Monday, February 3, 2014
Making Music, Dinner Parties, and Ginger Baker
I recently watched a great movie called "Beware of Mr Baker." It's a documentary about Ginger Baker. An incredible jazz and rock drummer most known for his work in the 60's and 70's. He was the drummer for Cream and later Blind Faith. He is an incredible drummer with natural time and a natural "swing' in everything he plays. That is partially what gave Cream that undeniable sound and infectious and original grooves. In the documentary he is asked "So do you just love playing the drums?" and he snapped back quite aggressively in his sharp british accent, "Well, it depends on who you're playing with!!" I had never heard anyone just say it as blatantly as that, but it's the way I've always felt as a singer. I don't love every moment of singing on stage or off. It depends on who I'm playing with. And it's especially challenging if I don't love the ensemble I happen to be playing with at that moment. I never have my best performances in those situations. And I can walk away feeling deflated and frustrated.
Because I make a living as a singer, I sing all kinds of material from jazz to pop to rock. I sing in many different environments with many different people. Not like on my album where I wrote the songs, I hand picked the band, and created the vibe with them from the ground up. That is the dream. That is the best place to be. It feeds my soul and brings my singing to new inspired places. Don't get me wrong, I'm VERY grateful for all of my singing jobs. I'm grateful for the work, I am constantly working my craft, and I always learn something in those environments. But sometimes those shows and gigs don't feed my soul. Or don't feel like my real authentic place.
It occurred to me that some gigs are kind of like going to dinner parties. You can have great food, a beautiful house, great wine, a beautifully set table, but all of it can be a bit spoiled if you don't get along well with the other guests. If you can feel a tangible friction with the other people there. Or if someone is just annoying. But you're there, eating dinner and drinking the wine for the duration of the evening and you just have to be patient and find the best out of the situation. You're a bit trapped with them for an evening just like being on stage with the other musicians. You can't just walk off stage if the music isn't grooving. Or the drummer's time is inconsistent or, or the piano player's chords are hard to sink into. In those situations I look for the common ground amongst us and lean on the areas that make us shine. Like finding common ground topics at a dinner party to keep the evening light and pleasant.
All of these thoughts lead me back to marveling at what an organic and mysterious process making music is. It's human. It breathes. It hiccups. It's sensitive. It listens. It transforms in process and then transforms us who are playing and those who are listening. I love making music. And I love the complexities of it. It makes it all the more special when everything aligns and we are elevated, transfixed and lifted in it's presence.