i spent a week at an improvisation camp-of-sorts out in brooklyn about 10 years ago, the same summer that the power went out all across nyc. we were stuck in an oil refinery.
|we slept on top of the building that night in '03|
a bunch of us went and got lunch after the first session. i remember feeling weary, defeated, and a little pissed. i had never met anyone like him before. the coordinator of the event, trumpeter ralph alessi, offered some insight. he agreed that steve was super intense and a bit jerky, but noted that he had always been impressed with steve's relentless pursuit of his own musical concepts. he believed in it, and was willing to fall on the sword for his ideas. ralph's perspective hit me like a ton of bricks.
sometimes i wonder if anyone relates to what i am trying to accomplish artistically. i often struggle with this. maybe i should whip out the slick blues licks, race into the upper register, rub a growl into some of these notes, and toss in a recognizable charlie parker quote for good measure - all in an effort to get instant approval from the pedestrian audience. i'll admit - fighting for your own sound, your own ideas, your own concepts is an exhausting and often unappreciated expenditure of energy. what keeps me going? i believe in it. i'm willing to stick it out, no matter what. i don't want my epitaph to read stylist, but would rather be remembered as a contributor to restructuralism. humor me and read this excerpt from the great book forces in motion by graham lock, chronicling the life and times of anthony braxton.
"stylists are usually able to become more successful than restructuralists because their music is not perceived as threatening to the cultural order. this is why phil woods wins so many polls. his playing doesn't really challenge any law, it just reaffirms what has been current, in the air, in the last thirty years; that being the dynamic implications of charlie parker's music. whereas the greater public have not really had the possibility to examine the music of john cage, albert ayler, the art ensemble of chicago - those musics don't seem to filter through. but in fact, before charlie parker demonstrated his music, nobody played like him; so if the value systems that surround phil woods are allowed to dominate, there will be no forward motion, and no future phil woods because he would have no one to take a music from."