D.D. Jackson

I am a two-time Emmy Award-winning composer, and Juno Award-winning jazz pianist and educator. As a composer, I specialize in writing, arranging, and producing memorable, custom-made music for t.v., film & other media. I consider myself an "artistic problem solver": I strive to get to the essential conceptual truth of what the client is looking for - and to express it in a creative and supportive way. [READ MORE] or [BIO]

A chat with Andrew Dubber of New Music Strategies

I was delighted to have had a chance recently to sit down and finally chat in person with New Music Strategies guru Andrew Dubber when he was in town attending the CMJ Music Marathon Conference. For those unaware, Andrew is arguably one of the foremost thinkers on what we all need to be doing to operate as musicians in this Web 2.0 age (you can download his free e-book on the subject here). Our conversation covered such wide-ranging subject matter as Creative Commons and music copyright, the meaning of the seemingly new business models introduced by such artists as Radiohead and Prince, the controversy over Gerd Leonard's "Music Like Water" idea, my own Artistshare website and strategies for selling digital vs. physical content, plus building fan relationships and more. Listen to it now in my "Living Jazz Podcast #22".

James Carter recording, Moonfest, & other recent activities...

Lots of recent activity. Recently played piano on an upcoming James Carter CD coming out in the spring on the Michael Cuscuna-produced Mosaic Records (a division of Universal), with Victor Lewis on drums, James Genus on bass, and guest Rodney Jones on guitar (an old Manhattan school combo coach in the early 90’s!)…The session was remarkably efficient – internalize a tune, record a tune; internalize another, etc…., with some interesting twists and turns along the way…I’ve also started teaching (seemingly “of all things” :-)) a course on the Beatles at Concordia College near the Bronx as a last-minute sub for a musical colleague of mine, and have, incidentally, since discovered a lot of interesting connections between their music and the world of jazz (and of jazz writing, with at least one music-journalist colleague, Ashley Kahn, I’ve noticed, having contributed writings on the Beatles). I even in the course of my research stumbled upon the interesting fact that John Lennon once met with Canada’s former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (the subject of my current opera written with librettist George Elliott Clarke entitled “Trudeau: Long March/Shining Path”), and was so intrigued by this fact that I suggested that my librettist collaborator include a meeting between the two in our opera, something with which he will shortly be obliging me…So look for John Lennon (along with Mao, Castro, Mandela, and others) to make an appearance in our Trudeau opera in the near future :-)…I also recently participated in an interesting “Moonfest” concert in honour of the traditional Chinese Moonfest (an event which despite being half-Chinese I profess to never having previously known about!) It took place in Halifax, NS, and a review describing the proceedings appears here. A particularly notable occurence during the festivities (apart from the enjoyable servings of “Chinese tea and mooncakes” at intermission!) was the translation of my librettist colleague George Elliott Clarke’s poetry from English to Chinese, which made for fascinating comparisons in presentation and inflection….

New Music Strategies plus MOMA concert

Well, it’s definitely the “mutual admiration society”, as New Music Strategies author Andrew Dubber recently posted a link to and about me on his website in response to a question I posed to him about his fantastic and “essential reading” free Ebook, ”The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online”. The book is really the summation of many things I’ve been more and more deeply exploring of late as I dive head-first into this whole Web 2.0 world. It’s amazing how quickly things change, but he’s managed to sum up the state of things nicely and I highly recommend his site.

Other news: Just did a successful performance at the Museum of Modern Art’s “Summergarden” series, featuring a piece I premiered in honor of my 10 month old son, Jarrett Jackson. The concert was originally scheduled to take place outdoors in a very scenic and stately courtyard, but the incessant rain that day turned out to be a blessing in disguise in that we were able to leave the intense humidity in favor of a much more pleasant, indoor, air conditioned setting in the museum proper (and how often does one get the chance to perform in front of an actual Rodin sculpture, the statute peering mischievously over my left shoulder throughout the performance, as I played?)

In this day and age, being able to bring in a dedicated assemblage of 300 people (a sold-out show, with people actually turned away at the door) on a consistent basis is a tremendous achievement, and so I tip my hat to the event's organizer, Melanie Monios, and also to Cat Henry of Jazz at Lincoln Center for her involvement as well.

The group I brought in consisted of myself, Dwayne Burno on bass, Reggie Nicholson on drums, and Sam Newsome on soprano sax, who joined us for a few tunes. I felt a strange manic energy at first, perhaps due to the personal nature of the concert: my father had come down all the way from Ottawa, Canada to attend, and my father-and mother-in law as well as other extended family were all there. Most fascinatingly for me, was the presence, throughout, of Jarrett Jackson, my 10-month old ( held - and handled! - by my wife Elizabeth for the entire concert) who truly seemed old enough to start to grasp that his daddy is a performer, and was definitely watching me with curiosity from the audience for a large part of the concert, occasionally peppering the air with baby squeals (occasionally at amusingly inopportune moments :-))...He particularly seemed to engage himself during "his tune" - a piece I wrote for the occasion entitled "Frantic Explorations" (I'll post excerpts in an upcoming Podcast), in which I tried to musically describe his propensity towards (as Jerry Seinfeld once put it) treating his head like a helmet as he crawled recklessly and adventurously about our apartment.

I also had the unusual but distinct pleasure of having my performances inspire New York-based visual artist Mark Wiener, who apparently was sketching throughout the concert and plans to send me one and show the remaining drawings at a Solo exhibition in October. Much thanks to all who attended!

on Chicago City Limits and other "mini-successes" of the day...

A few little “mini-successes” today. Finished my article on Bosendorfer’s Ceuss piano for the Sept./07 Downbeat coming out mid-August (more on this in my latest Living Jazz Podcast #21), and just got back from a particularly successful night of Chicago City Limits. For those not aware, CCL is New York’s longest running comedy revue, but it goes well beyond that into the very daring world of theatrical improv. I’ve written about this before in my Downbeat magazine Living Jazz columns, but suffice to say that what has always appealed to me about this world are the remarkable parallels between what they do on the stage as improvising actors and what I try to do as a pianist. I remember back as a student at Indiana University watching an ad-hoc improv group playing a game called “Freeze”, where they would unfurl endless scenes made up on the spot; someone would yell “freeze”, enter the scene and take over from a now-frozen peer, and then the scene would continue, often in outlandishly different directions, a thorough exploration of the mind and of imagination. I remember being fascinated, and wishing that I could participate – who would have thought I could be involved in a profession, ultimately, that actually helps make people laugh? (on purpose, that is :-)…)

I first began doing CCL when my BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop writing partner Carl Kissin. (a longtime CCL veteran, now “retired” from active duty there but still going strong in the world of improv, having recently won the Monologue Slam this week here in NY) recommended me. At first I was a shy sub, but I eventually assumed the mantle of “Music Director” for the mainstage company here in town and now perform quite regularly (Thurs-Sat. at 8 pm, a 2nd show Sat. at 10 pm) when I’m not on the road. 

The main stage cast has gone through changes these past few months but now consists of Annie Figenshu, Rob Schiffman, Stefan Schick, and Joe DeGise II. One of CCL founders, Paul Zuckerman, once said that the beauty of the show to an audience can often be that by everyone in the company bringing their own, individual talents to the table, the illusion is created for the audience that we know a little bit about every conceivable subject the audience might yell out over the course of a show, and this idea, I think, was no more evident that today’s show, as we went through our various improv forms that form the backbone of a CCL performance (a storytelling form called Byrone, improvised Jeapardy, a fully improvised musical based around the events of someone in the audience’s day, etc., etc.)…

In the end, it’s really hard to explain what makes a great show. Certainly, it was in front a smallest, but highly enthused, uninhibited and warm audience, and this fact can help, as the show is very much about feeding off of the wavelengths shooting back at us from the crowd. I think, ultimately, it’s something about chemistry – something about the fact that the cast truly likes and respects each other, and each really DOES have something to contribute, from Annie’s penchant towards musical hooks and characters always so grounded in reality, to Rob’s incredible musical chops mixed with a brilliant and quick mind, to Stefan’s ability to play “manic” with such controlled, gradually unfurling chaos, to Joe’s seasoned mastery of his characters (today assuming, in one scene, a particularly exaggeratedly-accented Scot), and often assuming the “straight man” to the mania that surrounds him. I don’t know what, exactly it is, but somehow today everything just clicked, and one leaves feeling that what we are doing really is enjoyable – and special.

My final “mini-success story” of the day was a copy of a recital program my brother Shaw just sent me of a former student of his named Vincent. In the program’s bio, it describes how hearing me play for Shaw’s class back when he was 7 years old inspired him to become a pianist, and he’s since gone on to win all sorts of awards and enter many competitions (some quite familiar to me as I also did such “rounds” when I was his age). It’s an amazing feeling to know that you can inspire someone so much.

I couldn't resist... and bought an iPhone!...

 I couldn’t resist – after my first night’s gig with Ahmed Abdullah Friday June 29th, still on a high from the performances, I took the subway up to Apple’s self-described “flagship store” on 58th street and 5th avenue, to witness first hand the whole Iphone phenomenon. As a self-professed tech-addict (not only for music-related applications but beyond), I must say that when I first watched Steve Jobs presentation of this device last January, I was immediately hooked, though lamented it’s understandably high price for a first generation product. As my birthday was nearing, however, my family stepped in and offered to buy me one 6 months later when the product finally arrived. In between, there was the usual critiques by macheads about what the machine lacked, but what nobody could 100% report in the end was just how fantastic the machine actually worked, and how it felt, in one’s hands. I had to see for myself.

Despite the incredible anticipation, I was amazed that a few days earlier, on Tues. of this past week, people had already started lining up outside the 5th Avenue Apple Store here in New York. At things turned out, when I finally arrived at 2 am Friday on the so-called “iDay”, the initial, frantic exuberant lines surrounding the 6 pm opening had long since thinned out, and the only lines I now encountered inside the store weren’t for buying the device but for simply trying it out, with crowds several bodies deep clamoring around display tables to get a glimpse of what until then had only existed through other’s words and on t.v. and the internet. 

Finally, my turn “up” arrived and I had one. Again, I was still trying to convince myself that I was merely there to “witness” the cultural occasion rather than to actually “purchase” – surely I would be inclined to wait for the iPhone version 2.0 with it’s (no doubt) soon-to-come built in GPS, 3G, and on and on…But when I actually held the damn thing in my hands and tried a simply scrolling motion with my fingers, I was instantly, almost primitively “hooked” in a way I had never experienced before with any previous consumer product. It was the most intuitively designed piece of machinery I have ever encountered, so simple and poetic as to truly be a work of art. And I had to buy one.

When I got it home, I (again) was already completely enthralled just with the finger navigation functionality, so much so that I literally forgot for a moment then it was also a fantastic web browser. Once I’d finished exploring this feature, it dawned on me that – I forgot! - it was also a widescreen video Ipod. And most amusingly, it was over an hour later and I was about to finally turn it off that I suddenly remembered that – oh ya – it’s a PHONE as well J…

It’s a genre-changing product and yes, it lacks certain things which I’m sure will be added later (most notably, a plan allowing for cheaper calls when traveling in Canada!), and will only get cheaper and more feature-laden..But considering this is iPhone 1.0, Apple is off to a breathtaking start…

performance with Ahmed Abdullah at Sweet Rhythm

Just completed my first evening at Sweet Rhythm here in NYC. It was quite surreal being back in my old stomping grounds. I used to live right down the street, on Leroy and 7th Avenue near Bleecker, when I was a freshly minted graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. At the time, all I could afford was the smallest possible apartment, in which the shower was literally made out of a converted closet, and the bathroom (which the landlord disingenuously referred to as a "commode") was in the hall, under seperate lock and key (I actually had to carefully peer out and look both ways before using the john each morning, in my pjs!)

The advantage, however, for a "kid" like me, at the time, fresh out of school, was that I was instantly thrust right into the center of the musical action, and could walk down the street (literally 50 yards), to catch the greatest jazz talent in the world at the then Sweet Basil club (as well as the legendary Village Vanguard, only a few further steps away); not to mention the (sadly now defunct) Village Gate, Bradley's...the list certainly goes on...

So here I was today performing back at what is now called Sweet Rhythm, yet experiencing a strange deja vu, despite the place having been completely remodelled. Greeting me at the door, for example, was an ageless James Browne, who booked Ahmed for the gig presumably (and did all the booking "way back when", also, when I first lived here, in the 90's). At the bar was (Chi? - I'm embarrassed to have forgotten his name!) - a pony-tailed Asian bartender who always struck me as warm and friendly, and a true fan of the music; he lamented to me the declining audiences and the fact that not enough people knew of what was going on at the club, and he reminisced with me briefly about days gone by seeing such great performers as my mentor, Don Pullen.

The piano, too, looked the same - and I couldn't help but recall my stool flying into the audience way back when (probably circa 1993) when I appeared there as (I believe it was) an overly exuberant member of Jane Bunnett's group, and of feeling overwhelmed by the sheer ferocity of Billy Hart's uninhibited drumming style, also in the same band.

Tonight, we had a modest crowd of the true "die-hards", but this had seemingly no effect on the music, and we proceeded to do a set of truly magical music-making - a true "Music of the Spirit", as our trumpet-leader Ahmed Abdullah always so aptly put it (also in the band is bari player Alex Harding, Radu on bass, Selim Washington on sax/flute, Louis Rivera doing poetry along with Ahmed's wife Monique, and Brandon Lewis on drums.) A happening affair - and for those of you who can catch it, be sure to join us for our final night tomorrow (Sat, Jun 30th) where I'm sure the music will be swinging' (to facetiously paraphrase Wynton Marsalis :-))...

new Living Jazz Podcast is up...

My new Living Jazz podcast is up on virtual instruments - just click on the link....It's in a way an extension of a similar column I wrote for Downbeat magazine which as I write this is hitting newstands right about now...In the Podcast I discuss the debate between the use of Virtual Instruments in live performance to replace actual live performers (something I attempted recently to do for the premiere of my Trudeau opera in Toronto, with an unexpected result!) I also touch upon Garritan's exquisite Gofriller Cello and Strad Violin virtual instruments, and on my participation in the recent launching in NYC of Bosendorfer piano's new Ceuess "player-piano" technology (though this designation really doesn't do the technology justice!) I round it out with an excerpt from the Trudeau opera premiere - hope you enjoy it!

appearance on CBC's "Fuse" program

Just had a fun experience, performing in my hometown of Ottawa on CBC Radio's "Fuse" program, hosted by Alan Neal, with Emm Gryner. The idea of the show is to pair two conceptually diverse artists together for the first time and see how things click. They've done everything from mixing a classical piano/cello duo with pop musicians and well beyond, and for my appearance, Alan was very keen on having me appear with this renowned Canadian pop vocalist. Admittedly, she was someone that prior to my preparation for our meeting I hadn't heard of, but I was delighted to have the opportunity to dive into her musical world for a few days, with it's mix of indie, folk, pop/rock colors and her original songwriting and intimate singing. After a flurry of back and forth emails in the few days preceeding the event in which we "pitched" ideas to each other about which of our own tunes we thought might work, we met for the first time on the eve of the event in Studio 40 at Ottawa's CBC studios. She's a petite woman, and quite exotic, sharing with me some Asian heritage, and seemed very keen to just "go for it" and try things out. We eventually settled on a few of my tunes: "Lushly" from my opera Quebecite in which she bravely sang the lush and poetic words of librettist George Elliott Clarke over my melody; Summer, gamely playing electric bass; "Final Invocation" from my Suite for NY doing wordless vocals seemingly for the first time live alternating with my more exploratory musical journeys in between, and we jammed out on two pianos with Neal Young's "Ohio". We also did an all two-piano version of her hit song "Girls are Murder", and I accompanied her on her beautiful tune "Blackwinged Bird". What was surprising compared to the edited copies of the show they had provided me with to aid in my preparation was just how detailed and lengthy the questioning of us by the host turned out to be come performance day, so much so that it really ended up being interviews with performance rather than the other way around. And I must say that having done many, may interviews over the years, I was particularly struck by the originality of Alan's questions. All in all, quite an enjoyable show.

Reflections on the birth of my new son Jarrett in Podcast #19

Who is that mysterious creature you might ask? On Sept. 16th, 2006 my wife Liz and I joined the notorious ranks of those who simply can't resist posting baby photos, as our son Jarrett Jackson (named, of course, after pianist Keith Jarrett) was finally born. Hear my reflections on this momentous event in our lives on Podcast #19, along with my thoughts on the four elements one needs to "make it" in the music business, plus a "bonus track" featuring John Scofield's current vocalist Dean Bowman performing an original composition of mine. Just click on "D.D. Jackson's Living Jazz Podcast #19" (right)...

In Memory of 9/11

I thought it fitting given the 9/11 anniversary to include in my latest D.D. Jackson's Living Jazz Podcast #18 a piece I wrote in memory of the victims, written for my Justin Time CD “Suite for New York” and entitled "Final Invocation (Towers of Light)". In the Podcast, I also discuss my experiences with Myspace and reflect on the state of jazz in this new, instant-access age. I hope you enjoy it.

Trudeau opera news spreading fast

News travels fast. My Trudeau opera collaborator, librettist George Elliott Clarke, just did an interview for the CBC on our upcoming new opera. It was posted to the CBC website (I've put up a copy of it in the Press section of my website) and within hours was being quoted in newspapers from as far away as India and even North Korea (!) Also look out for an interview I just did by phone with Canada's National Post, which should be appearing soon. In the meantime, I've put up a demo of the opening number from the opera in the downloads sections of my website. Enjoy!

my Trudeau opera

Just got back from an intense, 3-day worskhop in Wolfville, Nova Scotia (Canada), outside of Halifax, where I was trying out for the first time the music I've been intensely writing for the new opera on Canada's notorious late Prime Minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with librettist and Trudeau Fellow/Governor General Literary Award recipient George Elliott Clarke. The work will be scored for 5 vocalists and (ultimately!) orchestra, but for this workshop we focused on trying out the actual compositions with 3 wonderful singers - Janice Jackson and John Lindsay-Botten (both from Halifax), and Douglas Tranquada from Toronto. I'm still editing the demo, but will put some of it up here shortly for you to check out. In the meantime, check out my latest Podcast (#17) for an excerpt, plus a sample of a piece I wrote in memory of the late, great John Hicks, and a walking audio tour of my new "Serenity CD". And look for the Trudeau opera premiere at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto in May/07 (and beyond!)

John Hicks memorial

Lots of recent news of late. On June 4th I attended what always ends up being a bittersweet affair - the memorial service at the Jazz church at St. Peters' for recently departed master pianist John Hicks. John was one of the many "indirect" mentors I've had in my life; someone who although I didn't directly study WITH him, was constantly studying his approach to his craft, particularly in the context of the work he did for many years as pianist in David Murray's quartets. It was John, in fact, for whom I was subbing when I got my first major career break, appearing at the 1994 Montreal Jazzfest in the David Murray Quartet, at which I was essentially "discovered" by Justin Time Records; I also went on to perform and record with David for many years. The memorial was an intense celebration of his life, featuring an utterly all-star lineup of jazzers from the World Saxophone Quartet, to Cassandra Wilson; even pianist Cecil Taylor showed up and did "his thing" for an extended improvised solo piano set. John truly has touched people the world over with his remarkable gift and will be sorely missed. I actually recorded a solo piano piece dedicated to him entitled "Waltz for Mr. Hicks"; listen to my latest Living Jazz Podcast #17 for an excerpt. RIP John.

jazz opera Quebecite in New Brunswick

Ah to perform again. Just finished a performance of excerpts from my jazz opera "Quebecite" at the Frye International Literary Festival in Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada - for the uninitiated!) We were here at the behest not only of the organizers, but of poet (and my collaborator) George Elliott Clarke, who utilized his considerable weight to ensure that there would be music - not just words - from the work at the Fest. Brought along for the ride was former Screaming Headless Torso veteran Dean Bowman (who had recently returned form a world tour with guitar legend John Scofield), and Yoon Choi, a great (though under-known) jazz vocalist. Together, the two of them essentially played an extrapolated version of my parents in the work, and their characters interact in various ways with two additional characters - one Indian (Laxmi), the other Haitian Creole, the lot of it dreamt up by the fertile imagination of George Elliott Clarke (though based in part on the life story of my own parents). After the concert I managed to squeeze in an interview with Yoon Choi at the airport, which is the "main event" of my latest Living Jazz Podcast #16, available on this site for free. Enjoy!

"Serenity Song" track from upcoming "Serenity Song" CD now available for free download

I wanted to share with everyone the title cut, SERENITY SONG, from my upcoming new Justin Time "Serenity Song" CD and so it's now available for free download HERE! I'd also like to announce that the release date has been moved forward from July 15/06 to JUNE 20th/06. Pre-order now by clicking on "Artistshare" to start immediately receiving behind-the-scenes content on the making of the new recording!

Thoughts on recent Bret Primack Seminar on Web Publicity

Just attended a fantastic seminar given by Bret Primack on “Web Publicity Essentials” sponsored by Chamber Music America here in New York City. Bret gained notoriety (albeit initially anonymously) as “The Pariah”, an outspoken critic of the conservative state of jazz and it’s dominance by the major labels, back in the heyday of the Young Lion movement headed by Wynton Marsalis. Since then, he’s gone on to produce a book ("How to Make It Big In the New Music Biz") I actually wrote about in a recent Down Beat Living Jazz column ("Internet Promotion, An Update"). The book has since gone out of print, but was fascinating in that he advocated the novel idea of using “viral marketing” techniques to spread the word about one’s music (including the notion of placing one's music deliberately on "illegal" peer-to-peer networks.)

This seminar was helpful not necessarily because the information I learned was revelatory, but because I couldn’t help but marvel at his ability to cover such broad and important territory – how to optimize your website, what other websites to check out for help – in one fiercely and efficiently concentrated 2 hour session. It also confirmed that a lot of the things he recommends be done I am thankfully already attempting with this new Artistshare-powered site: providing compelling content on one's site that is also easily navigatable and updated regularly, using Electronic Press Kits, providing sound samples straight away on one’s homepage, etc.

The most interesting notion discussed was the one that previously and still intrigues me: the use of the internet for “viral marketing” – namely giving people compelling things they can take away with them and hopefully trade with others (such as mp3 files), in order to expontentially spread the word about you from 2, to 4, to 8, to 16 and beyond.

He also cited Podcasts as a way to further such promotional growth, and I was surprised to discover that I had the only actual Podcast in the entire room with my "Livng Jazz Podcasts". But he made also what should have been an obvious point yet which I have until now somehow missed in terms of using my Podcasts to drive traffic to my website: he pointed out that the obvious use of my Podcast should be to let people in on my musical identity, not just my ideas – it should be more like a D.D. Jackson (music) radio show, with excerpts of my OWN music, in addition to whatever other content I provide. He has a point, and so look out for less modesty about my own musical work and more actual music samples in future Podcasts, in addition to my other regular content...

Chris Howes interview plus more updates

Just had a typically extended and detailed talk with violinist Christian Howes about his fascinating life as promoter, violinist, composer, bandleader, and also as someone who has had a rather unorthodox path to success, surviving even a stint in prison to become the compelling artist he is today. Chris is also heavily featured on my new Justin Time CD "Serenity", available for pre-order (for those who haven't already done so) by signing up for one of the 2006 "Serenity" Recording Participant Offers.

As is often the case when Chris and I get together, we went on for quite a long time, and so I'll be posting some of the content as part of my regular and freely available Living Jazz Podcasts (#14 - watch for it here soon), and the rest (particularly the things pertaining more specifically to my new Serenity CD) to all of those of you who have signed up for any of my (currently four!) Participant Offers (with more Offers on the way). Coming soon - A Complete Musician Participant Offer covering: the compositional process, thoughts and lessons on solo piano technique, improvisation and more. 

So lots coming up and lots already there - I encourage you to check back often and explore my Participant Offers by going here.

live from Cambodia: thoughts on my IAJE panel (1 of 2)

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Cambodia’s capital city, across the street from the newly-built U.S. Embassy I am here to help inaugurate in a gala performance scheduled for 2 days from now. While I am thrilled to be here, I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed that my itinerary caused me to cut short my exposure to this year’s International Association of Jazz Educator’s Conference.

I was scheduled to appear on a panel moderated by Jazz Journalists Association panelist Howard Mandel on Journalism and the New Media. One of the fringe benefits of being asked to serve on such a panel is free access to all of the goings-on at the conference proper, but the combination of my schedule (I had to leave immediately afterwards for the airport) with the state of my new home (boxes awaiting unpacking everywhere as a result of our recent move to our new home) meant that I ended up limiting my total time at the conference to a couple of hours.

Still, it was, as always, a feeling of a sort of mini-family reunion. Many come to the IAJE for the networking/business opportunities they perceive it affords. For me, this particular conference is a way at its simplest to reconnect with my peers, to put a face to the many names floating out there in cyberspace, or to the promoters, musicians or educators I’ve dealt with on and off over the years. There is something very powerful about this yearly ritual, because it reminds me of how connected – and enormous – the jazz community is, especially when one realizes how niche a market it is perceived to be in the greater world culture. And certainly there is nothing more heartening than having perfect strangers come up to you to thank you for your music (or in a couple of instances my Down Beat column) – it really reminds you that the work you do might really make a small difference to someone else out there. People think such small reinforcement (ego boosts?) doesn’t matter, but it really does make a difference to know you’re reaching people.

The panel itself featured Howard moderating plus representatives from newmusicbox.org, allaboutjazz, and other such organizations. The ostensible subject was whether journalists needed to adjust in this new age, to find new ways to get their work read and to be compensated for their efforts. I was relieved that my musical colleague Christian Howes was in the audience asking questions and making pointed observations, because in my post-flu, groggy headed state my answers all ended up sounding transparently (and perhaps unhelpfully) like vague promotions for Artistshare and the Artistshare concept. What I failed to do (and tried to make up for with the post-panel one-on-one conversations that ultimately ensued) was connect the dots – to draw clearer parallels between the Artistshare paradigm and approaches that journalists out there should perhaps also consider taking. 

There are, after all, many parallels between the two worlds. Musical artists have complained for several years now about their music being freely given away in peer-to-peer networks; similarly, much of the discussion was about blogs and the notion that journalists shouldn’t write for free. It is interesting, however, that Brian Camelio (Artistshare’s president) has a much more open-minded attitude about such file-trading – he regards it as free promotion, even going so far as to encourage it by offering with certain artists not only a mail order conventional CD but one with mp3 tracks ready for sharing burned on it as well. His notion, of course, is that it’s not about the individual files, it’s about building relationships, over time, and a sense of connectedness and trust with the fanbase. So perhaps this is an approach that jazz journalists could similarly learn from.

Live from Cambodia: thoughts on my IAJE panel (2 of 2)

 Times Select (a new “service”by the New York Times in which they obligate people to pay extra to read the daily columns of notable NYTimes personalities such as Maureen Dowd) has proven, admittedly, that people are willing pay for GOOD writing. Perhaps a journalist building a conspicuous online presence through blogging and other promotional tools can ultimately get fans to commit to paying for content, particularly if paired with a broader-based goal such as a book. Certainly, this would be the Artistshare model at work and I believe there’s already at least one journalist on Artistshare trying it.

Certainly, it IS a new age and journalists will have to adjust like everyone else. But I think it’s also a liberating age, one in which the responsibility for sifting through and extracting the “good”information out there is falling more and more upon the hands of the consumers, versus relying upon broader corporate structures to make such decisions for us. While some in the panel’s audience bemoaned this fact, I think it’s a healthy development, and that consumers are a lot more discerning than we give them credit for; as Dewey Redman used to tell me, “the cream will always rise to the top”, and consumers will find a way to find it.

My first Artistshare blog entry

My first artistshare blog – welcome! It’s a hectic time of year for me right now. I finished recording my latest CD for Justin Time (distributed additionally through this very Artistshare site and scheduled for a July 15/05 release) a couple of weeks ago, culminating a several-month period of reevaluations and new approaches to my craft and “business-of-one”. As people who have followed my career or know me personally are aware, I have certainly always tried to be as proactive as possible about my career, a fact which I suppose in part culminated in my being asked by Down Beat to write a series of columns I titled “Living Jazz” these past several years, in which I talk about what it really means to be “living the life” of a a jazz musician, with all of the attendant ups and downs.

But I must admit that there was a period over the past year where even I with my typical optimism had to question whether the manner in which I was going about my career made sense any more. Clearly, with the upsurge in popularity of the “illegal” peer to peer networks and then ultimately the current ascendancy of ITunes, a paradigm shift was in the air, one in which record labels, at least those labels operating in exactly the same manner as they have as in the past, had become increasingly irrelevant. At the same time, I wasn’t ready to entirely abandon the label (Justin Time) that had nurtured my career, and that had been quite supportive of me over the past 10 years. So I decided on a middle ground. Justin Time would fund the new recording, but it would be distributed in conjunction with Artistshare. This would allow me in a sense the best of both worlds – some label backing and presence in retails stores, but also an opportunity to take advantage of the new technologies that Artistshare excels at and, in the presence, interact more directly with fans. This website, then, is the culmination, in a way, of many years of thought about the way I should attempt to promote and present myself and my music and ideas to the public – I truly hope you’ll like the results!

As I was saying, I finished my latest CD a couple of weeks ago, and was delighted that my brother Shaw flew down for the occasion and was able to record the entire session, essentially, on videotape – watch out for excerpts of the actual performances from the upcoming CD which I’ll be putting up as part of my Artistshare Project Experience and various Participant Offers. Concurrent with this recording was my wife’s and my move, from one section of Queens, NY to another, something which admittedly is going on even as I type, with my wife at home frantically packing boxes as I type this a little too comfortably in a Starbucks, on break from a gig I’m doing here in midtown Manhattan.

So lots of activity over the next few days, much of which I look forward to documenting as part of my Artistshare experience, including the mixing and mastering of the CD, the presentation of different behind the scenes documentation of the process of making it thus far, and several more Participant Offers I plan to launch including one for the composer/pianist/musician’s out there involving video lessons. I’m very excited to be part of the Artistshare experience, and really hope you’ll enjoy – and continue to come along for - the ride as well.