i've gotten into podcasts recently. it's like radio with dvr controls and without the guilt. i like sports just fine, but appreciate a comedic and quick-witted perspective. i ran across this guy named bill simmons who, unbeknownst to me, has been around for a while now. he is a bleeding heart boston fanatic, but also knows a truck load about basketball. he wrote a huge book on the topic - 752 pages (way too many for me). he also occasionally opines on the latest developments in the wwe, hitting me right in the sweet spot.
his podcast from about a week ago hits on an article written by one of his/the grantland contributors. he interviewed zach lowe, the writer of a best & worst breakdown of nba team names. volume 1 is here, volume 2 here. points were given (and taken away) for alliteration, representative relevance, creativity, and mascot possibilities. two downward thumbs were flipped to organizations using collective nouns.
this got me thinking about the importance of band names. jazz groups are notoriously horrific when it comes to picking a name for their ensemble. come on - this is the best part about starting a band, right? brainstorming all of these ridiculous names, laughing until your cheeks hurt and tears stream down your face, trying your darndest to not just settle on something so you can move on with your life.
even classical groups (!!!), have figured out the name game. rarely do they refer to themselves by their actual god-given names. who would remember the david harrington quartet or david lang and friends? oodles and gobs of rock groups have come up with clever, memorable names that don't have the word "rock" in the title (see the flaming lips, foo fighters, weezer). my friend adam started a group that aimed to get a bunch of good paying wedding gigs. they were named "cover band", which somehow had never been registered to anyone else.
jazz is made up of singular artists, many with a real unique thing that they do way better than anyone else. part of the allure of jazz groups is discovering what the chemistry of a certain mixture of people results in. i get that, but do we need to blatantly refer to it as such? why can't brian blade's band just be called fellowship? why can't jason moran's trio just be called bandwagon? why can't chris lightcap's band just be called bigmouth? equally great bands like alasnoaxis, kneebody, and fieldwork have made it happen.
i can certainly give a pass to pat metheny, wayne shorter, sonny rollins, george benson and other heavyweights. we are there to see them. and i can look the other way for dave douglas, who makes so many records that his bands are commonly known by their album titles (i'm looking at you, charms of the night sky). but for the rest of us - it's time to shed the pretentious suffixes to our school/hometown, the clever ways to work in the word "jazz", the smush of remnants from each guys' initials, the recording project you are peddling, and the complete sellout of listing everyone by name.
arts and crafts. big satan. human chain. snarky puppy. james farm. the mu'tet. groundtruther. fly. masada. pachora. s.w.v. let's go, jazz people. embrace the idea of coolness through marketing with quirky, catchy names. go grab some cheap lunch with friends, laugh yourself silly with ridiculous band names that fall to the cutting room floor, and you'll end up with a name that doesn't scream cerebral music that you probably won't understand unless you're really into jazz. nobody wants to hear that stuff anyway.