Herding Cats for Fun, Not So Much Profit


Get along, little dogies.

Best thing about being leader of a professional jazz ensemble: the players are all accomplished enough to make their own musical decisions.

Worst thing about being the leader of a professional jazz ensemble:  same thing.

But if you’re an easygoing guy like me <hey, quitcher laughing over there>, that’s not the worst thing in the world.  I always appreciate playing with folks who know what they are doing.  And when I’m a sideman, I appreciate a leader who doesn’t try to micromanage my every move.  So I try not to be that person when the shoe is on the other foot.  Usually, it works.

But ever so often, I want to hear something a certain way, so I ask for it.  And being professionals, the sidemen always comply.  Until they think I have forgotten, when they go back to doing it the way they wanted originally.  <sigh>

Anyway, if it’s that challenging bringing together a mere handful of jazz musicians, imagine how hard it would be to bring together every jazz musician in town.  Believe it or not, that is the goal of the Austin Jazz Alliance.  And you can view their effort here: http://austinjazzalliance.org/

The brainchild of Fito Kahn, the AJA website started up once before, went away for a while, and now it’s back and better than ever.  I am impressed with the redesign, which features news, reviews, videos, classifieds, product sales, and a jazz calendar.  That’s a lot of balls to keep in the air at once, and I wish them all the success in the world keeping it going.

But of course, it takes more than wishing.  For something like this to really blossom, it takes participation from everyone.  That’s where the herding cats part comes in.  Because I have known jazz musicians for many years, and if there’s one thing they like to do besides practicing on or off a bandstand…well, I haven’t figured out what that is yet.

Not that they aren’t ambitious.  You can’t make it in this business without understanding how to package and promote yourself.  But many times, that just leads to insularity and tail-chasing with musicians bouncing off one another like frenzied bebop protons and electrons.  Fusion, when it occurs, is a rare and beautiful thing.  A rare and beautiful thing for twelve people to enjoy a couple of times at the Elephant Room, before it spins off into kinetic energy once again.  Or goes out on the road with Maynard, or Basie, or Ellington, or some other dead guy.

But I’m not on the road.  I Live Here!  I Give Here!  Wouldn’t it be cool if we could go to one website and catch up with everything jazz-related happening in and around Austin, Texas?  Wouldn’t that be cool?

Yes, it would.  So check it out, cats!



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