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by Lee Tomboulian
Hello yet again, and to our pals in Eureka Springs. This month's column is a kind of duet, if you will (and if you won't, there's always the Crossweirds) between two pianist friends. One is an accomplished jazz player, "Bob"; the other is an authentic R'n'B singer/player , "Ray" (names are changed to keep them friends). Both are veteran musicians, and work the lounge scene consistently in Arkansas. Both will play whatever they have to, to do the job. "Bob" is black. "Ray" is white. Not that it matters.
This impromptu discussion was held at a local restaurant after hours at Bob's gig. I, for my part, kept ordering more beers to keep them talking. The opinions expressed are not necessarily mine or Peter Read's.
As we drop the needle at random, so to speak, the talk is of the age-old conflict between art and entertainment, or, between pondering and pandering.
---------Ray asks, What do you think of Willie Nelson? I mean, he's incredibly popular, but he's terrible..
---------Bob replies, You see, man...
---------I mean, he absolutely slaughtered September Song!
---------I know, man, but when I hear something like that, it just goes ino one ear and out the other...or I hear what I would play on the song...The thing is, the average Joe likes Willie Nelson, because he (Joe) thinks he can do what Willie does. But when he walks into a bar and hears a piano player, playing some righteous changes, burning up a tune, he says...'Aw, I don't want to hear that, I know I can't do that.
----------What about Floyd Cramer?
----------Man, that stuff is so basic...that's the thing about jazz musicians. They are so knowledgable about their instruments, and about music, that they can play any style of music they want to , provided they can mentally allow themselves to....
Jazz is ad lib, man, it's ad lib, ..that's why it's the hardest music in the world to play.....'cause sometimes the brain tells the reflexes to do something, and it doesn't happen, or it happens at the wrong time. Some nights you don't get the groove until the last tune. Some nights you don't get it at all....sometimes you don't get it for four nights in a row.
----------Well, I try to play jazz sometimes, but I don't know, when I try to play some jazzy chord, some augmented whatchamacallit, it dud'nt sound like jazz, it doesn't sound like when you play it, Bob.
----------You just haven't put the time into it like I have, frankly. You know, I eat, sleep and breathe this music. I listen to it when I get up, and it's the last thing I hear before I fall asleep. Some weekends, if I get up in a melancholy mood, I'll put on some Coltrane and pretty soon I'm happy. Before I know it, the day's over.
-----------What about blues?
-----------I don't like it.How about another beer?
-----------Aw, come on, Bob, haven't you ever felt bad because your woman wasn't around and you missed her?
-----------No......I might for a minute, but then I just don't think about it.
-----------You're not into blues then.
-----------No, I've never been into blues, really 'cause it reminds me of some bad times in my life.
-----------Yeah, me too.
-----------Yeah, see what I'm sayin'? Blues makes me feel like I can't do what I need to do. Jazz makes me feel strong, like I can do what I need to do. Sometimes, Coltrane makes me laugh. He'll be burnin' on something so hard, I just, oh man...(laughter).
----------- What about rock and roll?
-----------Idiocy. Plus lack of exposure to music with more actual content.
-----------Wow...(laughter), you don't mess around...But that's what people hear all the time, so that's what they like, right?
I broke in with,
----- I read about some experiments a West German rock/pop radio station did in the 60's, wherein they played a section of a Vivaldi mandolin concerto twice a morning for six weeks. At the end of six weeks it was a hit. People can get used to anything (think of heavy metal, sirens going off late at night, Dan Quayle--). Here's the waitress---
They agreed, ruefully. The waitress smiled, a professional, absent-looking big smile. As she turned away before we could give our drink order, I noticed an I WANT MY MTV button, and a BANG YOUR HEAD one, also.
------------Whoops, better give her a big tip now, she might not come back, Ray said.
(to be continued)
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