Friday, June 24, 2005

Summer 2005

Wow, it has been a long time since my last entry. I took a trip to Los Angeles to see some old friends and to attend the CalArts "Return to the Mothership" reunion party. It was a great time. I finally got to see my friend Jared's band "Vagenius" perform, and even did a little camping up at Mammoth Lakes. My friend Ryan helped me get my web site updated and running slick, and the rest of the time I just sat back and relaxed. Now I'm back in Michigan and right back at it. Tomorrow I play 2 shows with Gratitude Steel Band in Fenton and then we drive up to Macinnac Island for a 3 day gig at a Lutheren childerens summer camp. I am not sure what to expect, but I am looking forward to the time on the Island. Man, since graduating from CalArts in 2001 and moving back to Michigan I have hardly traveled, and now when I look back at the last 3 months I must say that I have made up for it in a big way. I don't know what it is about getting up, moving, and seeing the world that is so appealing, but it is like a craving that grows with every trip. One of the most wonderful things about being a musician is that no matter where you go in the world there is always music there. Seeing the different perspectives and modes of creation is such a liberating and eye opening experience. Taking the trips to India and L.A. have really made me appreciate the rich and diverse musical culture that I am blessed to be a part of here in Michigan. There are not many places in the world where you can play the drums in a jazz trio, walk down the road a bit and play Indian Classical music, and the next day be in a carribean band doing the limbo rock. I am proud to say that I love what I do and I ecspecially love the ability to share what I do with so many different people. I have no idea what the future holds, but whatever it may be, good or bad, I feel like I know what it means to be a happy guy, and I can't ask for anything else.

I hope this doesn't sound to whimsical. It's just that I have been enduring a very heavy, hard, and demanding work load for a while and I have been waiting for a time that I can say, in all honesty, that I am truly happy. I feel like this blog is the perfect spot to say it out loud, and I thank you for reading it.

John

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Time, The Musical Spectrum, and Deep Blue as a Quartet

Hello,

Wow, I can't believe it is Tuesday. I find that as I get older and experience more time, it becomes easier and easier to just set my sites ahead and forget about days, weeks, and months at a time. I just heard a radio program that talked about the pains of telling a child "Just a minute..." To the child, that minute seems like an eternity. Now when my wife says the same thing to me, I fire off a few e-mails, play a song on the guitar, take out the garbage, or do whatever to pass the time. The two months before we left for India went by like a dream, and now I can hardly believe it has been over a month since our return. Add it all up and it is like three months of living gone in what can seem like a day. In music, I often tell my students that when you are focused, into what you are playing, and sounding good, the time passes like it never existed. I remember New Years eve 1999. Everyone was in a frenzy over the Y2K bug. I was up in Marquette at my Dads house playing music in the garadge with some friends. We wanted to be somewhere away from all the people, and if the world did come to an end, we were going to go out playing. When it turned midnight we started playing. I remember playing for a while and then looking at my watch....4:00 A.M.!! I could not believe it. Four hours of music went by and I did not eat, drink, go to the bathroom, get up and stretch, nothing but play. We all did. It is a great way to pass the time, and if you are lucky enough, you have a recorder going so you can hear what happens when you are not paying attention to anything but the music.
I have also felt the opposite effect while playing too. When I am learning some classical piece for school, I tend to think, concentrate (different from focus), and think some more about what the composer has layed out for me. I feel locked into an akward medly of musical ideas and forms that I try somehow to make flow. As I play I am thinking about technique, style form, etc.. It takes an awful lot of work, (speaking personally), to make a classical piece flow and jive with my own musical sensibilities. When this struggle happens, a five minute piece can seem to last an hour. I guess I am more of a musician that perfers music where mistakes can be made into something new and interesting rather than proven wrong by written documentation. Don't get me wrong though, I truly admire the great classical musicians of the world who can turn the written note into a personal feeling. They can stay within the boundries of a piece of music but still be expressive and show emotion. This takes years of training and study, and is not attained automatically. It is, however, just a part of what music is meant to do.
When I think of the difference between the western classical musical monster and one musicians personal music making, I think of it as the difference between a skyscraper and a log cabin. the skyscraper is a great monument to the contributions and ambitions of thousands of people, all working to make the vision of one person, or small group of people, come into being. It takes hundreds of years of prior, well documented knowledge, and requires coordination of a great many elements. It takes a long time to build, and lasts a very long time. A log cabin is subjet to the nature of its surroundings. It must fit and blend with the land it sits on. It can be built by one very ambitious person, or small group of people, and relies on the common sense of human beings that has been formed over our whole exsitence on this earth. Usually a log cabin is built for basic realistic reasons like shelter and location. It is also a monument, but to the creativity, sensibilities and hard work of one small group of people, or even one person alone.

Wow, I am really going on and on here. It is fun though, and why not? I actually started this entry so I could talk about my gig with Deep Blue last Friday at Cafe Felix in Ann Arbor. We added a bass player named Chris. It transformed the group into a whole new entitiy. It was great to watch Scott trying to make sense of this new setup. Instead of starting a tune, taking a solo, and pointing to me for a solo, he now had Paul, Chris, and myself all able to solo. (Paul could never solo before because he had to keep the tune moving with basslines and chords, which can't be done with a saxophone. Now that we have Chris holding down the bottom end, Paul is free to solo as long as he wants.) There were a few times when Scott didn't know who to point to. I thought it was funny. It was like suddenly having too much of a good thing. I am very excited to keep developing with these guys. They are open for experimentation, good spirited, and great musicians. The only difference between a good musician and a great one is that the great ones take each moment and make something out of it. They have the ability to consistently make time stand still. I believe that if you can learn to do that, it doesn't matter how much money you make, or where you play, the music will take you through it all with a smile on your face.

Thanks for reading,

John

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