Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Ups and Downs Of Life

By Claudio Botelho
“Every jazz musician will say to any interviewer that you’ve got to tell your own story. I love when this story is full of things. Our lives are full of nice moments – there’s a funny situation, then one of us is dying on the floor so it’s suddenly tragic, you call the police but they aren’t coming, so that’s funny again. Life is changing all the time. Some jazz music today is like the Sea of Tranquility, trying to develop the same feeling for 60 minutes. My life is not like that; I cannot tell this kind of story.”
This was stated by Stefano Bollani – a great jazz piano player from Italy – in the May 2.012 issue of Downbeat, as reported by Ted Panken.
Why did I decide to reproduce his saying? The reason is simple: I heartily agree with him, although my perspective is another; I see this fact through the eye (or ears) of a music consumer which, in front of a never-changing mood, feels bored to the point of interrupting the listening.
If Mr. Bollani feels like me and he’s a musician and, as such, always strives to give his works different colors (and that is true, as I think I know most of his commercial recordings), I now have a great assurance this matter is really an important issue.
Now another important issue arises: what if a musician, in doing a single-mood presentation, feels like doing like this? What if all he knows is to express himself in such a way as to render his work one-dimensional; something so similar to itself all along as to lose its breath on the way?
This question have been bothering me for a long time now, so I‘ve decided to share it with you.
Of course if we are talking about jazz, the subject of the conversation is, above all, creativity and if someone can only be inspirational through some kind of mood, should he try to do something about it?
Suppose he’s aware of his predicament which, as it is, will keep him from garnering wider audiences. Should he stay still and let things flow unattended? Or should he try to move over his problem? And, once deciding to change things, wouldn’t he betray himself? By this token, wouldn’t it be more honest to keep his musicality intact and pose with the lack of recognition?
I’m talking about top echelon musicians, many of whom have done extensive agenda of musical studies and practices and, most certainly, know that a symphony, for instance, as along piece of music, must include movements which should encompass different tempi. So, authors like Mozart used slow, medium and fast tempi, usually repeating one of them in the fourth movement. So these are the so called allegro, andante or adagio and scherzo intertwining the presentations, exactly to avoid that sameness more prone to those needing a good night sleep.
This has become the practice since long, long ago and it bothers me a lot to listen to so many otherwise very good jazz albums filled with just one-tempo songs. Things get even worse if one considers there are so many almost-seventy-minute albums, today. I can’t stand more than three or four songs in a row if there’s no mood switch and I’ve come across so many all slow-pace CD’s, especially from certain frozen areas of Europe, many of which by some of the most respected musicians around! It’s a pity having such a bunch of unknown (for me) music as I do!
Conversely, as alluring as some up-tempo music may seem to be, the excess of it also turns the attention down in the long run. Those all conga-punctuated Caribbean sounds, to name one example, especially of the kind of repetitive beats (unfortunately, the great majority of the presentations I’ve listened to) tires one even more, as the songs, in general, are not that polished and, thus, the dominant force is the unchanging rhythm...
I have come to think these trends have something to do with the sun: the more sunlight, the more kinetic energy, the faster the beats. Conversely, less sunlight means less kinetic energy and its consequent slow-beat songs. I don’t know if this is the right connection to be made, but, in some way, one fact is the resultant of the other…
But a second question arises: should a musician just let his inner inspiration rule with iron fists his production, irrespective of its repercussion among his fans? If it’s the case, should he let loose his musical outing in respect, for instance, to himself as an artist, instead of “blemishing his musicality”?
Another question: he may be, as well, unaware of this issue, never even considering it exists. In this case, there’s nothing to do. Of course I know this is also a reality, but how often it happens? Also, it does, here and there, with many musicians and, sometimes, even on purpose. I’m not talking here about these occasional instances, however.
About this last hypothesis, to illustrate, I can remember a CD of an artist which I praise very much and who, in any conceivable way, does one-beat albums, but, once and to the best of my knowledge, did it: I’m talking about Ahmad Jamal and his “I Remember Duke, Hoagy & Strayhorn” (Telarc, 1995). Although filled with his ever fabulous pianism, that CD was sort of boring to listen: out of the great respect Jamal certainly devotes to these great composers, he forgot himself and did a one-note-samba rendering of their songs. I’ve never forgotten the experience of listening to a Jamal so UnJamal…
On the other side of things, listen to João Bosco’s “Senhoras do Amazonas”; a release of this extraordinary artist who, along with the NDR Big Band and musical arrangements of the great Steve Gray, did an exceptional balanced album. I very heartedly recommend this presentation of some of the best Brazilian music!
Of course no one can’t deny the right of anybody to do whatever he wants with his artistic career, but, if the latter wants his art to get wider attention, maybe he’d better consider what Blasé Pascal, by the way, stated, in his “Pensées”, about the subject here discussed:
"We seek rest in a struggle against some obstacles. And when we have overcome these, rest proves unbearable because of the boredom it produces."
That’s all.

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