[JPL] Mastery Redux

Rick McLaughlin rick at rickmclaughlin.com
Sat Sep 16 21:10:44 EDT 2006

Hey Jae, Rick, Jan, Bobby, everyone,

Thanks for such thoughtful replies.  Here's where I'm going with this: the
discussion re: Roberta Gamberini highlighted something that has been on my
mind recently, something that I find troubling and I don't know the answer
to (recognizing, Jae, that you have already somewhat addressed the context
in which this happened, but still...) - when the conversation about her new
recording moved to one where people were saying things like "she's the real
deal" and the whole bit about relating (and/or comparing) her to Ella and
Sarah Vaughn et al, well, it struck me.  It struck me not because I have any
affiliation with her, although I may have met her at NEC some years ago (we
were students there around the same time).

Here's the deal - if "mastery" is not something that can clearly be defined
yet recordings of the "masters" are the ones that get a majority of the
airply; and if the jazz icons are going to be the benchmarks against which
all new music is going to be heard and compared (again recognizing some
significant room for varying approaches here), then:

a) how can jazz radio programmers _AND_ musicians expect the jazz audience
to increase in number?  In this context, America's only art form, the
musical genre that was defined by innovation and innovators for decades,
well I think it is in danger of becoming a musty ol' museum piece.  I love
museums, so problem here, but still...  And, 

b) how can we expect for up and coming artists to get a fair shake?  Roberta
Gamberini is just one of hundreds of my generation and younger trying to
make our way through this (but let me also be clear that I'm not trying to
make this about me).  As another example, if the Brooklyn scene is working
its way through a rock band sound (huge Nick Drake, Radiohead & Wilco
following there), and these cats are hitting all the major festivals in
Europe, how can they expect to get a fair shake here?  How can they build an
audience of "jazz" fans, when what they are playing sounds so different?
The jazz radio programmers are probably not going to say, "that was the new
recording by [some incredible band on Fresh Sound/New Talent] - they are
doing some new stuff, reminds me of Wilco."  But to cite any fusion records
or hard bop records or anything else would be off the mark.  You dig?

PS - And I'm not asking how THEY specifically are going to do it, I'm
wondering how to deal with this phenomenon of having a tiny audience, a
large number of amazing musicians on the scene, music schools hitting record
admission levels, and yet instead of talking about the new sounds of a
Roberta Gamberini, we are stuck with the same old thing - "she's the real
deal" and, you know, she reminds me of Ella, just like Ella, etc., etc.  And
seriously, I don't even own her record, I'm just saying that it's the same
old conversation - I'm not trying to sell more of her records or get a gig
with her or anything, I'm just asking the question and she provides a timely

Phew.  Seems like a tirade.  Sorry about that.

Ok, one last thing in my tome.  I just want to say again that I'm a
musician, not a radio guy.  I'm in on this because I think that ultimately
we have the same goal, which is to get great music heard.  I also think that
we are dealing with some of the same problems, centered on a tiny and maybe
even shrinking audience.

That's it for now and thanks again everyone,

Rick McLaughlin

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