[JPL] Mastery Redux

Rick McLaughlin rick at rickmclaughlin.com
Fri Sep 15 13:34:12 EDT 2006


Thanks Jae,

I totally buy that.  In fact, I have had many a similar conversation with
other musicians and scholars and the like.  But then this really begs the
next question, which is if mastery creates the sound of an individual, is it
fair to use benchmarks when considering the contributions of an up and
coming artist?  Would it be fair to talk about Wes Montgomery in the context
of a Ben Monder recording?  Or Milt Jackson in the context of a Mattias
Lupri recording (Matthias, I know you are lurking somewhere on this
list...)?  Or Hawk about a Tony Malaby recording?  Or, yes here it comes,
Ella and Sarah Vaughn in the context of a Roberta Gamberini recording?  

And the list goes on - who does it help?  The icons or the up and comings?
Does it truly help the radio programmers build an audience or does it mean
that the long term effects are that the audience will only expect to hear
the music of the icons and their disciples?  Will they shun music that they
are otherwise unfamiliar with?  Maybe it's happening today - I really don't
know the answer, I'm just asking the question.

Thanks,

Rick

-----Original Message-----
From: jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com
[mailto:jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com] On Behalf Of Jae Sinnett
Sent: Friday, September 15, 2006 1:14 PM
To: Jazz Programmers Mailing List
Subject: Re: [JPL] Mastery Redux

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Rick, this is a somewhat simplistic response to your involved fundamental
question.......I remember Oscar Peterson talking about technique. Someone
asked him about his technique and how much does he think the musician
needs......his response was "you only need enough technique to do what YOU
are trying to do." Interesting. I guess it's when you try to do what others
are doing that you run into problems. 
   
  My point to this is that I look at someone like....lets say Herbie
Hancock. I view him as a "master" because he clearly is identified with 'his
sound." Granted he has extraordinary technique but it's the sound from my
perspective that I think puts you in the master category. Look at Monk. His
technique wasn't the greatest but you know you're listening to Monk when you
hear him. No question. Could Monk play with Oscars technique? No but he
didn't need to in order to create "his" sound. Think about it....every
artists sound that we recognize we consider them masters. There are great
technicians everywhere but many don't have "their" sound. 
   
  So from this perspective having mastery is significant because it reveals
to us one that has achieved something that is of paramount
importance.....the ability to create something that is solely connected to
them. So is it important? Absolutely because without it there would be no
valid points of departure because everyone would be emulating everyone else.
Mastery breeds...or should....individualism. It's offers hope to those
wanting to excel in their craft. Ironically, it also discourages because it
also reveals the effort necessary in acheiving this level. One of the things
that makes  a great programmer is the ability to recognize the "sound" of
that programmer. I doubt if any programmer wants to sound like another.
   
  So lets embrace mastery. It offers hope and gives many of us something to
reach beyond our own comfortable sphere of understanding. 
   
  Jae Sinnett

Rick McLaughlin <rick at rickmclaughlin.com> wrote:
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Cats, I'll totally let this drop if the same resounding silence as
yesterday's happens. Sorry to be a nudge, but if the shoe fits...

So the questions are these:

- What is mastery, in jazz, in music, from whatever vantage point you
choose?
- Does this thought process actually help us learn from up and coming
artists, or does it hinder the process by unfairly tainting our ears in some
way?
- Further, is it fair to use benchmarks when listening to new artists,
benchmarks that often a) come from a purely canonized view of jazz, b) often
have little to do with the music a young-ish artist is creating, and c) is
even sometimes arbitrary?
- Finally, given the context of this group, how does this help build an
audience of jazz listeners, and what does it do to hinder?

The context, from my original post is:

Hey everyone,

This discussion re: Roberta, combined with our earlier talk about big bands
has piqued my interest, so thanks for that. There are a few questions that I
have liked asking prominent musicians, things like "do you think of yourself
as a jazz musician?", "does the label 'jazz' matter to you and to your
music?", "why do you play?", and then the very interesting question "what
does mastery have to do with your music?" Mastery, it turns out, is not
exactly the easiest subject to deal with, and I'm curious about how y'all
view it. So let me set the stage a little more.

One problem with mastery is that it implies a hierarchical relationship to
music, that somehow when someone has "mastered" their instrument or a genre
of music, that they have conquered it. When I was finishing my master of
music degree at New England Conservatory, I used to joke, you know, "that's
right, I'm about to be a master of music - music won't be pushing ME around
anymore." 

And just because a musician has mastered their instrument or a genre, that
does not mean that they always will. Everyone has off days, or, take late
Bud Powell recordings, tough eras. Those records are the kind that, when you
go to a record store, the expert sort of explains away like, "well, it was
pretty late in his life and he was really sick at the time, but they are Bud
Powell recordings, and just by virtue of that, you must own these." I bought
them.

Relative to this Roberta Gamberini discussion, who does it help to consider
whether or not she is a master, and then to compare her to Ella and Sarah
Vaughn and others? Does it help Roberta - is she aspiring to fill the shoes
of these artists? Maybe, I really don't know because I never asked her, but
I suspect that long-term, it does her a disservice. Does it help the legacy
of these "masters" by somehow keeping their work as the benchmark for all
singers who come after them? 

And is that really fair - the benchmark aspect? Is it fair to use Bud Powell
as a benchmark for all pianists who come later? Well, if one is trying to
specifically play the bebop language, then maybe. But I also argue that
Cecil Taylor is just as important in the context of this music, and I know
that this comment will bring some sparks my way. Why shouldn't he be a
benchmark, or Paul Bley, or someone else? Same with Anthony Braxton, and I
hate to bring this up again, but I argue that his recording of You Stepped
out of a Dream, duo with Dave Holland on Quartets 1974 is totally
unbelievable even though it has almost nothing to do with the canonized
language of jazz up to that point. Why shouldn't Braxton, or Ornette, or Lee
Konitz, or I don't know who else, pick someone, why shouldn't they be the
benchmark. Anyone that isn't Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker or
Dizzy - not that I don't totally love their music, I'm just asking why, or
maybe, why not?

So I put it to you, and I am very curious about how you view [the questions
above]:

Thanks again,

Rick McLaughlin
Bassist, composer, teacher, and frequent (hopefully not pompous) blowhard


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This week's sponsor:  Russ Kassoff - ''SOMEWHERE'' (2006) - RHK JAZZ 

-------------------------------------------

''It goes without saying that FRANK SINATRA could have enlisted the services
of any accompanist he wanted. The fact that he chose RUSS KASSOFF speaks
volumes about Kassoff's unequivocal artistry, which is splendidly showcased
on SOMEWHERE'' (Jack Bowers-AAJ).  After almost 40 years as a professional
musician, KASSOFF's first album as a leader features his serene beauty,
intriguing style, and vivid concepts as an outstanding composer and gifted
improviser.  With MARTIN WIND (bass) and TIM HORNER (drums), ''SOMEWHERE is
vibrant, compelling, and destined to become an essential component of
collections that favor jazz trios'' (Paula Edelstein-AMG).  ''Performed with
class and a fine touch'' (Marion McPartland), ''SOMEWHERE is a masterpiece''
(Bucky Pizzarelli).
 
ON YOUR DESKS NOW!
 
GOING FOR ADDS:  8/28
 
Available on-line:  www.cdbaby.com/kassoff
 
FALL ITINERARY (including Knickerbocker in NYC with BUCKY PIZZARELLI Sept.
28-30), (Midtown Jazz at Midday - Saint Peter's @ Citicorp NYC - 1 PM
Oct.11),  UPDATED BIO, PRESS RELEASE, PHOTOS and more, please visit
www.russkassoff.com/somewhere
 
For more information, interviews, etc. -- please contact:
katesmith999 at yahoo.com and visit www.katesmithpromotions.com

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