Sunday, April 08, 2018

Jazz RUINED MY LIFE and other red-blooded tales

this is what jazz does to you
Apparently there is a blog called JAZZ RUINED MY LIFE that is not written by the Napoleon Dynamite guy. It's about [cue mournful saxophone]:

The long drives; the dive bars[...]; playing for the door and getting handed 14 dollars at the end of the night; the drunk dancers[...] crashing into you when you are trying to play; the creepy club owners[...]; and the fact that, for the most part, we are making the same money now that we made 20 years ago–and sometimes less[...] this is the stuff that wears you down after a while.   

He invites people to share their experiences as musicians sorry they ever got involved with the jazz music. That's the site. The following person shared his own story on the Drummerworld forum, which is how I found out about it., I don't want to pick on the guy, but there are some lessons to be learned here about how not to go about having a career in music, and how not to play music:

Jazz did not ruin my entire life, just the musical part of it. I am a drummer and everyone knows me as one. I used to be in all sorts of classic rock cover bands, indie rock bands, and filled-in for various projects over the years. Then I discovered jazz. 
My playing started to change. I was throwing in ghost notes everywhere, doing more short fills and only keeping time on the ride cymbal. That’s great for be-bop, but not so much for any other genre. I would be preparing for a fill-in gig for a country act by trying to emulate Elvin Jones as best as possible.  
and this 

I became addicted to the style. I got rid of all my drums and bought a small kit. A 16" Bass drum doesn’t work for hard rock music. Dark cymbals don’t cut through harder music. Showing off my hundreds of hours spent learning to play with brushes did not score points with the punk band I was sitting in with 
I looked around for jazz gigs, and there was simply no scene. Put out ads, recorded/filmed demos, went to open mics…never once scored a paying gig or found any reliable musicians with the same interests. 
All my expensive gear and years of practicing amounted to frustration, loneliness and isolation in the local music scene. Nobody wanted to play with “the Jazz guy.” My name is no longer a “name you can trust” for backing up your band. It’s a name that gets mocked and thrown out as a contender for any serious gig. 
Laying on the ground, unable to take it anymore, looking up at my gear, I wanted to throw it away. It brought me nothing I ever desired or worked for. Hitting rock bottom in my jazz room, there was no path from here. 
I had to give it all up. Box up those hours of listening to standards, all those ads seeking like-minded musicians, for it brought nothing positive to my life.

Sooo yeah. Can you spot where he went wrong? Here's what I caught:

1. My playing started to change. I was throwing in ghost notes everywhere 
The unseen hand of jazz made him to do these things. Oddly impersonal phrasing, as if he's describing a situation over which he had no control.

2.  I would be preparing for a fill-in gig for a country act by trying to emulate Elvin Jones
This statement should trigger intense alarm. Like, I went into my job as a line cook and I just started throwing chocolate sauce everywhere. Why would anyone do this? How is this on the radar as an appropriate way to approach a professional situation where something very obvious, very specific, is called for?

3. I became addicted to the style.
Style-of-drumming addiction is not an actual thing. We can have a philosophical discussion about the nature of free will, “how truly free is man” and all that, but you do actually have a choice in how you play a country gig.

4.  I got rid of all my drums and bought... a 16" bass drum.
He says he was doing various rock projects before jazz entered his life. Why would someone sell the gear he needs for the work for which he's actually getting called and buy something that's useless for it? Who knows?

5. [My name] gets mocked and thrown out as a contender for any serious gig etc etc
Engages in a lot of professionally self-destructive behavior, then wallows in self-pity. I think “the jazz” might not be the problem here.

6. I had to give it all up.
I don't understand this mentality: going about something in a completely crazy way, then dramatically renouncing the whole endeavor when the approach inevitably fails. What did he expect to happen? I have no idea.

I hope the lessons here are obvious, like: do your actual job like a professional in all situations, and take responsibility for your creative decisions, and don't totally abandon the thing you're ok at to do something you're bad at. Don't expect instant returns when you decide to get into something new and hard.

Regarding the larger point of the blog, (maybe “jazz kinda ruined my life in general because I could use some more gigs”?): I hope nobody is taking up jazz for the money, fame, and/or adulation. The reliable paycheck and retirement benefits. The massive gig-load. The actual reason you do get into it is maybe a subject for another day, but economically it's a very challenging field even for the best players in the world.

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