TALKING PICTURES (my blog)

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  • Leading Questions - Jim Wilke

    The best advice I’ve ever received is“you’re not talking to an audience of thousands, you’re talking to thousands of audiences of one or two.”

    When I was 14 I was playing alto sax in concert band and listening to Western Swing on the radio during the day and jazz late at night .

    Broadcasting jazz has meantintroducing others to some of the most creative musicians who ever lived.

    If I could do it all over again
    , I probably wouldn’t change much.

    My voice is who I am.

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I feel very lucky to make a living around the music I love.

    The piece of music that always resonates with me is – well, can I mention two songs? “You Must Believe in Spring” and “With Every Breath I Take”….or anything by Johnny Mandel who I regard as the Schubert of American songwriters.

    I see my role in Jazz as a bridge between artist and audience.

    My parents were Iowa Farmers who made me feel grounded in more than one sense of the word.

    Fear is to be challenged, dared.

    Motivation is a deadline – (I know that’s not original but it’s true for me!)

    As I get older, I’ve realized that there’s less time than I thought.

    In the big scheme of things
    , what really matters is doing what you believe in.

    I cried when Father’s Day came a week after my Dad died.

    Music has taught me another language, like Spanish or French.

    People always ask me what I like among recent jazz CDs.

    Discovering a new artist or recording is like meeting an intriguing person you know is going to become a friend.

    Right now I’m interested in wearing t-shirts and shorts and sandals again.

    Discipline is very difficult for me.

    I’m not interested in pop culture or celebrities.

    Change is welcome as long as it improves on the past.

    When I learned music, I chose the alto saxophone because my family had one. My sister and brother had each played it before me.

    I’ve never understood the appeal of songs with three chords or fewer.

    Improvisation is like conversation. No one writes down or memorizes what they’re going to say in a conversation.

    Less is more because it’s easier to grasp.

    More is more because
     sometimes it’s good to be overwhelmed.

    The thing that makes me nervous when recording a show is
     unexplained extraneous noise, and not seeing anything moving – like a turntable or tape reels.

    If I could have made a career on an instrument, it would have been the guitar.

    Some musicians don’t seem to understand, some music works better in concert than on the radio, and vice versa.

    Your audience is
     like a group of friends who have similar tastes and interests.

    I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Dizzy or Duke, or Sarah.

    I view my greatest achievement to be
     live broadcasts with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Herman, the MJQ, Coltrane, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz and many others. Also the opportunity to turn people on to some of the great talent living here and playing now.

    The future of jazz is to evolve and build on the past, not relive it.

    A sense of humor is important because without it, one might take oneself too seriously.

  • Leading Questions - Dan Balmer

    The guitar is and was my redemption.

    If I could do it all over again I’d do the exact same thing. The failures and successes, the growth, the playing, the teaching, the relationships, the experiences…we can never see the parallel paths our lives would take and, although I certainly haven’t been everything I’d want to be, I think I’d take the outcome of this path over 95% of all other potential outcomes.

    My parents were always supportive and helpful even though a life in music is an unsure thing. Even in their 80’s they still come out to my gigs. My mother was a piano teacher so naturally understood about the music, and my father who didn’t have a lot of music in his background was always unconditionally supportive of me in this. In fact, my father went to Gresham High School with Seattle legend Floyd Standifer. When I first got into jazz he took me to Seattle to meet him. I’ll never forget that afternoon at Floyd’s house. I remember everything he told me.

    When I’m playing well it feels better than anything. I believe my most transcendent moments come when I’m playing my best. I liken jazz improvising to deep meditation or prayer where one is in tune with a higher power that is flowing through them.

    As I get older I realize that almost everything I’ve said at some point, I’ve contradicted at some other point. This leads me to my “big umbrella” theory of jazz, and music in general. I think there is room for many styles and interpretations of jazz music, all valid, all requiring great skill and effort, all resonating with a different but legitimate audience. Any strong opinion you express, if you don’t allow the possible validity of some other opinion, is probably wrong.

    Teaching has been an incredibly surprising joy. I’ve learned and continue to learn so much by teaching, and have developed so many relationships that continue for years and years. I’ve received countless messages from students (or their mothers) over the years, thanking me for whatever it was they took from my teaching. It’s a privilege. I’m blessed because everyone who comes to me for lessons is just there to hear what I have to say, so I try and say things of value.

    Economics was important to me to study because I have always believed that people’s realities are formed in many ways by economics. To communicate, you need to understand people, economics helps this understanding, and music is about communication. Also, the only classes I got “C’s” in were music classes.

    The future of jazz like economics, is becoming more globally and technologically oriented. New jazz will reflect more non Western influences, and new technologies will be integrated as well. I also think there will always be support for each of the classic jazz styles because like all art, jazz has had moments in time where a majority agree it was clearly at a sort of peak. A moment when it resonated with a large audience, was “cutting edge” yet accessible, and the artists were clearly giants. For example I think people will always enjoy the “Kind of Blue” era, just as people love the Impressionist painters more than anything since, or people still agree on Bach and Beethoven etc. more than Webern or Stockhausen.

  • Leading Questions - Michael Barnett

    When I was 14, I fell in love with the sound of the bass, specifically, Milt Hinton.

    If I could do it all over again, I’d probably do most of it again, perhaps more efficiently.

    Practice makes perfect, allegedly, but it never quite does which is why we keep doing it.

    The bass is “a thing of beauty and a pain-in-the-ass forever.”

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I know I’m still on the way to where I’m going.

    My parents were talented, interested and interesting people, supportive and, in my case, very tolerant.

    Fear is a poor motivator.

    Motivation is whatever works for you.

    As I get older, I’ve realized that advancing age is not necessarily a catastrophe, at least so far.

    The thing about music is it’s the greatest blessing and thus requires nothing less than our best effort to do it right.

    In the big scheme of things, what really matters is [ See above]

    I cried when Elvis got out of the Army.

    Music has taught me, is still teaching me, humility and gratitude for the grace it makes possible.

    When I’m performing well, it feels like I’m home and I’d like to keep doing this for a long time.

    If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been the piano or the larynx.

    Some musicians just don’t understand that they don’t understand. This ain’t some kind of deregulated democracy.

    Your audience is an essential part of the whole process and, whenever possible, to be valued as such.

    I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Lester Young. There are many others but Prez never fails to cheer me with his wit, imagination, and the sheer joy of his playing.

    I view my greatest achievement to be maintaining a high degree of enthusiasm for and optimism about the music I love and still wanting and needing it as much as I ever did.

  • Leading Questions - Greta Matassa

    Someone once told me, Success is getting what you want, but happiness is wanting what you get. I’ve based my career decisions on this advice

    When I was 14 I knew I wanted to make music my life and become a professional singer. now, with 2 teenage daughters going through the trials and tribulations of high school, I realize how lucky I was to have discovered who I was at such an early age.

    My voice is my vehicle of expression. My voice is me.

    Some of my best ideas come to me while walking at Alki and talking to my friend Susan Pascal.

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I couldn’t be happier or luckier. I have a career in the Pacific Northwest (a place I’m coming to realize is one of the most beautiful in the world). The opportunity to travel on small outings. A nice recording contract. A great teaching practice, a very wonderful man who loves me and great kids. I wouldn’t ask for more.

    I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Blossom Dearie.

    Teaching has been an education. As a self taught singer I’ve re-examined how I know what I know and am always finding that my students can often teach me to teach them if I listen closely and with empathy.

    If I could play another instrument it would most likely be drums. I’m a very rhythm oriented singer and find watching and listening to drummers fascinating.

    Improvisation is like my father described abstract expressionism. A uniquely in-the-moment experience based on years of experience and knowing when to “take the brush away from the canvas”

    My parents were very supportive. My mother was a scientist and my father an artist. They are still a big part of my life.

    People ask me, why aren’t you famous, living in New York or touring or on Letterman or something. I refer them to question #1 for the answer.

    Music has taught me the best things in life are free!

    Less is more because of Shirley Horn.

    More is more because of Ella Fitzgerald.

    Being a woman in jazz has meant nothing in particular. I am treated and in turn treat my fellow musicians as human beings and this seems to be a nice arrangement.

    In my view my greatest achievement has been Gina and Franny Matassa

    Trust is easy when you’ve been practicing, both in music and life.

  • Leading Questions - Gregg Keplinger

    Someone once told me don’t play what you hear …play what you feel

    The drums are the heart

    If I could do it all over again, I’d be a Flamenco dancer

    Practice makes one stay off the streets

    When I look at where I’m at right now I’m ok with that

    Some of my best ideas come to me when my mind is disengaged

    Fear is unnecessary

    Motivation is necessary

    In the big scheme of things, what really matters is love and passion

    I cried when my drum teacher died

    Music has taught me to expect nothing

    People ask me stuff that doesn’t matter

    Discipline is what it takes

    Change is a drag

    I chose the drums because I liked the sound in between

    When I’m stuck I hang

    Less is more because the bass player can’t “hang”

    More is more because the bass player didn’t show up…

    If I had to choose between losing my sight or my hearing, I’d….one eye and one ear

    The thing that makes me nervous on stage is not being able to play really play

    If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been the bass

    Some musicians just don’t understand playing

    Your audience is your employer

    I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Queen Adreena

    The future of jazz is over

  • Leading Questions - Cuong Vu

    Someone once told me that “there’s no money in music!” That’s it. No follow-up to this “heaviness.” What a dumb-ass.

    If I could do it all over again, I’d be more fearless in pursuing whatever I wanted. The first reason is that I’ve finally learned that the things I fear about myself…my insecurities…the things that I’ve spent time on in the past, worrying about what people think of what I musically put out, or how I play and sound…none of it matters because people aren’t concerned about me. They are primarily and pretty much always concerned about themselves.

    The second is because I’d know that it’s all going to be alright in the end.

    Practice is one of the most important ingredients that makes the difference – between a great musician and a mediocre one, a winner and a loser, a person who knows himself/herself or not, a successful person and a failure. It’s not just mindless practice by rote though. I feel like I have to put a lot into the why of what is being practiced and really believe that it’s all about putting in the thousands of hours of focused thought and action on developing my skills and ideas to get to my musical ideals. That alone has been a huge factor in learning about myself. A nice “side effect” of it is becoming a better musician with a constantly growing awareness everyday.

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I am surprised that I’m here and could have never guessed that I’d get here. But when I trace the steps, it all makes perfect sense. And it’s fucking crazy. I bet it’s like that for most people.

    Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m happy, at ease, and inspired by something that has recently had a deep impact on me. On the flip side, I rarely do my best stuff when I’m stressed. I may be more productive when I’m stressed. I just don’t think that the product is as good.

    Fear is something that needs to be constantly managed and kept out of the way. Sometimes they are little thoughts that seem insignificant but can all come together and be debilitating if they aren’t addressed. They need to be smacked away like pesky little mosquitoes.

    Motivation is what it’s all about…isn’t it?

    In the big scheme of things, what really matters is taking action.

    People ask me “what’s it like playing with Pat Metheny?” or “What’s Pat Metheny like?” I really wish they’d stop.

    Right now, I’m focusing on being patient. I’m incredibly impatient with inefficiency, especially in people who get in the way. I always feel like I have to get as much in as I can in my life time cause it can be taken away unexpectedly so I’m usually in a pseudo-hurry.

    Musically, I’m working on optimum efficiency in practicing the trumpet so that I can have more time to focus on writing.

    The thing that makes me nervous on stage is playing with musicians who aren’t listening or aren’t 100% committed to each other. Or me being unprepared. Or my trumpet chops feeling weird. Or when I feel like I have to impress somebody which I try not to ever think about or do.

    When I’m performing well, it feels like the music is playing me.

    If I could have made a career on another instrument
     it would have been voice and the guitar, or drums.

    Some musicians just don’t understand that they NEED to understand and do whatever it takes to figure it out.

    Discipline is what it’s all about…isn’t it?

    Change is crucial and is part of how the whole universe works…isn’t it?

    Your audience is one of the most important reasons for all of this. I think though…for me…that I have to approach it as that whatever I put out there – playing, writing, recordings, performing – when I try to please the audience, the audience is really just me. That there are a bunch of me sitting out there enjoying the music. That’s my way of staying musically honest, cause when I start trying to figure out what people like and how I can address that instead of how I personally interface with music, I think that I lose. Music isn’t fun anymore, and probably…it will suck pretty good.

    Teaching has been one of the most rewarding vehicles of interaction that I’ve experienced. Along with seeing/hearing the students absorb and process the info while getting better and better at an accelerated rate, the thing that I wasn’t expecting to experience to such a high degree was my own learning and improvement from that process of information exchange. Another rewarding surprise is how open minded young people are to the possibilities of what music can be. I’ve always thought that young people are much more open then we “adults” are, but not to this extent.

    Moving to Seattle from New York has been a great decision…so far. I moved back to find a balance that would suit me better than the intensity and stress of daily life in NY that had me by the neck for the 14 years that I was there. I was a little worried about whether or not I was pissing my career down the toilet by leaving but I haven’t lost any standing there or anywhere else. What’s really weird is that I mentioned my anxiety about this to a few people out there and they collectively said that if I don’t lose any drive and become stagnant, I would be surprised by how my “career thing” would elevate once I split and was less consumed by it. So far, it seems to be true.

    The future of jazz is uncertain. If “key” people don’t start to re-evaluate what “JAZZ” is really all about, the music will certainly prove to be dead and will have been dead for the last 10 – 15 years. These “key” people that I’m thinking of are the ones in the position of deep influence, whether they are the ones responsible for educating our young or putting the music out there to the audience. There is a persistent idea that the neo-classic jazz movement has been good for the music, being the salvation of jazz…I don’t know about that. While it’s proven to be good for jazz in terms of having brought back some of the audience and recognition, I really believe that it’ll prove to be only a symptomatic effect.

    On the flip side, the venom with which the primary components of this movement have fervently used to discredit a huge amount of music that sits outside of its stylistic sphere, even if the music is innovative and ironically, even if the music is rooted in jazz (or at least deeply informed by it). They do this in order to validate they’re own belief system and agenda and it’s gonna prove to be the disease that wipes out jazz altogether. The only cure for this that I can think of is if more people with much more open and progressive views of what jazz was and is, inherit these “key” positions.

    It’s mind boggling to me how it’s possible that jazz started out and had been all about progress and innovation up until the mid 80’s when these conservative minded people were handed the power to brainwash the general jazz audience into thinking that jazz HAS to be a specific sound and style. If you look at the history of jazz, with just about every new movement, came with it a tension between the creators of the new and the musicians of the older styles where the latter would criticize the previous for “destroying” the music. It’s a natural human reaction because generally, the older people become, the more they are detached from the trends of the present times and become more detached as they get older. I mean…for instance, it’s incredible to me that there are a large number of people in their mid 50s and up that either have no idea how to use a computer nor the Internet.

    Anyway, this lack of understanding and empathy promotes frustration and resentment of the new. I even find myself thinking the same complaint that we usually identify with the elders which is, “Young people today! Back when I was your age, we didn’t…” This pretty much sums up this phenomenon. This I can understand and deal with. What’s un-F**KING believable about this neo-classical movement in jazz of the mid 80s was that it was led by a few young musicians who had the media and record labels behind them. *NONE of them have succeeded in ANY contribution to the progress/growth/innovation of this music, whatsoever, by the way.*

    It’s been a little over 20 years now and I’m starting to see us coming out of this coma. Not that there has been a lack of innovative musicians…just that they aren’t supported nor recognized on a larger scale that’s more appropriate in terms of celebrating advancements in the music which would continue to feed and support jazz itself.

    If the planets align, we’ll come out of it okay and we’ll hear some pretty amazing and new jazz, and jazz will live on. If not, we’ll still hear great music because these young creative musicians will keep on doing what they do for the love of it. It’ll still be amazing, innovative, new and informed/influenced by jazz, its discipline and its history. It just won’t be recognized as jazz and the musicians who are making it won’t want to call it jazz anyway if this general and simplistic idea of what jazz is or isn’t persists.

  • Leading Questions - Saul Cline

    Fear is an opportunity to be proud of yourself later.

    If I could do it all over again I would have practiced more.

    Your audience is smarter than you think.

    I’m happy whenever I’m listening toOtis Redding.

    Less is more because that’s where beauty, interaction, playfulness and nuance live.

    Music has taught me that endless pursuits are the best kind.

    My parents were completely supportive of my every creative whim.

    Practice makes me feel calm and prepared for the unexpected.

    Some of my best ideas come to me while I am playing music with friends.

    The thing that makes me nervous on stage is a drunk and aggressive person in the audience who really wants my attention.

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I think I am ok. I probably should have practiced more, but I like the musical experiences I’ve had.

    The future of jazz is in great shape. I love the people I’m playing with, the groups I hear in clubs, and the new music that is coming out.

    When I’m performing well, it feels like my brain has been replaced with bees, my chest has been replaced with a bass drum, and my ears are being used by the other people on the bandstand.

    Improvisation is the only time in my life when I can keep my brain clear and stop it from stewing about unimportant things.

    Right now, I’m focusing on
     finding some nice tunes to play on clarinet.

    If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been piano. After that, maybe guitar so I could get in on some country gigs.

    Motivation is something I can’t control. Sometimes I don’t experience it for weeks and then suddenly, it’s there.

    I cried when I got to sit next to Ray Charles and he started sing the first few lines to the verse of “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”.….it was a little more soul than I was expecting.

  • Leading Questions - Clarence Acox

    Someone once told me that band directors are born, not made.

    When I was 14 I heard a recording of Count Basie & his Orchestra playing “Easin’ It” and it changed my life.

    The drums are the life-blood of all America music.

    If I could do it all over again, I’d have gone in with Woody Woodhouse and bought an island in the San Juan’s 28 years ago.

    Practice makes
     you confident to convey a musical idea and as a result allows you to connect with someone in the audience.

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I thank my high school & college band directors, in addition to having the best parents ever. They never missed one of my school concerts.

    The piece of music that starts with simple phrase and is developed, knocks my sox off. People underestimate the importance of development.

    Some of my best ideas come to me at 3:00AM.

    My parents were (see #6)

    Fear is the root of prejudice.

    Motivation is the thing keeps me from starving.

    As I get older, I’ve realized that I don’t know s**t.

    The thing about swing is that it is a totally democratic endeavor.

    In the big scheme of things, what really matters is that you love yourself.

    I cried when I first heard the St. Olaf Chapel Choir (or The Mormon Tabernacle Choir) sing “What Sweeter Music” by John Rutter.

    Music has taught me how to survive in a mad world.

    People ask me what growing up in New Orleans was like.

    Music is the food of life, so play on.

    Right now, I’m thinking about what the Garfield Jazz Ensemble will play at the next festival.

    Discipline is what requires you to focus.

    I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.

    Change is good, sometimes.

    If I had my way, jazz history would be required to be taught as a part of US History.

    I chose the drums because, they galvanize bands; no drums, no fire.

    I’ve never understood people who hunt.

    When I’m stuck I call on the masters that inhabited the earth before me.

    Improvisation is the essence of all jazz music.

    Less is more because Basie taught us it is.

    More is more because you’re misguided.

    If I had to choose between losing my sight or my hearing, I’d check out of here.

    The thing that makes me nervous on stage is
     when my band is not prepared.

    When I’m playing well, it feels like everything is right with the world.

    If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been the piano. I should have stuck with it.

    Some musicians just don’t understand
     that music should be a tool to connect with someone, not just for self-indulgence.

    Your audience is the thing that keeps you energized.

    I’m happy whenever I’m listening to Earth, Wind, & Fire sing: “That’s The Way of the World” on the CD Greatest Hits Live CD.

    Teaching has been
     THE most rewarding experience of my life.

    I view my greatest achievement to be making an impact on young peoples’ lives, in a positive way.

    The future of jazz is in good shape, provided it is nourished.

  • Leading Questions - Mark Taylor

    Someone once told me, “Nobody cares about your creativity or your original music”. Wrong.

    When I was 14, I discovered Bird, Cannonball, and Phil Woods.

    The saxophone is my voice.

    If I could do it all over again, I’d be better at trusting my initial instincts more and just getting on with it!

    Practice makes 
    no difference at all if you have no plan or goal.

    When I look at where I’m at right now, I’m proud of the projects I’ve been a part of and grateful to the musicians who include me.

    The piece of music that first mesmerized me was Charlie Parker with Strings “Just Friends”

    Some of my best ideas come to me
     when I’m not trying to come up with an idea.

    My parents were and are, always completely supportive. I’m very lucky.

    Fear is indecision.

    Motivation is best when it’s internally based.

    As I get older, I’ve realized that if you try to please everyone, you’re not being sincere. That, and I’m not nearly as old as some of you other guys.

    In the big scheme of things, what really matters is are you happy? Do you love what you do? Do you care about the people around you?

    Music has taught me
     friendship, trust, confidence, humility, compromise … pretty much everything.

    People ask me “why does your neck expand so much when you play” (I have no idea).

    Discipline is following through.

    Change is essential to creativity.

    I chose the saxophone because
     frankly, it looked way cooler than the clarinet.

    When I’m stuck I become a chronic procrastinator. Not a good trait.

    Improvisation is
     reacting to your surroundings instead of your script.

    When I’m playing well, it feels like I’m focused more on my band mates than myself. No thinking, no tension, no forcing…just acting and reacting to the music.

    If I could have made a career on another instrument, it would have been the bass or piano. I’d love to have a role in the rhythm section…you’re constantly involved in the development of the piece.

    Some musicians just don’t understand. I totally agree!

    Your audience is capable of elevating the level of your performance…the opposite can happen too!

    Becoming a parent has been my greatest decision.

  • Leading Questions - Jay Thomas

    Someone once told me…hold your horn up when you play. Hmmmm I’m not sure if it matters unless you’re in a big band.

    When I was 14 I decided I wanted to be a musician.

    The trumpet is beautiful but unforgiving…if I pick it up to play it demands my full attention…if I don’t want to commit then it would be best to leave it alone.

    If I could do it all over again, I would have to go back in time.

    Practice makes me feel positive about life.

    When I look at where I’m at right now
    , I’m not sure where I’m at or if I’m headed anywhere…

    The piece of music that taught me a lot when I was young was Lover Man…Thorlackson used to play it for me on piano and we had fun playing…it’s an easy tune and fun to play.

    Some of my best ideas come to me
     when I’m driving or falling asleep.

    My parents were the best for ME!

    Fear is OK also… sometimes…nobody goes around being afraid ALL the time.

    Motivation is a result of a strong cup of coffee in the morning.

    As I get older, I’ve realized that much of my life is about taking the path of least resistance….isn’t that Dharma?

    The thing about
     jazz I like other than the music itself is the history as told in stories…there is everything for me…Freddie, Rams, Thorlackson…all great story tellers.

    In the big scheme of things, what really matters is what I think.

    I cried when I heard Trane play a high F on a ballad using his palm key.

    Music has taught me that it is best to avoid the expected …unless you need to be liked or are looking for radio play.

    People ask me how do you play trumpet and saxophone…it’s a little weird…I’m not sure after all this time if it’s a real question.

    Music is further evidence that we live in an intelligent universe…

    Right now, I’m hopeful.

    Discipline is another word that if I think about it too long it has no clear meaning.

    I’m not sure about a lot of things…a result of the shocking revelation that sometimes I’m wrong.

    Change is inevitable.

    I chose the trumpet because 
    my dad played one and it was around being practiced before I ever picked it up.

    I’ve never understood
     the joys of Calypso music!

    When I’m stuck I go into a problem-solving mode usually after letting it lay for a while.

    Improvisation is following your instincts.

    Less is more because there is always the potential for more.

    The thing that makes me nervous on stage is
     situational lack of confidence.

    When I’m playing well, it feels like I have figured out that it doesn’t matter what I play.

    Your audience is a witness.