Looking for Perfection

A Jazz player should be saying what he feels: humor, sadness, joy… all the things that humans have —  Bob Brookmeyer.

I have learned from talking with other musicians, and from listening to others perform, if the message is not clear inside of me, it will not be clear to the listener.  Being in the groove is necessary, it is the first step. However, having something to say is critical.

Most musicians I have visited with work hard to ‘get centered’ before the performance begins, they try to get very quiet inside and focused on the task at hand.  Then they just let the fingers dance over the fret board, starting out carefully, stabilizing the vocabulary to fit their audience and searching for the grove that sets the performance.  Then it happens, the hands begin to communicate emotion, ideas are transmitted, and the music connects with the audience.

However, just as life is not perfect, a performance is not perfect.  Mistakes happen, not everybody gets it right all the time.   I have noted in recent years many jazz songs are recorded and edited until they have zero errors.  This seems unnatural to me.  I must say, there are players that did not make many mistakes, their performance is always spot on.  But, most of us are very human and deviations and wanderings from the plan occur.  It seems to me that the occasional variation is part of the art form.  Those that demand perfection are redefining the art form of jazz.   They seem to be demanding humans to be perfect, I do not think it is possible for perfection — the human condition over arches the demand for perfection.

One of the things that draws me to Jazz is the freedom to be human.  Jazz allows for error. Embedded in the definition of Jazz is allowance for human frailty.   This does not mean that error is good, musicians strive to ‘get it right’ — no one purposely makes mistakes.  However, when mistakes happen, they acknowledge the mistake then seek grace and acceptance from their fellow musicians and from the audience.

This redemption scenario between the musicians and their audience patterns real life and allows for true life to be more fully represented within the performance.  The Jazz performance reflects us as we are, human, full of emotions, striving to share our ideas and to hear ideas from others.

Every note is not right in life — Branford Marsalis.  What we play is life — Louis Armstrong.

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