Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Sometimes it feels like a shit-storm juggernaut

In the last 24 hours or so, I have learned two very depressing things.

1. The Cave, Alan Jones' great new-ish venue here in Portland, has closed. Tom D'Antoni has the story.

It was a potential scene-maker, that place. Loose enough, I think, to allow for the sort of artistic percolation that is necessary for new things to grow.

I was just there with Andrew Oliver a few weeks ago, fer chrissakes. They were doing a brisk business. On a Thursday night. In this economy.

As Tom puts it:

Are you feeling the same, and increasingly (nearly daily) anger and disappointment and frustration as I am? It used to be that we all could go back to day jobs when times got lean and nobody was buying our words or hiring us for gigs. Now there aren't even any day jobs. I wish I had some answers.

Me too.

2. Rocco Somazzi is ill.

Any of you who have ever asked me about the history of the IJG or how we got started in LA will know the high esteem in which I hold this guy. He was an early supporter at a time when we really needed support.

It's kinda too much to ponder at the moment, so I'm just going to point you to the above-linked piece by LA Jazz Collective member / pianist Gary Fukushima. Of which the following section is particularly apt:

I’ve held a theory for a while now that the act of successful improvising requires that the improvisor needs to suspend most of the brain functions that normally govern our lives, things like being hungry, feeling physical pain, being depressed, worried or nervous. All you have left is an intense focus on the next three or four seconds, where your entire life exists in that moment. And when you actually do something that works in those three or four seconds, it’s really all the life validaition you need at that moment. Your life is complete, and it is abundant. For three or four seconds.

I find that I tend to live my entire life, sometimes to my detriment, similar to how I improvise. I’ve never had much of a long term vision about how my life is supposed to work, you could say I’m improvising my way through this world, just trying to focus really hard on the tasks right in front of me. I tend not to freak out about the future, but I can certainly panic when life starts to catch up with me (just like when the changes do the same), be it paying bills, meeting writing deadlines (like the one for this article), getting to a gig or rehearsal on time. I tend to get lost and absorbed in whatever I am doing at that particular moment, which can lead to some semi-dysfunctional episodes…


I get the sense that I’m not the only jazz musician that has this outlook on life. I wonder if its a defense mechanism of sorts that keeps us from getting overwhelmed by the struggles of surviving by doing what we do. I do believe that we can enjoy little instances that happen, we can relish the funny and unusual things that can happen from day to day, gig to gig, evident by the propensity of jazz musicans to tell great stories. We always seem to be laughing, even while we play, and definitely when we’re hanging out off the bandstand between sets.

For me, this is the Abundance of the Moment.

Which brings me to Rocco Somazzi. Now Rocco isn’t a jazz musician, but he might as well be one, for I think he thinks the way we do, only more. I don’t know of anyone who is more enthusiastic about things he likes and who gets more excited when talking about music or art or food or Ferraris or kung fu. His enthusiasm led him to open up several jazz clubs in Los Angeles, where he always created a welcoming, supportive environment for creative jazz musicians and their music. Like many of us, Rocco’s enthusiasm can get the better of him, as witnessed when hard times sadly forced him to move and then close his establishment, leaving him bankrupt and homeless for a time.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Rocco.


Evan said...

Wow - I really liked the article there. Love reading your blog - hang in there!

Andrew Durkin... said...

Thanks much, Evan!