Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Versatility: A double edged sword

As someone who came up in an era when the "studio" musician was the pinnacle, versatility was seen as a great attribute. ( Truth be told, when I was in high school, I had planned to become a studio player, and then got super into playing Jazz. ) To be clear, it's important to be able to play a bunch of different styles and feels effectively, but I think it's also important to eventually decide on what sort of player you're going to be and be committed to that. When I was in university I was trying to play Rock like John Bonham, Pop like Ringo, modern Jazz like Elvin Jones, etc. But, if we look at any of those instantly recognizable players, they are known for doing very specific things. Bonham possibly could have been a great brush player, but that wasn't what put him on the map!
It's interesting, getting back to the idea of a studio player, because even someone like Steve Gadd, who was seen as the ultimate studio chameleon, actually has a very recognizable style. In fact, I think Gadd almost singlehandedly created a style where the studio influenced every other style of playing he did. Studio influenced big band, studio influenced small group jazz etc.
Sorry that was a slight tangent!

Anyway, I think partially what I'm getting at is, while you're working to be the best musician you can be, accept that there are going to be things you are going to gravitate towards, both physically and musically. Don't be afraid to embrace those, and especially to cultivate the scene that contains the music that fills your heart and imagination!!!! If you want to play Blues, meet the people in your town that play that music! If you want to play Death-Metal, find other death metal people, jam with them , AND SEE THEIR GIGS!!!!! Of course, you can try and cultivate all the scenes in your locale: just be aware that you could spread yourself too thin. Also, realize that where ever you are, people will tend to pigeon hole you, depending on what they've heard you play. I tend to do more Free Jazz-type things in Guelph, because I joined a freer band in that city, and we've played a fair amount of local gigs, whereas in Toronto I think I'm perceived as more of a straight ahead ( and possibly big band ) player. Please note that other's perceptions of you  may have nothing to do with how you feel you play a certain music. It's just good to be aware of it.

I also want to note that, just because you may never play a certain style of music, doesn't mean you won't get a lot out of studying it. i have spent a fair amount of time practicing "World" styles from Cuba, Brazil, and Western Africa etc. The closest I have come to playing any sort of gig in a non-North American style was with a Chilean singer, and she fired me before she even heard me!
So, work on ALL music. It's good for your brain. But don't be afraid to pursue the music that feeds your heart and soul most! Also be aware that in any music style that you view as just "my R n' B bag" for example, is never going to be as true and authentic as someone who has dedicated their life to that particular music! People who "discover their Jazz side" after they realize they are middle aged and haven't become a big Rock star a special pet peeve of mine!

Speaking of Gadd ( again ) . Let's dig his version of a Mozambique on "Late In The Evening ). He      ( and his leader in this case,  Paul Simon ) is a great example of getting lots of input and influences and filtering it out through your own style! :)

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