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.
And that experience taught me a lot about how to build relationships, how to help artists, and how to be myself through what I do.
I want young cats to have the same experience. Because once you get to a certain place in your careers, there are things that’s a little hard to do. You are less likely to be courageous and experimental as you age. Being young affords you that luxury. Being nobody allows you to make tons of mistake with very little consequences. You have to make a lot of mistakes so that you know what works and what don’t and that can guide you. But if you are only doing thing that you know works and then you get older without trying other things…. It will be so much harder to make fool out of yourself at that point. You are type-casting your future-self and I am thinking why do that?
It is true that youth is wasted on youths. And I’m telling you. Don’t. It is the time for you to do dumbs things, try new things, and go outside of your comfort zone. You can do that because you are nobody and what you do don’t matter. Not just yet. Take advantage of that.
I think I did. Sometimes, when I think of some of the projects I tried to make happen, I feel so embarrassed that I want to dig a hole and hide. Even to this date. But I know that those are experiences that really informed me and helped me grow.
I want you to call/text/email a cat you have never played with before. Not your peers but someone older and someone you respect. Play with them. Take a lesson. Book a gig and hire someone you can’t afford but do it out of your pocket. Don’t think about $50 you are not making. Think big and think in long term. Jazz is a long game.