I've been aware of them for a few years; I have heard a few samples from their earlier recordings( "This Is Our Moosic, "Forty Fort", and "Shamokin!!!"". Clearly, it's not all about the hype; these guys can play, and they combine a post modern sense of humor with a solid grasp on virtuosity and the jazz tradition.  I think this group is a great example of where jazz is today and how conservatory trained musicians can think outside the box in order to find their niche.

It was brought to my attention that Mostly Other People Do The Killing recently released "Blue", which is not a tribute to Joni Mitchell, but rather an attempt at a note for note reproduction of "Kind Of Blue", which is probably trumpeter Miles Davis' most famous album and one of the most important as well as popular jazz albums in history. I was curious about the project. I will say off the bat that I did not purchase the album, I listened to samples on Itunes, which many of us do before making the decision to buy music( if you actually still buy music......anyone?). I decided not to buy it; instead, I download some of Mostly Other People Do The Killing's earlier work and study it a bit more. I'm not saying that I won't purchase it in the future, but I have reasoning why and I'll get to that later.

I am very conflicted about "Blue"; the clips I heard were impressive, and the jazz educator side of me is always impressed with the technical ability to hear and reproduce solos(especially since many of my students have real challenges with that kind of activity. I wasn't going to mention that one of my student groups couldn't name the musicians on "Kind Of Blue," which is rather disturbing, to say the least.) Transcribing solos and trying to play along with the recording and trying to match every nuance is a great tool in jazz education; however, even the most "derivative" musicians rarely try to perform a transcribed jazz performance and pass it off as their own. ( I'm not saying that MOPDTK is trying to do that, exactly.) It is a little odd that musicians would spend so much time on something that they would never present in a performance; in this way, transcriptions are like etudes- they are studies. You can't play the entire solo of  McCoy Tyner's on Passion Dance whien you play Passion Dance. You could play part of it, you can be influenced by it, but you can't play the whole thing. EVEN IF YOU CAN! IF YOU CAN, YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO! In this way, jazz is like comedy- young comedians listen to the greats, but they MUST create their own material to be legitimate. Without Richard Pryor, there would be no Eddie Murphy, and without Eddie Murphy, there would be no Dave Chappelle. BUT, Dave Chappelle would NEVER release a comedy special called "Live On The Sunset Strip" or "Delirious." Why not? Because he has more than enough of his own jokes, and doing something like this would be an enormous waste of time and energy!

I read Nate Chinen's review of the CD, and he address some of the reasoning behind the project, and his own take on it seems just as conflicted as mine, although in the end he heartily endorses "Blue". Again, these are great players from a technical and creative standpoint. However, in my mind, this album has GIMMICK written all over it. The sad thing is, gimmicks work. This is especially true in the entertainment world, the music world, and the jazz world. Most of the time, it isn't about the notes, about the sound, about the artistic message. It's about the gimmick, the image, the sound byte, the selling point. It's not, "How can we make great music that will reach people and take an art form to a higher level?" It's, " how can we trick people into buying our product?" I've tried to stay away from gimmicks as a musician, mostly because it doesn't interest me, usually seems cheesy to me, and most importantly because I haven't found a gimmick that has made me rich and successful.....

The paradox of transcribing solos and playing them along with the recording is that it's nearly impossible to sound exactly like the musician who originally played the solo. It is impressive that MOPDTK  on "Blue" sounds at times exactly like Davis and crew. But even so, it's still not close enough. The recording quality is obviously different. As soon as trumpeter Peter Evans starts playing, you know it isn't Miles Davis. Maybe because he isn't playing on a 1947 Martin Committee trumpet? Is he using a Heim 2 mouthpiece with a deep V cup? Did they record on the same Steinway that was at Columbia's 30th Street studios? (I played that piano when I was recording at Clinton Studios years ago. It was a great piano, but I didn't sound like Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly, oddly enough.) I'm willing to engage in a "Kind Of Blue" challenge to test my own ears, if anybody wants to facilitate that.

I'm not saying that "Blue" is disrespectful of the tradition; indeed, I don't think MOPDTK would have spent all that energy on this if they didn't love that music. However, I would rather see them play their own music. This is why I'm not going to buy "Blue." I won't buy it, but clearly, I've already bought into the hype, and even this little blog will give them more press, so in the end, isn't that what matters? In an era when no one is buying music, it's not surprising that anyone would resort to extreme tactics.

In the end, the existence of a project like this reaffirms my belief that jazz is about innovation through imitation. Check out the greats, but in the end, do it your own way. MOPDTK, as evidence by their earlier recordings, already did this in spades. I guess they had a lot of extra free time to make "Blue". But I can't help what are some other records that warrant note for note reproduction:

A Love Supreme?
Birth Of The Cool?
Way Out West?
Duke Ellington Live At Newport?
Black Codes(from The Underground?
No Jacket Required?
Songs in The Key Of Life?
The Chronic?
Enter The Wu Tang(36 Chambers)?

Don't be offended, MOPDTK, but when my son's Bar Mitzvah rolls around, I'll know where to find a "Kind Of Blue" cover band.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Exercises in Sleep Deprivation, Part II

My son Liam was born December 19, 2009. I did not sleep again until December 19, 2010. Those of you with children can relate; some babies sleep, but some don't. Liam was a kid who just did not want to sleep. I was so sleep deprived that I started taking the bus to school after falling asleep at traffic lights. I thought that maybe I would never sleep again in life, that it was just a 39 year lucky streak and my luck had run out for the next few decades. When we went back to New York for the summer, we hired a sleep consultant, which worked out great for some lady who convinced me to give her 400 bucks in exchange for "sleep" information I could have found for free on the internet. Even at age 4 and a half, Liam still has lots of energy at night, but he sleeps pretty well( although he does com into our room during the night on occasion) once he gets to sleep.

I remember musicians who had kids always said they got more sleep on the road. I never could understand that until I had a son. When I travel, I miss my family, but it is nice to have a bit of a break from irregular sleep patterns. In fact, I think that the period after my son's birth has made me handle sleep deprivation a lot better than I did when I first started traveling. I remember after a few years of being jet lagged every time I went to Europe thinking, "Wow, this is not all that it's cracked up to be!" I don't sleep on planes- which is surprising, since trying to sleep sitting upright with a jet engine under your seat surrounded by strangers seems like it would just knock you right out.....

I always tell my students in my 9 am class, " If you are lucky enough to become a professional musician, you'll be getting up at all hours to make flights, trains, buses, and so forth. Missing a flight is an expensive lesson that you don't want to have to experience." I find I am better at mentally pushing myself through sleepiness. It can be tricky if I need to drive.

This past Friday, I had a good test of my tolerance for sleep deprivation. My son kicked me awake at 3:30 AM, which beat my alarm by 30 minutes. I left my house in Portland at 4: 15 and picked up bassist and former PSU student Jon Lakey at 4:30. We were planning on participating in Eugene based saxophonist Adam Harris' live recording; however, I wanted to make some recruiting stops along the way. We arrived at South Eugene High School at 6:45. I worked with Director Steve Robare's jazz band for about 30 minutes and then Lakey and I played some duo and we talked about the program at PSU. After a nice leisurely breakfast of omelettes, waffles, and gallons of coffee, we headed over to the University of Oregon to crash their Friday jam session. This was obviously not a recruiting stop but more of a chance to observe what goes on at other programs in the area. Lakey and I were invited to play a few tunes, which was of course a lot of fun.

I started to fade a bit, so I head over to saxophonist Joe Manis' house to try to nap on his couch for a few minutes. Lakey and I didn't so much nap, but we did play with Manis' 2 year old for a while. "George......Piano......Jon......Bass...." Ellery is a smart kid and we were having fun, but then it was time for a recruiting stop at Lane Community College. One of my combos from PSU, The Park Avenue Group, met us there, and we played some tunes and answered questions. The kids at LCC are very enthusiastic and it was a really good vibe. I took the PSU students for dinner at a small cafe in downtown Eugene, right before the soundcheck for the live recording, which was taking place at The Jazz Station, a wonderful non-profit venue. I was surprised at my ability to get through the concert, since around 10 pm I started to feel like I was running on fumes. After some quick goodbyes, Lakey and I got back in the car and drove back to Portland. I got home around 1:47 AM. I felt like I had just flown around the world and back.

Ironically, I am about to do something to that effect; tomorrow night, I begin my voyage to
Novasibirsk for one concert with the Lenny White Group. My flight path is Portland-New York-Moscow-Novasibirsk. Most of my trip will be on an airplane. I'm trying to bring as much reading, listening and watching material as I can. I'll keep you posted on whether I get any sleep or not. Wish me luck and I promise to take a lot of pictures.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Coryell, Bailey, White, Colligan: Four NIghts At Jazz Alley

Larry Coryell
One of the downsides of playing a lot of gigs with my students has been, you guessed it, that I'm no longer the youngest person in the band! In all seriousness, I have been very fortunate to be able to learn jazz, mostly on the bandstand,  from older musicians who had way more experience than I. Indeed, my very first steady gig was at a the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, MD, with saxophonist Phil Burlin and bassist Larry Kindling; it was supposed to be MY gig, but they were the ones showing me what to do, being at least a decade older. This is part of the jazz tradition in terms of jazz being a folk music, the art form being passed down to future generations by master practitioners. It's wonderful to be part of a great music curriculum and have classes and have a college experience. However, when you are on a stage and Gary Bartz starts playing a song you don't know and expects you to figure it out, that is a very different kind of learning process. In the real world of music, there are no letter grades- only "PASS" and "FAIL."
Victor Bailey

So when I get a surprise call to join three elder masters on stage at Jazz Alley for four nights, I get not only the thrill of feeling like the young'un on the bandstand, but I also get the thrill of learning through doing. In some ways, playing jazz has infinite variables. You cannot say, "OK, I have learned 60 tunes from the Real Book and transcribed a lot of solos and learned all of my scales and modes and I practiced with a metronome so I'm ready." Every grouping of musicians is going to present different challenges; every combination of bassist and drummer is a different feel than another. It's almost like saying your metronome is going to be different every day you turn it on.

Lenny White
It's especially challenging walking into a situation where you have three legends who have been playing together for decades, and your presence, even if promising, is possibly superfluous. Nevertheless, my first night with jazz fusion legends Lenny White, Victor Bailey and Larry Coryell was extremely positive.( I think it should count towards a Doctorate of Musical Arts. Can I get college credit for this?) We played a mixture of originals by Bailey, White, and Coryell( I had to sightread a tune call Spaces Revisited, which was fun-good thing I went to Peabody Conservatory!). We ended the set with a great arrangement of Led Zepplin's "Black Dog." Hopefully I can continue to learn and imrpove as the weekend continues.

These men aren't just practitioners of the art- they ARE the art!
We have three more nights: two sets Friday and Saturday and one set Sunday. Come down if you are in or near Seattle.....

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Matt Jorgensen Interview

Drummer and Record Label Entrepreneur Matt Jorgensen is a Seattle native who lived in New York for a number of years before moving back and settling in Shoreline, Washington. I've known Jorgensen for over a decade, and since my arrival in the Pacific Northwest, we've gotten many opportunities to work together. I also got to record for his label, Origin Records, which is one of the best indie jazz labels in the world. I recently sat down with Jorgensen to talk about how he got started and his thoughts on music and the jazz biz.

GC: What are your earliest memories of music?

MJ: I started out playing piano in the first grade. My mom always wanted to play and we had one at home. Then there was a kid who would babysit me when I was around 8 and he would bring over records or browse my parents’ collection. My mom had lots of Beatles records and the White Album was my first musical exploration. I’d  listen to side after side, transfixed. High school was the next musical era for me. Freshman year I started drum lessons with John Bishop.The next year, I began playing in marching band, concert band and formed a rock band with my friends.

GC: How did you get into Jazz?

MJ: My senior year of high school they started a jazz band at the school. I can't lie, it was awful and I  later, he went to the New School and convinced me to go with him.
didn't really know what I was doing. The summer between high school and college, my Dad signed me up for a Tuesday night community big band at Shoreline Community College where I was planning on attending that Fall. I went to the first rehearsal only able to play a swing beat and that was it. The band director Jeff Sizer came to and said, “I can pretty much tell you don't know what's going on.” He summed up, from a director’s standpoint, how to play big band drums in 4 minutes. I called John Bishop for a crash-course lesson on reading big band charts and spent the summer practicing. In the fall, I auditioned for the big band [for music majors] and got in. I met a bunch of musicians; one of them was bassist Tom Abbs. A year and a half

GC: If you decide to go to the New School, people there KNOW they're going to be a jazz musician or at least try. Where in your short amount of time did you KNOW you wanted to do that for your life? Or did you have no other option like the rest of us?

MJ: Looking back on it, I don’t really know. It’s funny, I've always been really driven on certain things and music became one of those things. And it slowly became what I did.

GC: That was your identity.

MJ: Yeah, I don’t know if it was set yet though. My friend Tom went to New York and I tagged along because that sounded like fun. I auditioned for both William Patterson and the New School but was waitlisted for both. I already committed to moving to New York though and Tom got an apartment on 30th and Lexington. I moved there two weeks before the term started at the New School and showed up to update my address. Fortunately, a spot had opened up and they let me in. When I went in for auditions at the school, I got placed in one of the higher up combos. The summer between my audition and the start of school I had started to figure out what I was doing on the drums. Then meeting all the great students at school, playing in groups, it was exciting and new. After a while it [music] was just what I did.

GC: You didn't graduate?

MJ: No. I had a certain amount of money saved up and I knew if I went there part time, I could get through two years before it ran out. My mission in school was to meet people, play, and be in the city. I knew when I was about to go that I wasn't going to graduate. Then I stayed in New York, played gigs and took odd jobs.

GC: How long were you in NY?

MJ: 10 years from 1992-2002.

GC: And we never played together.

MJ: No, that was after I moved back to Seattle. Pretty much everyone I work with now on gigs, with Origin or the [Ballard Jazz] Festival, I met during the time I was in New York and the New School. I've always said to kids who are in school that you need to meet people and be active because throughout your career you maintain relationships with all these people.

GC: Do you regret not having a bachelor's degree? Do you think it's important?

MJ: Part of me wishes I had finished, but I don't teach and I don't envision myself teaching. I'm not going to get fired from Origin Records for not having a Bachelor's degree! But, if it was my kid, I'd say, “Yeah, you should finish.” But everyone will have their own path. One of my friends wanted to be a musician and when he was young his mantra was, “do anything possible you can to be a musician.” For him that translated into living as cheaply as possible and doing whatever it took to get by and keep making music. Since school is so expensive now, I don’t think it matters if you go to one of the most expensive schools. I went to Shoreline Community College for two years first, which had an incredible music department. If it wasn't for the band director, Jeff Sizer, I wouldn't have a career in music. He showed me so much.

GC: Let's talk about drumming. The first things I hear when I listen to you play is Philly Joe, Jimmy Cobb, and Bill Stewart. Who are your top 5 drum heroes?

MJ: Everyone you mentioned are my heroes. If you asked me top 5 of yesteryear it would be Philly Joe, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin, Tony Williams, and Arthur Taylor. If you asked me today it would be Bill Stewart, and Brian Blade. Also, I've listened to a lot of John Bonham and Keith Moon-

GC: And you've listened to a lot of Ringo Starr.

MJ: [Laughs].  Bernard Purdie and  Motown records. The big thing for me, which didn't happen in Seattle but did in New York, was that people hung out and listened to records. As a drummer, it's important to listen to as much as you can. People who play chordal instruments learn the changes, while drummers learn the arrangements and song forms. So if you're playing Moment's Notice, which version of the first two bars are you going to play? And knowing the different arrangements on different records by different guys is important. I was lucky enough that John Bishop was my instructor in Seattle. Before I moved to New York, I read an interview with Kenny Washington in Modern Drummer about him being a hardass as a teacher. I looked at the New School faculty and saw he was on the list. My first semester there I called him up told him I wanted to take lessons from him. People told me that I was crazy and that he was super tough. Kenny was really cool but very demanding that you do the work and listen to the records. He has an amazing record collection and an encyclopedic mind. But what stuck me was that he was teaching me what John Bishop had been teaching me, I just wasn’t ready for it yet.

GC: Do you think that some of the trends in jazz education are leading kids away from listening to records and having things under their belt to execute? Do you think jazz is moving away from that [listening] tradition? Is there a way to move jazz forward without chucking the tradition away?

MJ: I think there are different ways to approach it, depending on what instrument you play. As a horn player, you're usually out front leading groups. As a rhythm section player, you're hired by a lot of different people to be a sideman and you need to be familiar with a lot of music history as well as different ways of playing. It's tough because there's so much music to check out and you need to do it or else you limit yourself to only playing certain gigs. I've done a gig where it's bebop one night and the next night is John McLaughlin fusion stuff where I was playing like Billy Cobham. You need to move from gig to gig; I personally like to be able to play the music in a way that would be appropriate. There's no real substitute to listening and checking out the music. It’s like explaining a foreign language, right? You can learn French from a book but until you hear it spoken, you're not going do it right. You can learn music by the numbers, but until you hear someone else and see them play- that's the most important part. When I was in New York, Arthur Taylor, Max Roach and Elvin Jones were still alive and I got to see how they execute things I've heard on records and that always gave me new things to practice.

GC: You also said you've been inspired by fellow-students like Joe Strasser, who was maybe more advanced than you at the time. Do you think it's really important to draw inspiration from the people around you?

MJ: When I got to the New School I was just amazed at the level of drummers and I also realized there was a lot I needed to learn. My first semester I show up and there was Joe Strasser, Stefen Schatz, Ali Jackson, Chad Taylor, Brian Floody, and I think Adam Cruz was there or he had just left. But there was always a cool vibe between everyone. I remember hanging at Strasser's place and talking drums while listening to records I'd never heard. Watching Strasser and seeing how he comp'd was different than what I was doing, so I applied what he and others were doing and it opened up my playing. I also took a couple of lessons with Bill Stewart - he’s so creative how he works an idea to the infinite possibilities and he got me thinking more creatively.

GC: Do you miss New York?

MJ: Certain parts for sure. I like going back and playing but I knew after I’d been there for just a couple weeks that I wouldn't be there forever. It changes you. There are certain things I miss, but there are a bunch of ex-New Yorkers in Seattle and we commiserate. The thing I miss is the consistent high level of playing. You’re also able to call some of your musical heroes to see if they want to play a session. You have to be the best all the time there, or else there are people who will take your gig out from under you. When everyone is of such high caliber, it naturally brings you up to that level.

GC: Ok so you came back to Seattle and what happened then?

MJ: In 1997 John Bishop started Origin Records when there were five different projects he was involved with where he both played drums and was designing the album cover. He decided to put the recordings under one record label. I was talking to him on the phone and told him I was getting into building websites. At the time, I had a project that I was doing with saxophonist Alex Graham, pianist Whitney Ash, and Gary Wang on bass. We had a CD we were going to put out and I traded doing the cover art [with John] for doing the website and that was the start of my involvement with Origin Records.

By 2002 the label was building a lot of momentum. I moved back to Seattle and we got our first office. John and I were doing everything for the label and in 2003 we started the Ballard Jazz Festival. From there we've been doing the same thing every day and everything keeps growing.

GC: How do you balance the music with the entrepreneurship? You were saying last night that it's a new thing for musicians to be doing everything. How do you negotiate that?

MJ: We started doing everything for ourselves because no one would do it for us. I think the balance for us is we do what it takes to make the music happen. If guys are coming through town, I usually help set up some gigs and make a tour happen. We had an opportunity in front of us with an organization that wanted to put money behind the Ballard Jazz Fest and we reverse engineered what it would take to make the festival happen. Once things get going for us, it’s hard to stop. I don’t know if I truly have balance between the two but I do the record label and festival stuff to be able to make music. For me there’s no real line between the business or music side, it all goes hand-in-hand.

GC: Do you think that’s the way of the future for all musicians?

MJ: Unfortunately I do and I tend to think that’s not a good thing. There are people that have specialties in all kinds of things. Look at Spike Wilner who is an amazing piano player and had the opportunity of taking over Small’s. What he’s done with it is great. Not all of us can do all of those things well.

GC: Or do them well. I know for myself, sometimes it’s like I need to slow down and focus on one thing but it’s life in the 21st century. You can kiss goodbye the idea that you can do anything well because there’s so many things that need to get done.  And nobody is going to do them but you.

MJ: Yeah and I think the danger in that is you’re going to burnout. For years there were record labels and radio promoters and now that’s all fallen on independent artists. Those artists don’t necessarily have all the experience or know how to do it. Fortunately with Origin, we have 16 years of experience and we know how to get from point A to point B. There has been a lot of frustration along the way, as well as success, but I feel fortunate to have John Bishop to share the burden of the business side.

GC: When you and I were coming up, everything was compartmentalized. I came up at a time where people that put out their own records were seen as going around the system and couldn’t get on a label. It telegraphed that they couldn’t make it in the real world. Now, no matter how good you are, from bottom up, it’s a completely different story. Sonny Rollins has his own label. Artists you’d never think would have to do [independently release] are. With me, coming from this era and transitioning to the new era it’s hard to catch the new paradigm. If you present this new paradigm to young musicians from the jump, do you think that will yield better results?

MJ: If you’re teaching music business in a college course with a textbook that’s more than 2-3yrs old, you’re teaching useless info. Things are changing all the time and I don’t know where things are going to be filtering out in the next couple of years. I don’t know if everyone can do it all. Sometimes I just want to write tunes or play the drums and not do all of this other crap. But you can’t now. I don’t know what the answer is. Part of it goes into technology. You can pay $5 a month for Spotify or $0 for Spotify and have commercials. As musicians, we should have conversations about giving away our music for fractions of pennies. Overall, the amount of money we’ve gotten paid has gone down and the infrastructure has gone away. Is that good? These things are not set in stone and there are discussions about royalties. If Spotify can charge $5 a month for music, then as musicians we should decide what a fair wage is and demand it. I think the future is obviously in flux and it’s changing week by week, month by month. If we’re churning out these kids in jazz school and not making them aware of what the future has in store for them, we’re doing them a disservice. Music business class in college needs to be rewritten every year. But I also think kids need to know that while there are a lot of avenues to market yourself, I keep coming back to rule number one: sound good on your instrument and do everything possible to make the music happen.