Thoughts on expectations, and a new blog

I’ll start with the shout out. Mike Reed appears to be blogging. Mike is a musician and music presenter in Chicago. I’ve mentioned him here before, an again, in full disclosure, must say that he is a friend of mine, we have played music together, and the Open Ears Music Series is greatly influenced and inspired by the Emerging Improvisers series that Mike started and runs with Josh Berman. Mike calls the blog “Thinking Out Loud,” although it shows up as “Free Time” in my rss reader. You can read it at his website, www.mikereedmusic.com.

My next thoughts were triggered by a review of Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly – The Speed of Change. My intention here isn’t necessarily to disagree with Stef’s review (although I think I liked the CD more than he did), but to point out some common thinking that is revealed by the reviewer’s choice of words.

“Soulstirrer” starts out well, but then falls back in mainstream rhythm and melody. The same can be said about some of the other tracks, such as “Garvey’s Ghost”, a Max Roach composition, which is relatively bland here, and “Tezetaye Antchi Lidj”, a Mulatu Astatqe composition, that sounds too joyful (and not raw enough) for the dark, bluesy and sensitive atmosphere on the rest of the album.

What I found thought provoking here was the idea that “fall[ing] back on mainstream rhythm and melody” could be used as a derogatory description, and the idea that it is possible for music to be “too joyful.” I get that some people like what they like, and want to hear that all of the time. I also get that a unified vibe for an album can be a good thing, but if I can get my noisy-free-jazz jones in the same place that I can hear beautiful rhythm and melody, AND get my joyful vibe on, then that is the place I want to be, as both a listener and performer.

The January 2009 issue of All About Jazz New York has a great piece on p.11 by Kevin Dorn called “How to completely miss the point of music.” Step 1 is “Take stylistic labels very seriously” and part of that instruction is: “Before you play, decide in which style you are going to perform.” Ultimately, we may all be better off if we can learn to listen and create in a manner that is free from the expectations of style, and open to all of the music that has already been made, or is still awaiting discovery.

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