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Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Guest post: James Danderfer

James is a great clarinetists and composer from Vancouver who we've been lucky enough to get in Montreal for a couple of years while he completes his masters degree from McGill. Check out his music at www.JamesDanderfer.com

Here's his post in response to my assignment (read my original post here: "The Jazz Wars")

Moving on, let me give a quick shout out to all the over-thinkers out there! If thinking about shit was a job, we’d all be making bank in over-time. But it’s not, and unless you have a somewhat 9-5 job to distract you then may just be thinking about much too much all at once. Probably nothing brilliant mind you, just… thoughts.
Anyways, that’s where I’m at these days,…over-thinking. And everything ties into something else, such as,…hmm, I don’t know,… let’s say your friend is releasing an electroacoustic EP pretty soon. Well that person starts thinking about how to release the EP (digital download cards vs. CDs, free streaming albums vs. sound bites) but first he’s gotta work out lots of details with his yet to be created record label, and then he thinks about the CD release show which should line-up with the CD release but he doesn’t know how on Earth to perform this music live!… etc, etc.
And then I get a request to think about and comment on this YouTube video of Jason Marsalis(jazz drummer extraordinaire and proponent of traditional jazz values). Why would anyone bother to do this you ask?
The request came from a great jazz pianist (and blog enthusiast) Josh Rager. Now Josh, if you’re reading this, let me just say; I love giving my opinion on anything, the problem isI’m an over-thinker who will think about it, and think about it, and waste more time and think,… until I can come up with THE answer, only there is no definitive answer so my mind will just run around in circles! It’s infuriating,. Okay?… I mean seriously!
So allow me to simplify my opinion on the view which Jason expressed. He believes that institutionalized jazz has lost touch with humanity and students no longer appreciate the value of playing for audiences but instead have learned only to play for themselves or other musicians.
First of all, I hope this guy has a sense of humour because I found the video kinda hilarious. Jason’s poorly edited, Cronkite-esque barroom sermon about “Jazz Nerds International” which, by the audio/video quality, I’m guessing was delivered to somebody’s old cell-phone camera. … Awesome.
So yeah, on one hand I completely agree, institutionalized jazz music hasn’t placed nearly enough emphasis on the core element of expressing emotion to audiences.
On the other hand, it’s music dude! People should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want to! If some guy wants to play jazz music for himself (possibly in 5/4 too) then let him. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s art.
If there’s any solution here it’s to be done by better categorizing the many styles of jazz music. I mean, how is it that jazz came to be a cover all term for any kind of music from Louis Armstrong to hip hop to the Doobie Brothers? It is kinda frustrating when audiences go out to hear a jazz show expecting something swinging and end up with some sort of through-composed, intellectual, new music performance,… and vice versa of course. I know what some of you are saying: “Who knows?  Yeah, sure, they might, but they probably won’t; just like when I go to eat at an Italian restaurant I probably don’t want to be surprised with pan-Asian fusion dishes.
I don’t know, is it just me? I love labels and relish the opportunity to express this to any musician who considers themselves far too “open-minded” to have use for such things.  Labels are great, they don’t limit anything, instead they serve as a tool towards identifying someone’s likes and dislikes.  Labels help me find the right section in a library, just like they help me find the right aisle in a grocery store, just like the “list of ingredients” helps me determine whether to choose this jar of pasta sauce or the other.  Why hell, that’s an idea right there! ”Jazz Festivals” (which, in my world, would hereby be called “Music Festivals”) could include an ingredient list next to all “fusion” artists, listed in order of greatest percentage, ie:  The Joe Blow Fusion Collective:  Contemporary European Classical, American Folk, Jazz, Blue Grass.
You see? Somebody looks at that and they can say “You know what, I’m not a big jazz fan but I love American Folk and so I’m going to give Joe Blow a chance.” Likewise, they won’t leave Joe Blows show saying “Wow, I kinda thought jazz was more swinging. I guess jazz isn’t my thing.”
OK, I’m done thinking about this. Josh, I hope that was worthwhile, keep up the blogs!

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