The new Bass Musician Magazine (I am a columnist for this publication) just launched, and there are several excellent features that piqued my interest:
- The Working Bassist by John Carey: What You Really Need to Know to Survive in New York City
- Transcription of Jaco Pastorius’ Bass Solo on “Used To Be A Cha-Cha”
- Melodic Exercice for Intonation and Technique
My contribution for this moth is a repackaging of the Contrabass Conversations 100th episode that we put out at the end of 2008. If you haven’t checked it out, let me now what you think. It is a recap of the dozens of guests that we’ve had on the podcast, with everyone from Lawrence Hurst to Steve Rodby sharing how they got started on the double bass.
Editorial on the value of art in our society
Jake Kot, editor for Bass Musician Magazine, has a particularly good editorial about the state of affairs for music at the end of the first decade of this new century. You can also read his cover story interview with Adam Nitti in this current issue.
Here’s a snippet from his editorial that resonates with me:
A musician plays a gig at a typical club here in the states and is offered the same amount of money for his (or her) services for the evening that he made literally 25 years ago, but is then offered half off on food and drinks, and is expected to say, “Cool, that amount you offered me is ‘now’ OK”. A new jazz club opens in any town USA and the amount the club offers to pay the band for the gig is…Nothing….but you can put someone at the door to collect money and we’ll be sure to take just a “small” percentage of that. And the infamous L.A. policy, “pay” to play”? I could go on.
Along these same lines, in my interview with Ron Carter, he stated that he saw tremendous talent in the younger generation of players coming up, but expressed his concern for wondering “where” all these talented players were going to be “able” to play. Directly tied to that remark is my question, why do even the most famous jazz icons of our time, representing the music this country “founded”, have to look to Europe to be able to sustain a tour?
Let’s look at this in another light, with a real-life comparison of wages. A new baseball player (a rookie) is offered a $72 million contract for his services over the course of a few years. After recently talking to a musician that I feel is no doubt one of the finest artists in every respect “in the world”—and I hope you’ll trust my opinion— shares with me that he had a good year last year and made a little over $100,000.00. I’m sorry, but that comparison of wages with all due respect is pretty pathetic.
A final comment: It’s the oldest joke in the musical community (that would be joking, and not) that, sadly, still remains within our culture: The question, many times asked with an air of total sincerity, “Do you have a ‘real’ job beyond being a musician”?
I could easily expound upon these hyperboles I’ve chosen to share, but I think I’ve made my point, and the obvious here is, yes, I can be a cynic with the best of them. But now let me change course with the second event that I spoke of which fueled my need to go to the dark side first, and which, I have to admit, was a bit of an epiphany for me personally.
I received an e-mail from Nathan East with a picture of himself and Barack Obama taken at the inauguration festivities. After reading Nathans message attached to this photo, I had no doubt that the purpose of this communication was about sharing the immense pride that he felt at that moment in time. This was much more than a pictorial marketing tool; this was a snapshot in time of the joy this man was feeling being involved in this very auspicious occasion with our new President—–it was, in his own words, “the thrill of a lifetime”.
So, what is the revelation I experienced through that communication? it’s as simple as this: In this era, where changing the status and appreciation for the importance of the Arts in this society, as well as cultivating the due respect that any artist unequivocally deserves looks to be damn near “impossible”, I would suggest that we all take a look at what we could learn from a discussion with our new President as far as conquering the notion of an “impossibility” is concerned. That thought was an undeniable “light bulb” moment for me personally.
Awareness is the first step in the pursuit of imposing change within our society, and I hope in some small way I, as well as this magazine, have contributed to that first step…..said another way, I hope we’re making a difference.
Jake Kot, Editor