Greg Henry Waters Newsletter July 2005

Listening to music from a composerís point of view: Jazz Clubs in the Village / 3 Clubs

Fat Cat Lounge (Bar, Game Room and Jazz Room) Smallís (Bar Performance Space) Club 55 one of the oldest jazz clubs in New York (just a bar) all in the same one block of each other in the village.

Well, I have put two more articles on my website that I did not send out so if you want to read some new articles read 43 and 44 this one will be 45.  Lately I have been concentrating on the clarinet performance and I recorded some 31 new songs so far; there are so many saxophone performers in New York that I decided I should concentrate more on the clarinet.  I hope to do more and make my CDS more individual so as not to have duplications.  It is a lot of work and very time consuming. But I think it is the most important thing I can do now.

Lately I created a duo with Mitch Borden on Violin and yourís truly on clarinet; we play classical style improvisation and it reminds me of Bartokís music or classical music from the 20th century.  We perform in the game room at Fat Cats at 75 Christopher when I have time to visit down there.

Ok, my report on music in New York in the clubs from a composerís point of view.  Well,  you know my problem with jazz is that my roots are in classical music and when I hear jazz performers I cannot help think of my education with the New York Woodwind Quintet, Carol Glenn, Lee Gibson and Bernard Dieter my most enfluential music teachers.  For me the laws of music are the same for any type of music because music comes from the universe or God.

What am I trying to say is live music is very difficult to get right.  Even the Met here in New York City has balance problems between the orchestra and the singers depending on where you are sitting.  So the musician might hear one thing and the audience could be hearing something else. My point is how is the audience going to hear the real sound of the music and enjoy the joy of it all from the connections between the rhythm, harmony and melody?

For when I was in all three jazz clubs there was the same problem in all of them and including the Met.  How is one going to hear the quality of the sound and the balance of the harmony with melody. You see, listening to the music from a composerís point of view one must hear the harmony of the music in relationship to the melody and the rhythm this is what makes music sound really great and the balance of the volume between each instrument and the thickness of sound.  So many factures are involved when one listens to music.  And with the limited number of performance musicians are able to perform it is really hard on them to get it right.  So the economic situation and number of performances per-week makes it difficult for everything to really be right.  I was in Blue Note one night and the sound was just terrible, but the really sad part of it was the audience was not really aware of the sound.  So I have a theory people think a lot of music is very good because someone told them that it was good not that they had the knowledge to know it. 

 At Fat Cat and Smallís they have good pianos and in tune which was really a surprise for me that the owners care about the sound of the bands and are concerned really about the music.  You can read the line up at fat cat at http://fatcatjazz.com which tells you where the club is and who is playing.  They have a weekly line up from bebop, modern jazz and Latin Jazz.  Bar55 has a variety and they have an early and late show every night.  ( http://smallsrecords.com for their latest CDS) What is interesting about these clubs is that they are just small bars except for fat cat lounge is very big 4000 square feet which includes of course a large game room.  But they are really a place to listen to a variety of jazz in a professional place to listen to music.  It is like having a concert in your own home.

Getting back to the music in the bars is when they had drummers they all played too loud except for one and that was Rodney Green who seemed to know the balance of a group, but then the bass was too loud and one could not hear the piano that clearly.  For me to hear the harmony is so important and if I could not hear the harmony in relationship to the melody, rhythm and solo it makes it difficult for me to enjoy the music.  So my solution is not to listen to the music for very long and just think about it later.  In 1966 in Chicago I listened to the Buddy Rich Band when I lived there and Buddy was playing so loud he covered up the band.  I thought how stupid this was for Buddy to do.  What is the sense of performing if there is not a balance? I do not care how great a drummer Buddy was he was wrong.  But when you listen to Buddyís music on CDS it is balanced, but why cannot live music have this quality more is my question? When can one hear all the parts as they should be?

What is music?  Well for me music is an escape from the brutal reality of life and brings us the gentleness of life and the pure wisdom of the universe, however, the quality of the soul of the musicians has something to do with this.  But even if the musicians is a terrorist, one jazz bass player was accused of being a terrorist recently here in New York, the music is not on a personal level of the musician it brings us into another dimension above the moral character of the individual.  This confused me for many years because I always related the moral character of the person and the music, but soon discovered that music was on another level beyond man.

This is also a problem for me when it comes to popular music because popular music is just about the subjective part of our lives and nothing to do with the universal for the most part, except maybe for musicians like Bob Dylan who is a poet musician and Woody Allen who is a pure being.  (Know Thyself)  JS Bach was the most universal and spiritual musician besides of course Mozart and Beethoven.

So I have been looking for real music all my life and trying to find out what it really is.  I have lived in four different countries and if one wants to find real music I believe it is here in New York City more than any other place.

Sincerely, Greg Henry Waters

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