The True Price of Jazz

Written by Eric Byrd.

How much does it cost to play Jazz Music at the highest levels?

Most people will never know - most will never ever care, both inside and outside the culture - the cost of playing this music.

Most of you reading this will never know what it's like to practice your heart out all week, all to get to the weekend gig and be ignored by people.

Most of you will never know the pain/rage/hurt of finally - FINALLY - playing a solo you are proud of because the concepts you've been working on are coming together....only to have a drunk or restaurant manager whisper in your ear "can you play softer?" or "can you play something we all know?" or "can you play something by _______?"  CODE FOR = whatever you're currently playing, no one cares about it so do something else.

Most of you will never know the tension of playing a concert (usually outside of the country) and having hundreds, even thousands standing on their feet to cheer your music and buy your CD's - only to come "home" and play the same songs with the same energy and have people not even know you're at the piano.

Most of you won't know what it's like to hear Miles play a ballad and be moved to tears, or hear Branford's Quartet swing so hard you almost can't take it, or have Sassy or 'Trane or Mehldau or Brecker or Mulgrew or Cyrus or Gene Harris affect you emotionally so deeply, you can't wait to play it/tell it to someone - only to stop yourself because you remember said person won't feel it like you and their first response will most certainly be 'who the heck is Monk?'

Why do I say all this?  You may wonder 'this does not seem worth it'.  It's probably not.  So why do I do it?  Why do we do it?  Certainly it's the love for the music as you can't run from who and what you are.  If my heart was committed to bluegrass or thrash, I guess I would be playing that.  But ever since KIND OF BLUE I've been hooked.  (look it up, if you don't know.  geesh...).  But I was reminded of an extra musical, a non-musical reason for my love for this genre this past week: it's the relationships of others in the struggle that keep you going.

I had a difficult week this past week.  But I received great council from 3 people I respect greatly: Chris Grasso, Vince Evans and Bhagwan.  I needed some sage advice and I got it from 3 people who have dedicated their lives in the music.  And they took the time to share their wisdom with me.  These conversations have kept me going as I was pretty down about something, but they've picked me up!

And it finally dawns on me - that's why we play.  That's why we deal with drunks and ignorance.  That's why care so deeply.  Because when we finally make a connection with someone 'who knows' it's the most special thing in the world.  You wouldn't trade it for anything.  It's the relationships that matter.  It's the people that you care about that care about you that count.  It matters to me.

So thanks Vince and Chris.  And thanks B.  Thanks to you, I slept pretty good last night :)

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