Yesterday, I performed, in Trenton, NJ with the Captain Black Big Band. Given that I prefer to be early, I took an earlier train than I needed. Upon arrival in Trenton, Orrin Evans prompted me to grab a cab and head to the nearby Candlelight Lounge, where Bruce Williams, Brandon McCune, Ryan Berg and Noel Sagerman were playing a swinging set. When I entered, I was struck by how great the band sounded. The music was divine. As I looked around, I couldn’t find an empty seat anywhere at the bar that wrapped around the entire room. Folks were standing, dancing, and digging the music. There was something so authentic and organic happening here. People getting together and conversing through music.
Once I was able to grab a drink, I turned and a man said,”Hello, Mr. Gibson…nice to see you here.”
“Nice to see you, too, sir!”
I looked in the man’s face and tried to recall if we’d met, previously. Was he a musician with whom I’d worked? I couldn’t remember.
A few minutes later, he approached me again.
“I saw you at the museum, recently.”
“Oh….you saw the Captain Black Big Band at MoMA?”
“No….I saw your band at the Newark Museum.”
“Ohhhh….did we speak at the show.”
“No, but I also saw you in Princeton with another group, last November.”
“That was with Tom Tallitsch.”
“Right. That was the group.”
“So….are you a musician?”
“Oh, no. I leave the music to you. I just love it.”
It was a puzzlement. This man loved the music so much that he was willing to travel a distance to experience it. And, he was knowledgeable. When I shared a bit of this experience with my friend, Mike Lee, he remarked that an acquaintance of his had commented on the fact that jazz was “dying”. He asked where she’d gotten that impression and she relayed a story of attending a concert wherein the MC had pleaded for support to “keep the music alive”. Mike concluded that, “we need to watch the way we talk about” the music to our audience from the bandstand. I couldn’t agree more.
Every time we ask an audience to support live music, we’re helping to obscure the truth that the music is GOOD for them. Firstly, these people are attending your show. They already understand. Secondly, we end up characterizing the audience’s role as one of charity. We’re asking them to give us a charitable contribution. But, it is WE who are tasked with providing a service.
You’ll never hear me say, “Come out and support live music!”
I much prefer to say, “Come out and do YOURSELF a favor by getting a big helping of vitamin Jazz…It’s good for you!”
And, I really believe that. It was easy to see it, in Trenton, yesterday. I’m looking forward to seeing it again tomorrow at SMOKE Jazz Club.
Remember to take your vitamins!