Kenny Werner is a jazz pianist, composer, educator, author, and mystic, and one of my favorite people, although I haven’t yet met him (working on that). Last night, I stumbled across a YouTube of one of his talks. It was a clinic he gave on Free Jazz at the International Association of Jazz Education. Mesmerized, I watched the whole talk. Werner’s views on jazz and its aesthetic mirror to a tee my own. In fact, what he’s saying in this clinic is exactly what I am trying to put into words when writing about this idea of the Impresario.
Werner talks about free jazz more as a State of Being than anything else. He drives home the conviction that jazz, just as any philosophy or transcendent experience, has been separated to such a degree from its original nature that it is virtually unrecognizable. He goes on to make the point that if we truly desire to reconnect with this thing called jazz, or even music in general, we must “let go” and really fall back in love with the sound of our instrument again, forgetting about categories, pedagogy, and everything we think we know.
A couple of quotes from Mr. Werner’s talk really leapt out at me. First:
[Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter] were [are] living philosophers, like yogis in a way. They were not trying to play jazz, they were finding that filament of life, that thing that makes it Go, in themselves, and then writing odes to that… Now, to think outside the box you have to sort of think outside of jazz… because jazz has sort of become the box… I think “free jazz” means coming out of the box and really finding the notes that you passionately need. Getting back to that, getting back to what made jazz great, was great Beings played it. [20:14]
In an address to the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Awards made in 2014, Keith Jarrett says something very similar:
“If you hear something that changes you, it’s because what you heard was someone who became an innovator, and they became an innovator by hard work on themselves, not so much work on the instrument.” [8:26]
Werner and Jarrett are effectively getting to the heart of the philosophy of the Impresario. The Impresario is not fooled by labels, because she knows that such restrictions can only come about when you’re inside the box. True innovation comes about by actually innovating. This is such a fascinating and essential piece of being an Impresario.
This rabbit hole is too deep to explore in anything resembling sufficiency today, so I’ll just leave it at that for now. But tomorrow I’ll come back to the Werner clinic, and continue to explore the connection between what Werner calls “living philosophy” and Jarrett’s idea of an innovator (Impresario) who works harder on himself than on his instrument (Art).
Until tomorrow… send ideas and contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.