Tag Archives: Joe Pass

Why Jazz Sales Are Tanking…And Why Every Music Educator Should be Concerned

According to recent Nielsen data, sales of jazz music dipped below classical, essentially solidifying it as the bottom feeder in the music genre commercial success pool. There’s a lot of speculation regarding the reasons behind this continuing and disturbing trend. Theories include jazz purists’ inability to embrace the evolution of the genre, the marginalization of jazz crossover artists who infuse elements of pop, rock, funk into their music, and the suffering artist syndrome where the musician rationalizes that commercial success is invariably inversely proportional to artistic integrity, and therefore uses meager sales as confirmation of distinction.

Here’s another theory. How many Olympic sprinters go straight from the crib to the track without learning to crawl, stumble, and walk first? Obviously, those interim steps helps prepare the runner for their ultimate achievements. But they also provide a foundation that comes with it an appreciation for the talents and dedication of the world-class sprinter.

In my interview with Dave Wish, CEO/Founder of the Music Education non-profit Little Kids Rock (audio below), Dave discusses how children who learn even the most basic fundamentals of playing guitar (a few basic chords for instance) will never again listen to music the same way. As Dave says, “Just because I read Dr. Seuss to a child doesn’t mean I’ve confined them to a lifetime of reading rhyming books. It teaches them a love of literature at an early age.”

Exposing the wonder of music participation to children in great numbers virtually ensures a healthy pool of future candidates from which a consumer base with an appreciation for higher levels of accomplishment will emerge. As we continue to gut music education programs, we lower the baseline of music awareness, erode the pool of likely appreciators, and drive the masses of music consumers to the most primitive levels of melodic and harmonic sophistication.

In my own experience as a guitarist, it was only after I realized the limitations of the minor pentatonic scale when venturing outside of the basic 3-chords structures of rock/blues guitar that I came to explore the theory of music with greater harmonic variety. Had I never played an instrument and reached that level of frustration that prompted me to delve deeper, it’s not likely that I would have developed such a level of appreciation for the virtuosos I admire like Dave Frishberg, Joe Pass, Donald Fagen, and the like. While I’m sure that there are devout fans of jazz who never picked up an instrument or glanced at music notation, it’s safe to say that a lion’s share of jazz aficionados are those who appreciate the mastery of the artist through their own journey of musical expression. As Dave says…

 

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Ellis Marsalis: “Finding Your Musical Inspiration”

When I interviewed Ellis Marsalis, Jr., the patriarch of the great Marsalis family of jazz, he recalled vividly the music that spoke to him and inspired him to hone his skills as a musician:

“When I was really developing as a piano player, I had one recording that I would play periodically. It was Stratford-Upon-Avon with the Oscar Peterson Trio (Oscar Peterson Live at the Stratford Shakespearean Festival). Once I put that on it would let me know immediately where I was. But you see I found that. And everybody who’s serious, they find it. And it’s different for everybody.”

For me and thousands of jazz guitarists, it was Joe Pass. There was none smoother and more melodic in his artistry. Here’s the link to my tribute to Joe Pass at AllAboutJazz.com And here’s Joe in action

Music Teacher Advice from a Student: Get in the Trenches

I interviewed jazz guitar instructor Hank Mackie a few years ago. Hank’s reputation as both a player and instructor in the New Orleans area is impeccable, spawning a couple of generations of jazz guitar phenoms. I also interviewed a few of his most accomplished students who became professional musicians. Here’s a quote regarding the essence of Hank’s approach to instruction from a student that provides some insight into why he’s so beloved and admired:

“If I could sum it up with one sentence, he got in the trenches with the student,” student Ted Ludwig said, noting the propensity of some teachers to demonstrate a condescending attitude toward students. “He didn’t sit up there on a higher level, look down at you and say OK, this is the thing you need to learn to get up here. He came down to your level and he brought you up. A lot of teachers shoot things at you—If you get it, you get it, if you don’t, you don’t,” he added.

“Hank never was afraid to tell you things more than one time,” says Ludwig. “When Hank was teaching, he let go of the fact that he was a great player. Hank always encouraged his better students to come out and sit in wherever he was playing,” he added, offering further evidence of Mackie’s self-assuredness and humility.

Link to the entire article “Hank Mackie: ‘Pass’-ing Jazz Guitar to a New Generation” at AllAboutJazz.com