For most of my life, knowledge of music came from the 45 RPM singles played in the family living room. As well as mind exposure to television programs such as American Bandstand and MTV in its earliest days. From Sonny Rollins to Paul McCartney,there have been many famous musical figures who continue to view recorded music in any format as primarily a commercial vehicle to bring an audience into the concerts,where the “real” creativity takes places. This is especially true for the improvisational music of jazz. But also for many other genres as well. For my own part,I first became aware of this in early adolescence when a lot of family friends happened to be DJ’s,musicians and other musical enthusiasts. I was even exposed to some local jazz musicians who played live at a local Bagel Shop once every week or so. Still,my exposure even at this time was still very much as the outsider looking in. It would not be until after the turn of the millennium that I would become heavily involved with people who lived a thoroughly musical life.
It began with my exposure to a DJ who is now a keyboardist of some note in 2004. At the risk of going on a tangent here because of my respect for personal privacy,I will not be mentioning his or anyone else’s name who were involved. This DJ was first mentioned to me by my father. He had been listening to his radio show on the local college radio station for some time. Even before I began listening to it,my father told me his radio show played funk,jazz,soul and R&B. That was extremely exciting to me,especially considering that up until this time my interests in this music had primarily been a private (and even imaginary) one. As a matter of fact I sometimes had alternate biographies of the funk musicians I admired made up in my own head-based on the nature of their music. After listening to this DJ’s show for some time,the realization of what he was doing led me to ask my family if there was a way in which I could meet this man. This actually occurred by coincidence when I encountered an old school chum at the local library who played bass with this DJ,who himself was a keyboardist/bandleader in what I believe was the only funk band in the local area at the time.
After meeting him I learned that the man was an extremely huge fan of George Duke and the jazz-funk genre in general. Since this was musically right where I lived at this particular point,it was easy to strike up a conversation with the man. Not only was I invited to visit him as he recorded his show,but also to participate in a live interview he’d arranged with Mr.Duke on that show in a few weeks. Also I was invited by both the DJ and my old friend to see their band play live that weekend. The band themselves were basically a jam band who played a manner of jazz-funk/fusion in a manner similar to Medeski,Martin & Wood. Some of the members of the band were more and less talented than others,and came and went fairly fast sometimes. But this began a weekly ritual as I became to entranced with the live funk band experience that,with the band members permission,I was soon taking my own battered used VHS camcorder in to record their shows. The lighting was rather poor,the crowd was sometimes very rowdy and intimidating. But again being this close to my longing for this type of musical experience won over.
In addition to that,every weekend until this interview I was sitting in on this DJ/musicians radio show. I learned about other keyboard players such as Jimmy McGriff and Jeff Lorber thanks to this experience. Needless to say records were traded back and forth,and there was a lot of insightful dialog between him and myself as well. Than came the weekend of the George Duke interview. While the DJ for his part was very intent on promoting his own bands shows while conducting the interview,he did have some pointed discussed with Duke. And my father and I even participated in a round table style Q&A at the conclusion of the DJ’s radio interview. I don’t even remember the question I asked since it was such an exciting experience merely to be participating in such an event. After this I began to become very close friends with this DJ. We were hanging out together,trading records and comparing musical notes here and again. As things happen,the band he was a part of began to slowly split apart during the beginning of 2005 and he began talking about pursuing other ventures.
There was a time not too long ago when I don’t think it would’ve been easy for me to discuss these events very objectively. The reason for that is because,following the breakup of his band my acquaintanceship with this DJ/musician hadn’t gone well. Again due to my respect for privacy I’m electing not to discuss the particulars of that. But I will say that a trust was broken. This also coincided with my knowledge that some of the musicians whose art I admired and even considered heroes actually had lived less than savory lifestyles. Though at the time there was some loss of faith in those I admired,over time I’ve come to think of the majority of this experience as being one of the most positive,enriching and significant events in my own creative development. Not to mention my understand of how at least one particular musician might view life and their art. It also helped me to understand the importance of funk,jazz and soul in a live contest rather than a recorded one. Also the importance of how the musical ego functions,for better or worse. And today,the end result of all this is a far better rounded assessment on the process behind the music and personalities of the musicians who make it.