Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Speaking of blogs...

...I just got wind of the LA Jazz Collective's online journal.

I've known about this group for a while, but I didn't know they were delving into the whole blog thing. Note to LAJC: Get out while you can, guys! Save your sanity!

Anyway, go check it out; it's a good read.

Alas, any realistic jazz blog is gonna be peppered with heartbreaking posts like this postmortem of a gig gone bad, written by pianist Gary Fukushima. An excerpt:

Dolores told me she felt disrespected by the musicians for a number of things, including the coffee cups, band members complaining about their food, and the fact that I advertised this gig in the LAJC newsletter starting with the phrase, “on a smaller scale…”. Of course, what comes to mind when hearing something like that is all of these little things that she took offense to were probably generated by the fact that no musician in their right mind thinks they’ve invested a lifetime’s worth of study and often times very expensive college tuition at a first rate music school so they can play at a place that won’t invest a dime of its own money into the music. The resentment is there from the beginning, which can be mitigated if the club respects the musicians and the music. Well, the bartender was grumpy at best and sometimes unbelievably rude, the band had to buy their own drinks, and tonight they wouldn’t even feed the band, so Robby bought drinks for his band instead. This on top of making $6 each at the door.

It’s an intolerable situation. The club feels like they’re doing the musicians a favor by providing a space for them to make music. The musicians feel like they’re doing the club a favor by providing music for their space. If business is good, that agreement is fine, if it’s bad those sentiments turn toxic in a hurry, which is exactly what happened.

Robby said something very important after our ill-fated evening. He said one of the main reasons why we have started the LAJC is to avoid these situations, and he’s right. We should have the power and the resources to make sure this thing doesn’t happen again, to set up a situation that will be both beneficial to the musicians and the venues that host us.

I recently fell into a situation where I may have an opportunity to present a music series of my own here in PDX... but when I'm reminded of scenarios like the one Gary describes, I have to wonder if I reeeeaaaally want to get into that. We'll see.


Anonymous said...

It's always a balancing act.

I am curating a series in New Orleans and we have been running since November. So far so good (knock on simulated wood grain formica covered particle board).

If you want to talk about it call me ( # on my website)

BTW I got the IJG CD and it is SLAMMIN'. Although I must be as old as Tom Hull, because I can only read the back in daylight at the right angle. ;)

mrG said...

I'd put it all down to a breakdown in communications. The band, clearly, did not express to the management that their goal was making money, and the management did not express their intent of supplying cheap ambiance to the patrons, and had either known, they could have cancelled and saved the ugly pause at the end. So I'd say both are to blame.

Now, while I'm being unpopular in my opinions, I'd just like to throw out an anecdote: The previous owner of my bass gave it to me because he was fed up with The Biz, too old for that stuff (the word he used was stronger) and he has instead applied himself 100% to quilting. His quilts are amazing, as he'd done with his 50+ years playing, he pours everything he has into each and every one of them, but he has a problem: once done, once he has what HE wanted from the process, he's stuck, he has this art-i-FACT, this quilt that is now useless to him, taking up space in his home.

The artifact is a rear-view mirror. He just wants to go forward, get on to the next jam, sail through the next set of changes. So he gives them away. He keeps several in his car and invents reasons to hand them out to strangers, to waiters and waitresses, to anyone he figures might need one.

Anecdote the second: we live in a rural community pretty far from the worries of the world, and a big event around here are the town fair and art/craft shows. Both are populated by painters and knitters that all tell me that same story, that they got what they wanted from the experience and now they are stuck with this artifact collecting dust, weighing them down, consuming precious studio space.

We musicians have an advantage over these people. Once we do our creative thing, once we have what we needed from the experience, the artifact, the sound, moves away from us of its own accord and we remain free and uncluttered to begin the next new, experientially-informed and better experience.

And there's no messy cleanup either.

When we play, paid or not, I always make it a point to thank the hosts and the audience for granting us this space to cast off our rubbish ;)

Andrew Durkin... said...

Jeff -- thanks for the offer, I may take you up on it before long... and thanks for the kind words about the record -- glad you liked it!

Mr. G -- unpopular opinions are always welcome here! I think you hit upon that dastardly divide between the theoretical, ideal, inspirational basis for our music-making (on the one hand), and the nagging question of where the next peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich is coming from (on the other). No easy answers, to be sure... but I will say that LA is the sort of place that makes the latter issue seem more important than it is.

Thanks, guys!

GF said...

Andrew, I finally noticed you linked our blog and even used my little anecdote regarding my unfortunate experience with that club in Hollywood. Thanks for the props and advice, blogging consistently is a challenge, especially when you let it go for a bit...props back at you for going above and beyond the call in making your blog entertaining and insighful.

I just wanted to respond to mrG (months later, I know) and acknowledge that we knew we weren't going to be making a lot of money (if any at all), but we were approached by the club to start a series there that they hoped would bring in a lot of people. Many of our LAJC members were pretty skeptical that we would be able to bring in people to this place, but we decided to try it anyway, and only after we initially turned the opportunity down, changing our mind after a last minute plea by the club presenter. So it was less of a miscommunication and more of a failing to heed the warning signs up front. We're all wiser for it.

As for presenting your own series, I think that goes a long way towards avoiding the situation we found ourselves in if the one doing the presenting has a healthy relationship with both the club and the groups he/she decides to bring in, because they can act as a much needed buffer between management and talent, to use such barbaric terms in describing our roles. If you were to present a series, that would immediately be a benefit to the music scene in Portland. Did you decide to do it?

Andrew Durkin... said...

Hey Gary -- thanks for the comment! The LAJC blog is really great and thoughtful.

I haven't followed through on the series opportunity I mentioned -- mostly because I've been too busy with IJG-related stuff. I may yet get to it -- I wouldn't want to do it unless I could give it the attention it deserved, though, and I'm not quite sure I'm there yet.

Good luck with the LAJC, and stay in touch!