Sleep deprivation or insomnia affects people in different, and personal ways. During my sleep process, I have endured sleep apnea since the late 80’s. My version as of late is my body forcing me awake to breathe several times a night as I ride a perpetual roller coaster of sorts between lucid dreams and the space in between, where those demons you thought you vanquished lurk in the shadows. During sleep, my mind never truly rests, and at times I’m held hostage by my music which refuses to turn off in my head. My right three fingers that push down my trumpet valves often continue to finger the horn even though it’s not in my hands. There are times when my fingers continue to do this even while I’m dreaming or thinking about something else entirely, as my body continues to play music even without me being there. I asked William Parker once if someone could talk to their music and he found the question interesting. I have spent countless hours in conversation with my music when I should be asleep, as it tries to help me understand multiple deeper realities. Sometimes I’m granted visions. Recently I was shown a painting of myself on a wall in a different reality where the ancient Egyptians now reside. The most intriguing vision I may have ever had was shortly after I discovered that my dear friend Bern had left his body. I saw the Sphinx in ancient Egypt, but the face was now Berns.
Bern’s passing has made a deep impact on me. Seeing the adversity he faced, I’m determined to challenge it and not stay quiet on the sideline. I publicly challenged writer Nate Chinen for not doing the research when he wrote Bern’s obituary. Mr. Chinen responded offering to review Bern’s quartet record. I can’t shake the reality that only in his death Bern would get this review if it ever happens. I’ll never forget being blown off by Winter Jazz Fest trying to get Bern on their radar. Next, I called out Downbeat for including Roy Campbell in their readers poll for best trumpet player of 2017, reminding them that Roy transcended three years ago. The deeper issue is that writers don’t do the work to find out what’s happening on the front lines of the music.
Case in point, I’ve spent time musing on the deeper reality of Facebook Live. It’s taken me a minute to warm up to using it. Based on the results the last few months, I’m being forced to take a closer look at my relationship with the world at this point. One could make a case that Facebook Live is selling out in a way. I’m giving my music away for free to anybody who will listen. Maybe it’s even a little desperate. Worse, if I just give away my music like that, why would anybody make an effort to see me live? All they have to do is wait for me serve up another batch online where it’s also preserved for later viewing on the magic cloud for digital eternity. Performing on Facebook Live could also be considered another blow to door gig culture where you jump through mad hoops to set up a situation where you pay to play. Pay to play is getting tired.
Confronting all of this, I have to be brutally honest with myself about whether people are hearing my music, both literally and otherwise. On Spotify, I have an average of 19 plays a month. I have 8 CDs as a leader, small pickings in 2017 for someone who has been playing in NYC since the early 90’s. I’m 47 years old, and I’ve had a 40 hour a week survival job since 1988. In the history books, the fact that I’ve had a day job all these years is almost a disqualifier that I’m relevant. I could be dismissed as a hobby musician just playing music on the weekends. Numerous attempts at joining grant culture have failed. The fact that I have a story to tell seems to be irrelevant. Part of the problem is that people may have a hard time classifying or labeling me so that my product can be sold. I certainly don’t make it easy for anyone trying to get a bead on me. I will switch horns on you on a dime. Trumpet to Bass Clarinet, wait..what? Maybe I’m just too much like my dear friend Giuseppi-I’m too real. While I’m known somewhat in musicians circles, my primary form of existence, where people experience my music, is actually through social media where I have spent way too much time just trying to be relevant, and proclaim daily that I exist. All of this is what has led me to embrace Facebook Live. The truth is I have nothing to lose at this point.
Facebook Live is a trip, and I’m still working out some kinks. The primary thing I’ve learned and that I truly love is that you broadcast to the entire world. I recently have made friends with listeners from Georgia to Guadalajara to Malaysia all the way to New Zealand. None of these folks are making it to a door gig in Brooklyn. I truly appreciate their time. The time of the stream is also no longer constrained to door gig hours. You can reach anybody 24/7. Another factor is intimacy, as playing solo is the easiest way to do a Facebook Live hit. Still, the few times I’ve done band hits the response goes a good 75% higher. My last performance with Bern was streamed on Facebook, hours before his death. The 1,000 plus views were certainly better than the ten people in house. Bern sanctioned it.
So that’s where I’m at these days. It’s pretty simple. I think all musicians just want their music to be heard. That’s all I’ve really wanted. While I’m not walking away from the holy ritual of live performance, the purest form of interaction with an audience, If people are listening on Facebook Live, then I’ll meet them there too. As ever, the world is changing for better or worse. You can change with it if you choose, a personal choice.
To not try to reach people with music would for me, be to deny my very existence, regardless of circumstance.
Ornette Coleman wrote this once on a program for a concert he was performing:
“May the art of the world restore human value in the nature of Love.”
There it is.
To Be Continued Monday at 7:30 here, from a live performance:
Then on Wednesday at 2pm here, with an event exclusively on FB Live:
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