Talking about music

Over the past few weeks, I had the privilege of sitting opposite four outstanding local musicians in the Radio Regent studio to record the Artistic Director's Guide to Jazz - Live! Over four sessions, we chatted about 16 of the musicians performing at this year's festival - singers, guitarists, solo performers and R&B acts - but we also got into some of the fundamentals and philosophies behind music-making. Each of the conversations was fascinating in its own way.

Some memorable moments include Alex Samaras' perspective on Dianne Reeves, and how her singing feels like a safe place in which an audience can curl up and feel welcome to stay; Larnell Lewis' description of "the pocket", and how he started by referring to the literal pockets in one's pants; Bill King's explanation of the work required of a pianist when playing solo (but also the way his face lit up when talking about Keith Jarrett); and Margaret Stowe's reminder us of the importance of listening but also trusting one's musical partners, especially within the context of spontaneous improvisation.

I feel privileged to have had these conversations for a few reasons. First of all, I'm always excited to talk about music - about what makes an artist interesting, about the underlying concepts which make music tick, and about why music inspires me. Second, I'm excited by the idea of someone tuning in to these sessions and developing a new appreciation or having a new spark generated for an artist or musical style they might not yet have explored.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I continue to be inspired and continue to learn from musicians who know so much more than I do. I have said it before - if I ever get to the point where I think I know everything about music, it will be time for me to step away from this job. As musicians and as administrators, we must seek to always be learning from our peers, from others' experiences, from other artists. We've been running these sessions for four years, and I can confidently say I've learned about a new musician, or have gained a new perspective on music, at each session.

My thanks go to Casey van Gorkum and Radio Regent for hosting these sessions. Two have aired already; the final two sessions will air on Wednesdays May 21 and 28 around 3 pm on Radio Regent. We'll be archiving the sessions as audio podcasts on our website too - they'll be posted soon.

In previous posts I've mentioned the importance of "the hang." There is a vital social aspect to hanging out with other musicians, but even more important perhaps is the exchange of ideas, perspectives, philosophies and more which can only happen in person.


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