Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jaleel Shaw on Being an Artist

News flash: Ted Gioia just named Jaleel Shaw one of the Hot Young Altoists.

Jaleel Shaw is a young alto sax player I respect and admire.
Check out his CDs, Perspective and Optimism. I first heard him play with Roy Haynes at the Artists' Quarter in January 2006, and since then he has returned with Haynes and as a leader. I interviewed Jaleel for MinnPost last February and recently added that interview. Earlier today, he wrote a blog entry I liked a lot. I'm including it here with his permission. An interesting perspective for us non-artists, especially for those of us who write about jazz, or try.

Being an Artist

Lately I've been reflecting on my life as a musician and the positive and negative experiences that have shaped it. And with that came thoughts on what I've learned as an individual and a musician. I'd like to share some things that I've think I've learned so far.

1.) Sense of Community: I think this is one of the first things I found myself learning/experiencing when I began playing music. By performing, I learned how to interact with not only other musicians, but also with an audience. I think it's an amazing way to for a group of people to get to know, understand, and trust one another. Also, the more people you play/perform with, the bigger your community becomes. I think community is important.. Especially when it comes to music. And this doesn't only go for musicians, but also for critics, journalists, club owners, booking agents, managers, and festival directors. I think if they all actually interacted with the musicians more (showing up to the performances, being approachable and social), I think the jazz world would be a much better place. I'm realizing more and more how few "critics" I have actually met in person. I rarely see critics/journalists at any performances. But if I do, I'm surprised if they don't leave before the set is over. If they don't leave, they usually don't bother to approach anyone in the band say hello or even introduce themselves. There needs to be more dialogue between musicians and critics. Critics should be open to discussions with musicians about past reviews, the history of the music, and the future of it. I think it would bring about a more healthy, stable jazz community.

2.) Respect.... Now I have to start by saying that I am in NO WAY speaking for every artist on this one. But from my experiences, I feel like I lose out if I don't first RESPECT what someone is doing or has done. Even if I may not be able to understand what that artist may be trying to say at first. I always remind myself that there's something that I can learn from that person. I can't begin to tell you how many musicians I couldn't get into years that are probably my favorite musicians now. So I think it's very important to keep an open mind.

3.) Discipline: I don't think I REALLY knew what discipline was until I got to Berklee and got my butt kicked by my first teacher at the school - Andy McGhee. After my first lesson, I went home and practiced HARD. EVERYDAY. Only to go back for my second lesson and have Andy tell me that I was wasting my time and if I really wanted to be a serious musician, I had to put in SERIOUS time. That was it for me. I went back to my dorm and started practicing like a mad man. I wrote routines for everyday of the week to make sure I go 6hrs of practice time in. My life was changed forever. I don't know where I would be if it were not for discipline..

Well.. there's a lot more that I've learned... but that's all I can think of and have time to write now.. I'll write more later if i think of anything...

Jaleel's blog
Jalee's website
Listen on myspace

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