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Voicing a Question of Voices

Posted in Jazz Ethics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2009 by pogo56

Today I spent time thinking about the idea of having your own “voice”. There’s scores of players that I can “identify from a few notes or one musical idea”, but there’s something that goes beyond this notion of readily identification. It has to be developed and nurtured. I, as well as many of my friends can identify a players playing because we spent time really checking them out and in many cases that identification comes via association to the sound/concept of other players. This process of internalizing styles and sounds in this music ultimately shapes us into the musicians that we hope to be. In the long run we want to be remembered for having our own “thing”. I’ve heard some say that the age of obtaining a personal unique style of improvising in jazz is gone. I don’t really agree with that assessment but that notion didn’t occupy my thoughts today. This is what was on my mind:

I frequently read album reviews of artists that are in my generation (25-35). Many of the writers proclaim that the artist doesn’t quite have their own “voice” or that the artist is still in the process of finding his/her own “voice”. Whenever I read a statement like this I can’t help but wonder if the writer were to put the record on repeat and listen to it all day, day in and day out (no one I know has time for this, but you know what I mean), would that artist then have their own “voice” in the view of the writer’s mind’s ear? This repetitive listening process allows a listener to recognize Miles’s sound in one or two notes.

So I guess what I’m ultimately saying is that the thought of having your own “voice” is more subjective than I thought it was. But on the same token is Trane’s individuality an absolute? I would say absolutely, but there are some that would say that he didn’t live long enough to develop his own thing. Same can be said of Brownie, considering his untimely death in ’56. So my advice to review reader is if the writer says that the player hasn’t fully blossomed into his/her own, don’t take it as an absolute, and question how much the writer has really checked out the music. Having your own voice is in the ear of the behearer……

Keep swingin,

J.P.

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