What are musicians thinking about while standing on the bandstand while the drummer is taking off on a wild solo? What are they supposed to do? Where should they stand? I have set out to find the answers for these critical questions.So far the best answer I have gotten is that they are listening.

They aren’t thinking about the food awaiting them after the set, or whether they left the door unlatched, They are really listening. Listening is a big part of their job. The  better they are at listening the better they will be as an  artist.

The subject of listening to music has been written about extensively both from the players and the listeners perspective. I am guilty of watching through my camera more than I have listened. There are times when I do find myself deep in the music and listening intently. I can’t help myself.  I do this enough to know how good the music is.  I have been watching jazz musicians at their work at the Dirty dog for some time. I have yet to see one take a mental break while on the bandstand. When they are not playing they appear to be still involved and carefully listening for cues and clues. One thing for sure is that jazz musicians have an enlarged need for paying attention as the music is likely to go in a new direction, and they have to  hear it in order to keep up.

For the rest of us we live at a time where music and sound  surrounds us all of the time. Music is in the stores, the elevator, in our car, coming out of the kid’s room and sometimes from the band in the basement.. The human brain is very adept at filtering out these sounds, so that we become almost entirely oblivious to them. We can even shift from being a passive listener to someone capable of staying tuned in to a long concert or the full set . We learn more than to only hear, we learn to really listen.

When we see a live performance  we will begin listening for clues. You will see artists listening to each other. You will see glances exchanged, smiles, frowns, astonished faces.


The music surrounds us but how much do we really listen to it – and how much do we just hear it?  Jazz musicians really listen.

It may be the ability to concentrate that separates the créme de la créme from the pretty good  artists in all fields. This ability to stay lost in the subject is a common thread  found in successful artists. As a painter I have experienced the process. This doesn’t mean that my painting is great while I am lost in the process, but seldom do I do great stuff when I am not completely immersed in the work. These are my very best times that lead to some pretty good work.


LOST IN THE MUSIC                                                                        OIL ON CANVAS 24×30

Some years ago I painted a memory of an experience that happened in Havana, Cuba. Havana has music around every corner and Bill listened, and I watched. Bill is a drummer and was listening to rhythms that every Cuban grows up with and seem to be part of the entire nation’s DNA.  They moved instinctively with the beat. We didn’t.

One evening my son and I were invited  to a small apartment in Havana that was full of celebrants who were there for the proprietor’s birthday. He was a short, light-skinned, cigar smoking man who had a constant happy smile. He was also a santero, which means that he was thought to be blessed with special powers. One of his gifts was the power of healing. We had been invited to hear a folkloric group play at his affair. When the music started it went deep inside to our bones with unexpected power. Everyone in the room was swept up in the  force of the rhythm. A young woman got up and moved to the music, swirling and swirling as it sped up and suddenly  swooned and lay still on the floor. The santero came and put his hand on her head with a cigar still clenched in his teeth, She rose up smiling as if nothing had happened. This was apparentlly the role music played in their lives. I called the painting that I did on returning home: Lost In The Music.

This was serious music.


Rayse Biggs was at the Dirty Dog last week to show us his best chops. In addition he showed us some pretty good listening. Rayse is one of the jazz’s most graphic listeners. You can see the music reflected in his face when he stands aside during his mates’ solos.



Ernie Krivda has has put in five decades of performing, starting with Jimmy Dorsey in 1963. He has had time to impress most jazz fans with the unique tone that he gets out of his tenor sax. Listen for a somewhat tough and strong interpretation of the music.  Ernie is special. Come on out and give him a listen to Ernie in a great listening room.

John Osler

FOR UPCOMING SHOWS AT THE DIRTY DOG GO TO:   http://: dirtydogjazz.com

#Detroit #DirtyDog #Jazz #Music #DetroitJazz #DirtyDogJazzCafé #RayseBiggs #JazzinDetroit #JAZZMUSIC #ErnieKrivda

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