Monday, May 31, 2010

22 Days Until NMA Reunion

I am really looking forward to seeing Frank Mullen ( at the Navy Musicians Association Reunion in San Antonio, June 23-26. I'm looking forward to swapping some "sea stories" with him and others. Frank is probably the funnee-ist guy I've ever met (if you have to ask what "funnee" is, odds are you wouldn't understand). Frank is also one of the best musicians I have ever met. But what do the descriptors "good", "better", or "best" mean when talking about musicians?

I used to have an attitude about musicians. Time was, in my younger and friskier days, when I looked down my nose at musicians who didn't make, in my opinion, the grade. I remember that the first argument I ever had with my ex (the psycho hose-beast) was about music. She was talking about how much she liked Roy Orbison and I poo-pooed him. When she insisted that he was a good musician, I told her that she was unschooled; that she didn't know what she was talking about. Obviously, that went over like a lead balloon! Years later, I came to appreciate Roy Orbison for his talent.

There was a time in my life when I was crazy about jazz-fusion... (Chick Corea, John McLaughlin and the like) and any music not in this narrow description was lumped into the "crap" category. Nowadays, I can appreciate the artistry of great music in a variety of styles and genres: rock, jazz, Celtic, country, rap... anything. In the past 37 years, I've performed virtually every kind of western music there is; barbershop to opera, dixieland to heavy metal, jazz to western swing, polka to pop, etc. Nowadays, when I say "no more crap", I mean any music in any style which doesn't have something meaningful to say.

Yes, and by meeting and/or performing with a few of the "best" musicians of our time, people like Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Joe Pass (jazz guitarists), Jean-Luc Ponty (jazz fusion violinist), Kallen Esperian (operatic soprano), Stanley Clarke (jazz fusion bassist), John Williams (classical guitarist), to name a few, I learned a secret apparently not widely known outside the circle of "best" musicians...

Listen. Just about everyone has something to say.

Just about everyone has something to say, and these "best" musicians were willing to take the time to listen to what I and others like me have had to say. Oh, I occasionally forget that lesson, for instance when I am in a music store and the teenage head-bangers are pounding out the only three chords they know at ear-splitting volume levels. I can only sigh when one of them starts a conversation with "Yeah, me and my band, we play mostly rock, like Blah-dee Blah and Blah-blah-blah". It's what Frank Zappa was saying on his album Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar... In other words, don't tell me what you can play, let your guitar do the talking. Frank Zappa, by the way, had and has more than a few detractors. So when a pimple-faced teenager starts talking about his cool axe, etc., I don't try to wow him by dropping names. Sure, I drop names in my blog, but let's face it: it is, after all, my blog. Instead, I would rather let my guitar do the talking, and he who has ears, let him hear what I have to say.

Frank can play just about anything in any style and pull it off nicely. My only claim to fame is that I can do the same. We've both had a rich history of performing a myriad of genres and sampling a smorgasbord of music that few have been able to partake of. And after many years of doing so, I've "settled down" to spend the rest of my life exploring jazz, both in its classical and contemporary forms. So when I say "no more crap", what I mean is that whatever I play, I will try to express something meaningful in my music.

Enough. Time for me to shut up and play my guitar.


  1. John, I guess you remember when Atlantis did "You Want To Fight For The Right To Party" by the Beasty Boys don't you. That was the best wasn't it!

  2. Uh, okay... Certainly not everything I've ever played was the best!