I am here again at the definitive Bachelor Pad (the Lexington Band House), having just arrived from West Virginia, where I spent the week back home in Buckhannon with the family. It was good to see them again, as they all seem to be doing well and still crazy (after all these years) yet functional. As good as it was to hang with the parents and brother (my sister is interning at a Horse Camp in Ohio), I am happy to be back home in Kentucky, sitting here writing these words.
As I was pulling into Chestnut Ridge Dr., I had some spontaneous thoughts about music (which is actually a regular occurrence, as you may imagine). Particularly, jazz. It occurred to me that jazz originated as a language for a disillusioned race, and that the original great jazzmen (Bud Powell, Charlie Parker) were perfectly comfortable with that language. But this thought, as are all of my thoughts in chains of free-flowing streams of consciousness while driving, had arisen from a previous thought, which was…actually, I am having difficulty remembering. One moment.
Oh, yeah. The thought that preceded the above thought was regarding practice. I had been pondering, as Google Navigator so diligently guided me to my destination, the phenomenon of Getting Better. No matter how inexperienced someone starts out, he will improve by doing a certain thing consistently and with passion. And, of course, as that person improves at his own specific pursuit, he will draw from other people and their ways of doing that thing (styles), until eventually he will start to realize his own style.
This is true for pretty much everything, but let’s focus on songwriting. As a relatively beginning songwriter, I write songs with some pretty specific styles in mind (classic rock, jazz, pop). Also some pretty specific songwriters (Paul Simon, Billy Joel). But of course, as I become more experienced, my songwriting should begin to take on its own style, its own sound. That simply comes with what I already mentioned: consistence and passion.
One of the things passion means, to me, is taking what you love about a certain style and applying it to your own. For Bud Powell, it was the racially and emotionally -charged language of bebop. For more modern jazz musicians, however–and it’s interesting to note the evolution of jazz here–such as Brian Blade, Joey Calderazzo, and Keith Jarrett (just to name a few), the sounds of pop music are pervasive in their playing. This is not only a sign of the movement towards popular music in jazz, but the incorporation of more contemporary sounds in the playing of some really great jazz musicians.
If something as strong as jazz, whose early form of bebop was an almost totally exclusive style, can evolve to something including sounds of pop music (or any other styles for that matter, be it Brazilian, African, or Norwegian), then we can get an idea of the importance of developing one’s own creative style, or voice. Reaching beyond the edges of a genre happens when you love something else so much that you want to inject it into that genre. When you do that, you create something new and unique, and that’s called innovation. It’s not only fun, it’s necessary.
So, that’s what you get from four hours in the car listening to music. Innovation is cool. I guess I already knew that, but whatever. Never hurts to remind myself.