Greg Henry Waters Newsletter January 2006

The International Association for Jazz Education its 2006 conference in New York City is the topic of this newsletter.  It is the largest type conference in the USA or the World for that matter. But what is really funny is that it is like a rain drop in New York City; so much is going on here, all the time, that everything gets lost in the bigness of it all.

Well, it seems to me it is all politics and very little music especially when you come to the jazz masters part of it.

You know I am 62 years old and I have been listening to the Jazz Masters ever since I have been a jazz musicians, since 8th grade in junior high school.  I had no idea then what a jazz musician was, but I did play a lot of notes.  Now I know many jazz musicians do not know what a jazz musician is.  To me, The Jazz Masters is an artist guild to keep the other jazz musicians out.  I even hate the name of it. Stern created an artist guild here in New York to keep classical performers out of New York too.  Is this what art is? Well they are doing it and getting away with it.  Wow, nobody says anything!

I was talking to my friend Chris from Shenzhen, China and he asked how things were in New York?  Well, let me put it this way.  There are maybe 30 venues of jazz every night, symphony concerts and chamber music concerts at professional concerts halls and many music schools every day and night.  I mean there is so much going on no one can keep up with it.  Plus ballet, opera, Latin Clubs, church music with many venues plus music in the outer boroughs and not including the New Jersey and Conn.  It is heaven compared to Shenzhen China, but at the same time nothing is going on because nothing is growing in fact everything just is becoming more institutionalize which means it is living death not living people or art.

Even though there is so much going on; doesn't mean to say musicians are making a living at it.  With the computer, CDS, taped music in clubs, musicians are 'hard hit', no money or very little. The professional jazz musician has had to go into education to earn a living.  But is this what jazz is all about today, just teaching and creating musicians without any jobs?  With rap music and pop music scene what can we do as musicians to fight the establishment?  Club owners exploiting the excess of musicians.  One friend said, "all the jazz musicians in New York perform for free."  I got a letter in the mail once from a Dr. of Music from Juilliard selling insurance. Well, at least he isn't afraid to announce who he is!

My point in this article is that the musicians and the power structure including the Jazz Masters Organization, National Endowment for the Arts, Music Schools, School Systems, Club Owners, Radio Stations, all these people instead of helping musicians earn a living are hurting them to earn a living.  It is really a contradiction!

My friend Bob McCoy, the lead trumpet player on Johnny Carson's Show in New York said to me once,  "If you want to be a jazz musician you have to own a lot of buildings and collect rent.  Then you can go around and play jazz." ha ha

One musician said to me, "why should I play in a club my babysitter cost more for me to pay than the money I will be making."  The jazz masters have been around since I have started playing jazz in the 7th and 8th grade, Ray Barretto, Tony Bennett, Bob Brookmeyer, Chick Corea, Buddy DeFranco, Freddie Hubbard, and John Levey. My Mother hired Buddy DeFranco to play in our school concert when I was a junior in High School. These people were honored at this conference.  I say forget about these people let us promote the new, the different, the unknown. Please no more, not the people who just tell each other how wonderful they are playing the same old tunes the same old way now for fifty years.  Beethoven or Mozart never performed the same tunes over and over again.  Jazz is no less an art form it is equal to classical music, but is it because we do not have this quality of professional in our business.

Jazz has not moved forward but has moved backwards in my opinion, these same musicians have been working through out my career for over 40 years.  When are we going to see some new names out there? I am personally so sick of seeing these names, listening to their music, hearing how wonderful and great they are.  There are so many musicians just as wonderful and great, but do not get the opportunity to perform and create a name and business for themselves.  It is nothing but a big monopoly as far as I see it and it is world wide too.

IAJE is getting a grant from the federal government for state department tours and it will be given out by Lincoln center jazz group with Wynton; and if anyone knows Wynton he is so one sided; he never heard of Stan Getz, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton or any white jazz musician.  It is too bad that there is this kind of thinking in a creative art form.  But is it creative now?  I hardly think so the business of music has taken the creativity out of jazz.  The schools have taken jazz and made it into formula music with rules.  When I won the Mid-west jazz festival outstanding woodwind award in 1966 the reviewers from Berkley School of Music said, "my performance was wonderful but was not following the traditions of jazz."  Well, does jazz have a tradition?  They gave me a scholarship to go there but since they did not understand my music I thought why should I go there? They are still promoting this kind of II V I mentally  Plus, I was getting my Master's degree in Composition and Theory from Chicago Conservatory College.  Before that I played in the One O'clock from North Texas and performed three clarinet recitals at North Texas. 

Jazz musicians should be free to express themselves not get into formula music like we now have.

I have learned to be a teacher of jazz musicians trying to get them to move forward and let themselves learn to express themselves in a real way and not in a formula way like we have now a days.  "But do they ever fight me on this one, but some musicians have taken free form music so out there no one wants to listen to it.  Music is an art that Mozart and Beethoven mastered and their rules of form are the greatest and strongest alone with Bach. so do not think I am a free form nut."  They do not want to do it so I sit home wondering what to do?  I perform with Band in a Box, no one complains. I mean the musicians I am working with because there are none.

There were so many events at the www.iaje.org festival that one could never take them all in. I think the conference was great and wonderful but there should be one in every state once a year so that would be 50 or more conferences, one for each state.  Just having one conference, or a big jazz community in New York, will not make jazz a business.  Jazz needs to be subsidized like the symphony community is.  You know the city government doesn't even honor jazz here in New York.  Isn't this sick? Well, it makes me sick and I have lived here for over 27 years.

When I was a working full time musician I could not play jazz because it never paid any money. I was always running after money to support my family and playing jazz as a hobby. I turned down gigs with Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Lionel Hampton and Buddy Rich because I had a family and could not afford to leave.  You know because I did this I was not considered an artist by the local music community.  What a joke this all was and is! When will things be placed in the proper prospective?  Why are so many uneducated jerks in charge of things?  I do not know.  Anyway, it was really beyond me in so many ways, the art of music, the money of music, the promotion of one's career, the commercial aspect of music and the politics of music. 

 I ran into my first music teacher of jazz, Dr. Thom Mason, he helped create and make a new saxophone and is a leading teacher of jazz studies at the University of Southern California.  I played this saxophone and it was really great a mixture of a Yamaha and Selmer.  Thom is really worried about the future of jazz music and I know he is not alone.  It was great to speak to someone who had some of the same opinions as I do, but not all of course. http://www.masonmusic.com Check out Thom's Web Site.

Please send in your opinion about creating a musical world that is really musical and lets the general public pay for it.  The general public and the business community are raping the musicians and have been doing it for so long that it is a habit. You cannot go anywhere without hearing music.  Why is the professional musician suffering, now I ask you?  It is because of the careless disregard and respect for human beings and the music profession.

Ok, thanks for reading and I hope this can create a forum to stop the guilds, monopolies, and exploitation from educators, unions, jazz masters, etc. to the jazz community at large.  50 years of the same thing is kind of sickening, don't you think? Car companies and computer companies change their venue, but jazz floats along in the same boat.  No wonder it is being left behind!  

Greg Henry Waters

http://greghenrywaters.com http://cmporg.org

Looking forward to a fight and discussions on this topic! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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