in this suspended un-reality
we caress our dreams and wishes
bathing in bliss
love is easily consumed reproduced then
it is wasted
we are wasted
cause just because
in this suspended un-reality
we caress our dreams and wishes
bathing in bliss
love is easily consumed reproduced then
it is wasted
we are wasted
cause just because
Time is the most valuable gift anyone can give you.
When someone takes time and pay attention to you and spend some energy for you, that is the ultimate gift. Present. It is precious because there is no taking back nor repaying that debt. It is given and that is it.
So when you are late, when you are not present, I consider that an ultimate dis. I'm giving you something that I can't earn nor multiply nor have credits. My time on this planet is severely limited and is beyond my control. Yes, it is my choice to give that to you but please consider the significance of it.
But if you are present, if you cherish the gift, the time does multiply and transcend. It is an expansive and malleable thing. Time. You can make it as thick and dense and at the same time soaring as you wish. Or it can be a rigid confinement. It's all up to us.
Show love. Show up. Be on time. Because when you are on that beat blissfully, you can glimpse the lightness of eternity. Be present. Be a present.
It is important that you know what your worth is.
There are a few different levels to this but right now I’m specifically speaking of your value in the marketplace. This is the value of yourself that can be translated in the dollar bills. This assessment requires a bit of objectivity (although I believe that we are not capable of objectivity but that’s a whole another post.) You need to calmly see yourself in relationships to others on the market and understand where you stand. You don’t need to be overly humble and you don’t want to overestimate. If you need an opinion of trusted (and honest and loving, I might add) friends, that might be a good idea. I can give you my assessment on the issue but I am known to be too honest and it’s not recommended for everyone. Lol.
Another thing you need to know is when to/when not to ask to have your full value paid in cash money. There are times that it makes sense for you to take the gig despite that sad bread. It is good for you to know that certain gigs bring you other benefits (and this type of situation usually calls for your long-game thinking) that outweighs an immediate cash money. In these situations, it pays for you to graciously do the gig and not make any fuss about money. In the long run. Again, I can help you if you are not sure.Read More
it seems fragile
and its beauty makes me uneasy
so i drop it
time and again
and once more
it somehow makes sense to me
i do not want it to shatter but
if it does
it would probably be
but it is resilient
and i unhold my breath
just for the moment
When you are just starting out as a young musician, you are probably under an false impression that your ability to play a.k.a. Killingness is the thing that will help you succeed. Well, if you are Mark Turner/Eric Harland/Chris Potter special, yes. That applies. For 98% of the jazz school graduates, that won’t be the case.
Most of the gigs you will be doing, you will do as a side-person. You should be proficient in your craft and your game should be tight and you should continue to evolve and expand, of course. But there are other basic common sense stuff that helps you create your place in music.
I have been in NYC for almost 30 years and I have seen many many many cats come and go, not because they can’t play but because they didn’t have people pulling their coattail to the fact that jazz is a long game and you should approach it as such; the fact that you are playing with and for people. Having good working relationships with (most) everyone is really important. It’s not so much who know but how you know them is what counts.
So here are my two-cents to create and sustain your place in music:Read More
The truth is nobody owes you anything.
Nobody has to eat your food. Nobody has to wear your clothes. Nobody has to read your books. And nobody has to listen to your music. We are all doing what we are doing because we want to. It’s kinda important for us to really realize that, especially if we want to be eaten/read/listened/appreciated.
I sometimes read artists gripe about their lives in social media. I’m okay with casual venting in passing. I think we all do that and it’s nice to know that we are not alone in suffering some dumb human stuff; it’s comforting to know that the best of us struggle and that we have so much in common. It is, after all, not easy being artists for living.
What I find puzzling is when the posts are bitter and they are framed in ways that somehow everything bad/hard/out of control is everyone else’s fault: somehow the hardships are bestowed upon them without their consent and they are unjust. I’m like, really? I haven’t met any musicians whose arms were twisted to play jazz. It’s your choice. Nobody asked you to and nobody forced you to. You wanted to do it. So then you got to own the fact that you wanted it. Hardship and all. And you have to embrace it all. You can’t freely choose your own profession (being an artist at that!) and then complain when things do not go the way you want them to go. That is just counter productive.Read More
i wish to love you
the way i love the sun
with casual disregard
totally taking it for granted
with blind faith
that it will alway be.
People don’t change and that has been my experience. And that is a good thing.
Yes, we can make superficial changes and modify our behaviors. We can learn to eat better and we can adopt kinder responses to people and situations. Our viewpoints can shift and grow and we can learn to do things better and accept more and tame our impulses.
But in the core of core, we remain the same person. What moves us and, more importantly, what makes us rigid almost never budge. Our most protective instinct is like a core of the Earth that spins and determines the general workings of who we are. I don’t know for sure what shapes our basal m.o., but I’d say for 99.9% of the time, it’s like the black matter that refuses to be modified.
Almost everyone disagrees with me when I say this; many will also say that I’m so pessimistic. That’s cool. But I find it more peaceful and loving to deal with other people with this perspective and accept each person as they are with no expectations for change. You have two choices: you take it or you leave it. I want to be accepted and loved just the way I am. It’s hard for me to change things about myself even if I really want to (and these are superficial things!) and even if I try really hard. It’s not fair for me to expect this of others when it’s this hard for me. And I don’t want others to expect that of me. That’s too much and that’s not fair for anyone. This is especially true in an intimate relationship setting.Read More
The process of grant application seems to be a mysterious one for many jazz musicians.
While I can’t help you with the process itself, I thought maybe I can help you understand how these things are done and what goes on behind the closed door and how best to approach it. It might not help with producing the result you desire (you’ll see why as you read on) but it will hopefully take some stress out of it.
I have sat on a number of grant adjudication panels at this point. When I was asked to do so for the very first time maybe about 10 years ago, I was really scared and nervous. I felt like I didn’t know enough and I didn’t have enough experience and I wasn’t expert enough. On that particular panel, it turned out that I knew more than anyone else in the room; not only about the music itself but also about budgeting and other logistical stuff. I also felt that I listened better than others in the room. After all, that’s what I do for living. And I thought to myself, “WTF.” I had been doing what I’m doing long enough to know that I didn’t know much and I needed to know more. I realized during that panel meeting that I am an expert in the field not because I have expert knowledge but mostly by comparison.
I was hoping that this is not the norm.Read More
You can ride the bandwagon if you want to but you might not make it to the destination.
A long time ago, a good friend and a consummate music professional said to me, “Rio, you got to have your own platform.” I did understand the sentence and it totally made sense to me but I didn’t have enough experiences under my belt to know what that really meant nor the wisdom in that advise.
When I first started working at The Jazz Gallery, I thought I wanted to do bigger things in the future: bigger projects, bigger venues, and bigger artists. I thought that was the thing to do and I thought the way to achieve any goal is to network and to be noticed by people who were already somebody. I thought once someone takes notice of me and what I was doing, I would be pulled up to one of their wagons and I would ride that into sunset. I thought that notoriety and fame and power and authority of these people would rub off on me and I’ll be all set.
you know nothing and everything about me
you don't know how i take my coffee
nor my best friend's name
but there are moments
you move me like you made me
you reveal hidden switches
and teach me secrets about me
my boundary blurs senses sharpen gravity disappears
we expand infinitely contract instantaneously
and time floats lazily sheltering me/you here/now
Good news can wait. Good news will always be good news and it doesn’t concern when it is told.
Not the case with the bad news. Bad news has a way of turning as the time passes. You have to bring bad news as swiftly as possible to avoid further complications.
This is one of the things I learned in a trial-and-error-style. Not a very fun way to learn but it always drives the message home. Hard. Sometimes I’d double booked a date by mistake. Sometimes, I promised artists certain amount of money and yet things happened that made it impossible to make good on the promises. Shit happens. It is unavoidable. What can be avoided is making the situations worse than they already are. Once you realize that there is a bad news to be delivered, you have to deliver it immediately and deal with the situation courageously. You gotta own the mistakes without making excuses.
There was a time I dragged my feet in delivering the bad news. I so wanted to avoid the uncomfortable conversations and I let it go on way too long to the point that there was no time to correct the mistakes or come up with solutions or cancel whatever it was entirely. Should I have delivered the bad new right away, there would have been a time to digest the news and come up with the solutions. If I had to cancel the gig, it would have been better to do it a month before rather than 2 days before. If I had to reschedule something, it is better to have an ample time to do it. And I didn’t have to come up with excuses as to why I waited so long to deliver the news.
Honesty is so tricky.
It sounds like a virtue we all should strive for yet most of us don’t know really how to handle it. People speak as though they do value the quality/action yet it is often explosive and controversial and it can turn things very quickly.
I think about this alot. Partly because I’m in a position where I hear people says all the time that they’d rather hear an honest opinion. It’s been my experience that it is not true. Not at all. Very very very few of us can handle honesty. I’d like to think that I do; I’d like to think that I handle it with patience. I don’t like hearing about myself or that I have done something less than righteous but I’d like to think that I at least sit with it. It’s always rough, though.
I think deciphering the motivation of each case of honesty is helpful. Is it meant to hurt me? Is it meant to help me? Is it coming from a place of love? I also need to check myself: did I ask for things that I’m not ready to hear?; Am I too proud to open my ears?; or did I just want to be affirmed and I was passive-aggressive about it?
It has happened to me quite a number of times that I was told to give an honest opinion and then I opened my mouth only to realize that I was supposed to give them their expected version of “honest” opinion. This happened more times than I’d like it to happen. I am very weary when people ask me for my honest opinion. Because they don’t really mean that. People wants to hear what they want to hear and everything else is dismissed.
simply to sit across from each other to share
a meal stories smiles laughter
and some photos that you can never find on your cell phone
to drive in silence side by side
surrounded by the night
large orange moon looking out, for what it seems like, just us
to be in the space as me as you
not needing a touch a kiss nor embrace
because we are caressed by you me we here
to fall into sleep with the warmth of not your own
Like two happy children
my skin warming up to yours and yours cooling down to mine
to say good morning and making it a really good one
talking about nothing and everything while doing something else
and like a glimpse of can be.
For a long time, I wanted to be a topdog. Whatever that means.
Yes, I admit to my ego and vanity and to my need to be recognized. I wanted accolades. I also thought that I can be more effective in helping artists if I had more external power. Like, my simply saying, “hey, so and so is the shit” would open doors for that artist. But it wasn’t happening. Yes, I always had an enormous artistic freedom to do whatever I like at The Jazz Gallery but I felt like everything I was trying to do went mostly unnoticed by power that be. And whenever I encountered an artist I really like to push, others took my opinion with grains of salt. Big ones.
It took me a long time to realize that that actually was an incredible blessing in disguise: to be an underdog. It made me bold and courageous and independent and I was able to operate just the way I like without being picked on or criticized, because I didn’t really matter.
One of the most amazing things about being in NYC, if you are a jazz musician of sort, is that the biggest cats are down to hang and play with you if they are free and feel like it. This does not happen in any other city in the world. Not that I know of. But I’m pretty sure NYC is special like that.
So then, I don’t get it when young cats play only with the people they know. Over and over. Why? Some young musicians decline gigs when I offer them one because their band members are not available. What? You play jazz, no? You can’t go with the flow? Why not call people whom you admire? Why not get together with them and get your ass kicked? Learn a thing or two or ten. It’s good for you. We have a saying in Japan, “You should seek hardships even if you have to pay for it.” I don’t know if that’s a good translation but you get the idea. Humble pies are good for you.
One of the blessings of my youth (I wasn’t that young, lol, but I was young at the business) was that when I started helping out around The Jazz Gallery in 2000, there was a lot of room for errors. For different reasons. The Jazz Gallery wasn’t what it is and Dale (Fitzgerald) was totally ok with me making dumb mistakes and learn from them. So I did. I mean, I didn’t know that that was what was happening at that time. It was more like the case of, “ignorance is bliss.” I had ideas galore and I wanted to try and do all kinds of things. Some worked and some didn’t. And because The Jazz Gallery itself was still at the stage of figuring itself out, I was able to experiment and explore and then define my voice and grew into the Artistic Director that I am today. By doing and making many many mistakes. I grew up with The Jazz Gallery. My trials and errors made The Gallery what it is. I was given a rather safe place to fall on my face and get up and do it, again. Yes, I had to get up quickly and eat plenty of humbles pies but I think I took like a champ. Lol.
you called me from Uppsala
how are you, ma?
your voice traveled the wire
and mine traveled back
a little delay and echo
i thought of the distance between us
and then of what does not concern time nor space
Music is a means to an end.
Music itself is not the goal. You have something you’d like to communicate to other humans and you choose to do so with music. You compose not to show off your skills on your instrument nor to exhibit your knowledge of some indigenous musical traditions nor to make yourself look deep. No. None of that. I mean, these behaviors do tell me a lot about who you are and how you go through life and I suppose that is informative but that is not the type of information I’m looking for.
Let me put it this way. Having perfect English grammar does not make you a poet. It’s you and your point of view that make you a poet. To read your poetry is to see the world through a filter that is you. Distilment of your essence is what makes poetry. Giving shapes to wordless things in your own way is what resonates in us when we read good poetry. Good grammar is helpful but not essential in the art form and in communicating through poetry.
I think the same goes for music. It’s not your knowledge of harmony nor dexterity on the instrument that I want to hear. I mean these things can be fun for a minute but they get old real quick. I want to hear you. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What does the world look/feel/taste/smell like through you? That’s what I want to hear. Tell me about you. Tell me about how you process the world. Not about what you can do. Not about what you know.
Jazz is best served live. If it’s raw, even better.
I always knew that and that’s how I usually like it but I didn’t know to what extent until Roy (Hargrove) passed.
I just couldn’t (still can’t) get over the fact that I would never hear Roy play live; never to experience the joy and excitement Roy sparked every time he put his mouth to the horn. It’s inexplicable and dependable and addictive and singular and rare. That feeling of something swelling in the room. It is intimate and communal all at the same time and it feels like there is just me and the music in the world but then I am connected to something fundamental. My head bopping. My grin so wide. And my heart is full. Full with good stuff. That joyful liveliness that makes me so glad to be there. It just felt good. Like first gulp of water after a workout. Like slumping onto a clean and warm bed at the end of a long day. Like an embrace from an absolute favorite person. I know that it is gonna feel good and it always does and it never fails. That’s how it was to hear Roy Hargrove live.
That feeling cannot be found in any of Roy’s recordings. Yes, he had some really good albums and I enjoy listening to them (especially now) but nothing compares to Roy in the flesh. I can’t find that thing on any recordings, thing that vibrates the clubs and concert halls and made us all soar. Roy did that. He commanded all of us with his horn and his energy and we were happy to oblige. So much is missing in the recordings and videos and whatever. The thing that makes music shimmer and dance. You can’t feel that. Recorded version of Roy just makes me remember and trace the memories of how he lifted us. It’s just not quite. Compare to the live concerts, recordings are like shadows. If someone comes to Roy anew at this point, s/he will never experience him live, which is almost like you don’t experience him at all. If you ever heard him live, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
This has been a hard and long year.
One thing that seemed (and continue to be) to be on everyone’s mind and contributed to this hardness is how our government is falling apart. And it feels like everything is falling apart. There have been many people who said that our government structure is created to withstand tyranny but I never bought that. Just look at the world’s history. Nothing is infallible. Everything falls apart.
It is easy to find others to blame for the state we find ourselves in. Trump, yes. Russia, yes. Uneducated emotional voters, yes. Special interest groups, yes. Facebook, yes. But at the end of the day, blaming others does not solve any problem. Feeling righteous feels kinda nice for a moment but it compounds the problem by further isolating and separating people/us who should be finding common grounds and work together. Anyone who reads any type of spiritual books or on Instagram or watch Oprah knows that change has to start with each one of us. You know? Be the change you want to see. Because ultimately, I am/you are the only thing we can change in our lives (unless you have some supernatural psychic powers). This sounds totally self-evident and so obvious yet it warrants repeating times and again because we love finding fault in others and we think, “Oh, only if s/he does so and so….” Yes, yes, I’m guilty as charged. I know. But I somehow also manage to remember, nono, it starts with me. This is true on a very personal level and this is true for having a functional government that finds common human interests and serve that greater good. Each one of us have to own what is happening. We have to realize that we made what is happening happen. That sucks, yes, but admitting each one of us has a problem is the first step.