For a very long time I have been fascinated by the ability of jazz musicians to create new music on the fly and make it look easy.
We all watch as another guy steps up and adds to the first guy’s thoughts. Soon they are joined by others who move the music in a new direction. Each time I hear Happy Birthday played at the Dirty Dog it is in a new form. No one plays it straight. Every time I have heard it played it is approached like we have never heard it before. Bands that play a club like the Dirty Dog know that they will be free to wander from the conventional play list. They will have a chance to try out a new tune. Last year Ian Finklestein wrote a new tune each night and played it in the very same evening. The bands somehow play each new song as if it were a familiar Cole Porter song. At times like this the musician’s creative juices are on full display. This is why we chose to listen to live music.
Sometimes it is magical. I think, however, that it is more a result of preparation, and from that preparation comes the confidence to joyfully go down new paths. They have mastered the creative process.
FINDING THE STORY
They first found a story they wanted to tell. They then worked to understand the depth of the story. They then constructed the story so that it was clear to them and could be shared. Then they told it in their own unique voices.
All creative artists suffer through a creative process.
I have observed that poets, writers, musicians, actors, painters and all other artists are seldom conscious of their deliberate creative process. I do think there are definite stages most artists follow. Over the next few weeks I will try to explore them.
I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO THINK ABOUT THE CREATIVE PROCESS, SO EVERY JUNE I REVIEW THE FIVE STAGES OF MY VERSION OF THE PROCESS.
I feel the creative process can be broken down into five stages. We will be constantly exploring, observing, editing our observations, then we will be putting our observations into our own words and finally we will be sharing our creations.
This is where the subject is found. We have to make an effort to get out and experience the things around us.
It is important to clearly see those things that we have found and soak them in.
This is the process when we eliminate and include pieces of information.
This is where we put our personal stamp on our creation.
We bring others into the process to share the results with us.
THIS WEEK – THE FIRST STAGE:
GETTING OUT AND EXPERIENCING THE THINGS AROUND YOU
When I am writing this I will be thinking about the South of France. It has always been a great place to find inspiration, good food, good wine and sometimes a lot of wind.
For twenty some years I have escaped to the South of France in the spring to paint. This is a place that entices you to look around you.
The beginning of a creative act comes from the artist’s personal journey. Everything in ones life prepares that person to make something out of it. We accumulate piles of subject matter as we go along living our lives. Some people can create from looking out the window of their favorite room if they have a passion for that view. I tend to search outside the familiar.
Detroit is a vibrant town with a vibrant cast of occupants ready to explore, but at the moment I am thinking about the time I have spent in the french region of Provence.
Through the years we have been lucky to spend time in other artists homes where I have found plenty of inspiration and a base from which to explore.
LE BEAUCET, PROVENCE
Jean Castan’s home in le Beaucet
The first stage of exploring is the getting out of your chair stage. This will be the time that I stumble on the the subject or the direction that I will be taking. When I first went to France to paint I had the idea that I would be painting large canvases filled with movement and color.
JAZZ AND EXPLORATION
I don’t imagine that when jazz musicians play that they are finding their inspiration from their immediate surroundings. They may notice a whiff of the good food on the trays passing in front of the stage or get a glance of the art on the walls. I think it is a good bet that the music reflects their rich life experiences.
Some jazz artists explore their thoughts and some jazz musicians depend on outside stimulus, but the music requires them to be in a constant stage of exploration. The music is a result of the artists getting out of their comfort zone and discovering the joy of exploration. To fully understand jazz and exploration you just have to listen and explore the possibilities..
COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG
May 30 – May 31
Why are there three y’s in Yancyy? That I don’t know. I do know that he plays with a passion that comes from a common source in Detroit. He got hooked on the saxophone when a preacher in church picked up a saxophone and got his and the congregation’s attention. He thought, “Man, I want some of that.” He has had a chance to get some attention playing with many big name musicians and will get yours when he brings his band into the Dirty Dog’s intimate setting.
Yancyy brought this passion to his high school band and to the Interlochen Fine Arts Academy, and then earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Michigan where he studied classical and jazz.
June 1 – June 2
One look at Steve Turre’s album covers suggests that he travels in pretty good company.
He toured Ray Charles’ touring band in the early 1970s, then met and played with a long list of legendary jazz artists including Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Woody Shaw, Pharoah Sanders, Dizzy Gillespie, Herbie Hancock, Cassandra Wilson, J.J. Johnson, Jon Faddis, Tito Puente, Van Morrison, Max Roach, Horace Silver, Lester Bowie and McCoy Tyner. Steve was also the longtime trombonist in the “Saturday Night Live” band.
He describes his style as, “I like to swing and I like to play the blues. I’m not ashamed to swing and I’m not afraid to swing. I think it’s the foundation of the music and I’m proud of it.” He will play his original compositions and give hishis own take on jazz standards.
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