Played two gigs in one day. Felt great. Haven’t done that in a while, and although I was tired, it reminded me of why I’m a musician.
The first gig was with the Warren Symphony. Somethings could have gone better, but the Tchaik was well played. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella is a beautiful, elegant piece. I wonder what Wolgang Amadeus would have thought about it.
Second gig was at Cliff Bell’s in Detroit. One of my favorite clubs in Detroit, with some of my favorite musicians. The band was Alex Graham, Sean Dobbins, and Roger Jones. All great players. The gig was as “house band” for Sean’s Civic Jazz program and was designed to offer playing opportunities for students outside of the classroom setting. Four of Sean’s students came down to play and blew our minds. Two kids, brothers, were 9 and 11, I think. Pianist and drummer, both of whom couldn’t have been more than 4 feet tall, but they KILLED! Better jazz conception than many collegiate students, even at the most prestigious music schools. There were obvious issues with steady tempo and form, but seriously, it was a deep experience. Very humbling. AND they played for 45 minutes, not reading a single note of music. Red Clay, So What, a Blues or two, and Blue and Green, all from memory. The bassist, who was 13, had such a great beat, and what Roger calls “the hump.” Sean said it best: “If this is the future of jazz, we’re in good hands.”
It also made me realize that music, and jazz especially, is best learned through early, constant exposure. Maybe I’m biased because of my upbringing, but last night reaffirmed this feeling. Watching these kids slay us and the audience brought several questions to my mind about jazz education. I thought about Eastman, Indiana, and Michigan being rated as the top three music schools in the country, and I thought about the type of students that attend these schools. What separates these students from those that attend other schools. Is it talent? Work ethic? Money? Equipment? One question kept coming back to me, though. If you know you want to go into music as a career and lifestyle, why would you not everything in your power to get as good as you possibly can? In other words, don’t give me excuses, just do what you need to do. Period.
Thinking back to the kids last night, I want to leave this post with one message. If you haven’t already been learning about jazz by the time you’re in college, it’s almost too late. There are exceptions, of course, but a child’s ability to incorporate the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax associated with jazz is unparalleled. The older you get, the harder it is to change your musical habits. So parents, please, play some Coltrane for your children.