Music/Jazz/Opinion/Comments/Business GREG HENRY WATERS NEWSLETTER JUNE
2004 PART I
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Objective: This newsletter came out of my experiences dealing in a
new culture and a new history. The purpose of the newsletter is to provoke
serious thought about musical art. What is it? Where should it be going? In
addition, what is going on in
write about my personal experiences and my thoughts about them.
Thank you for sending your news letter and for sharing your feelings , frustrations,
and ideas about creating and making music in this chaotic world we find
As a recently retired 83 year old bass player that has been playing professionally
since I was 16 years old, My first steady job was in a night
club in Chicago while
playing in The Civic orchestra which was the training orchestra of The
Symphony. After almost 4 years in the Navy during World War 2. I moved to New York
where I played with bands, club dates and The N.Y.C. Opera Orchestra. I then
became a member of The N.B.C. Symphony under Toscanini and when the
Orchestra disbanded I stayed on staff at N.B.C. for 9 years playing television
during the golden age of television and free lanced recording sessions. After
the original Broadway show West Side Story I went to Lincoln Center where I
played with The Ballet and Opera Orchestra for 30 years before retiring.
Playing in all these
venues I can say I love all music if its good even
and I have met great and talented
musicians wherever I have played.
Has the music business changed? Yes because of technology and the ability
of producers to record anywhere in the world. The level and abundance of
talented musicians and composers is at an all time high yet the demand and
appreciation of music at best remains the same. There was a time when a
classical audition for
an opening might get 20 applications, today 500 applications is not unusual.
All at a time when the importance of music in the world can not be over estimated.. It is so important to start teaching music to children at
the earliest age of development. I still remember a sign in the window at Carl
Fischer on Wabash avenue in Chicago
that read "A boy who blows a horn won't blow a safe".
Wanted you to know there was someone at the other end of your E mail.
Such a great message you
sent me. Thanks so much for your comment;
if it is ok I will place your words on my music news page? China news
Yes, I started out music
in Milwaukee. It was a great town
for music in many ways but limited when it came to real professionalism. Yes I remember the civic orchestra I went to
Chicago Conservatory, but was not much of a performer in Chicago just wanted to study composition and played gigs with the
local professional bands. When I moved to Toronto I did not even want to perform publicly because I had such
differences with performing musicians.
But the problem was it was the only way I could earn a living was
performing. People wanted to use my
skills. I needed to work so it was a
real problem for me. Even to this day,
(I cannot even walk into disco bars or rock bars that it doesn’t make me
physically sick. I ask myself how the
people can live in this environment. They
must be emotionally dead I think.) I
know, but when I listen to my music I created with
my computer a lot of it is very commercial for me. I do not know what the public thinks but most
of my friends say good things. Although,
I try to write and perform music now people can relate to and still be creative
and original. This is a very fine line. I do not try to judge my music just try to
keep the mistakes out of it.
Here in China, it is anything but creative it is completely commercial. Everything is a quick buck. I was in an Irish bar having a hamburger
yesterday and all I heard on the sound system was Irish
Music. Does this mean in Ireland there is only Irish music.
I know there are many good symphonies in Ireland. I just do not
understand the thinking of marketing people or ethnic marketing this means you ‘cut
off the heads’ of everything that is not in that particular culture; We live in a world
culture now led by the USA cultural system good or bad.
Everybody follows the States from my experiences living in four
different countries all stating to be the best and most important. It is hard to believe what great talent and
artists we have in the States. What great people we produce. We have so many different kinds of music even
in commercial pop music and they are creative.
In Mexico they have their original Mexican
when they go into pop culture it is really nothing all the pop artist of any
worth came from Spain. The
Mexicans are a lot like the
Chinese in a lot of ways always looking to the States for direction, but hating
us for it. Maybe not
hating but when you are on the other end of the words it feels like hate. I met a man from Iraq they other day in a mall and did he ever attack me like I
was some kind of monster. Next time I
meet someone from the middle-east I am not an American. I will be anything else. After Vietnam Nam, the Civil Rights Moment,
Chicago Riots, (I was sub-teaching in Chicago when I saw the buildings burning) LA Riots,
State, Nixon and all the rest.
My point, will the USA ever get it together or will they always be in such a mess
politically. Can we only live with war? I heard from a
friend that 70,000 workers in Wisconsin lost their jobs to lower paying employees in China. It is a world
economy now the factories are going to go where the cheap labor is. There are no unions here in China people work very hard all day and night. Here in Shenzhen they build four floors a day
on their construction projects. It is
called Shenzhen speed. When I was in NY
they were fixing the expressway for some 15 years and the workers were sitting
down having hot dogs all day not during any work. Now where is the corruption? It is all over
the world and in every country from my experience. This ‘Irish bar mentally’ (only Irish Music in an
Irish Bar) has to change all over the world including the States, China,
live in a world economy now whether we
like it or not. We must be open to
others or we will always face war and conflict.
They had great musicians
in Chicago and down to earth. I
should have stayed in Chicago but with the Vietnam War I went to Canada. I could not be an
official employee in Canada until I lived there five years. Not fun for me really, but I was very
creative in Canada more than in New York. I could never
understand all this in fighting in all these cultures. It was never about quality but always about
personal gain, with or without quality.
Exactly you performed in
the golden age of instrumental music. Ever since I started out in music the computer
has taken over all our jobs. When I
played on one of the bands in Chicago one of the trumpet players I met just got
fired from the NBC Orchestra there after 23 years of steady work. This was his first job out of the NBC. I had no real idea that it would be such a
battle just to try to stay in music and be a professional. Plus my skills at playing commercial music
were very limited since I just wanted to be creative. But I ended up doing the best free lance work
for commercial bands in NY which was the Lester Lanin Orchestra. Boy, are there stories that musicians talk
about working for Lester.
are crazy. But I never thought of myself
as one of them. I was 50 and everybody
was still 20 years older than I.
Yes I met the Alto Player
in NY who did West Side Story he told me it was his only real job in NY. He could not do club dates so he was hard to
book and so many young players were coming up then. I had a jazz band then, so many leaders
thought I was competition and would not hire me. It was very strange these entire goings
on. I was too involved in my marriages and
my music to see the ‘commercial light’ really.
I performed with the Al Percino Band who was Stan Kenton’s lead trumpet
player for many years was he ever a character.
He had this music book full of Al Cohn arrangements. It was a great book to perform. But he had I way of speaking that was so
unusual like Miles voice. I
understand now why Miles had that attitude in order for him to stay creative he
had to have this attitude to keep other’s people karma away from him so he
could be creative and alone. He got it
so much even from his own people. They
came down hard on him for using Bill Evans.
The Irish Bar mentally again except in a different culture.
Do you remember George
the bass player contractor who sold guitars?
He was a club date contractor. He
was a friend and passed away many years ago. By the way I am 61 now. Do you remember Steve Little? I remember
George telling me that woman are here to make men’s
life miserable. What do you think of
that? I think it is true.
I know they have made my
Your letter brings up so
many memories I am just writing on and on.
Teaching music, I had a TV
show in NY that was called the Children's Music
Show. I was trying to get the NY
School System to start investing in instrumental music. What a battle it was I used my own money to
produce this show. Never got a thanks or
anything or financial support from anybody and the musicians accused me of
stealing money from them. Wow, I could
not believe it. I heard they were now up
grading the instrumental programs. I was
in one High School where the Grand Piano had a bucket of paint poured into it
and the organs in the school was never repaired.
On my web site I promote,
now for many years, mandatory classes for all students in High School four years
of music. It is too big of a subject for
just one year and too emotional of a subject just for one year.
at Carl Fischer on Wabash avenue in Chicago
I still remember
a sign in the
that read "A boy who blows a horn won't blow a safe".
is still true to this day.
Well, what can we do? So little, except maybe write about it. I also help promote the work of Pastor Gensel and his jazz ministry at Saint Peter’s
Church in Manhattan to give a place for jazz musicians to die and be remembered
in peace. They were thinking about
stopping the program after he retired but thanks to my-self and others they
continued the program. Now I just heard
they are expanding it.
My friend Dennis said if people hear one saxophone on the
radio that means we will still have some work.
He was so tired of the music business that he committed suicide Dennis’s
way. He was in the hospital drinking and
who knows what else when he was on so much medicine. He died peacefully knowing he was free from
the suffering of this world. He really
loved his music and his saxophones. He
was really crazy and really acted up when he was drunk we just left him
alone. We could do nothing for him when
he was like that.
Thank you for writing
me and bringing up all these memories that I have in my mind but never wrote
when this is all over I can put all these words into a book.
Thanks so much, Greg