This past weekend I went to another live music event — a Smooth Jazz Festival held in a beautiful music and concert hall in Milwaukee.
There were three performing segments — wonderful, upbeat music. Saxophones and Base Altos and guitars and drums all melded to make peppy, feel-good music.
Until the third band. The most famous band. The artist I’ve followed for more than 40 years. His form of smooth jazz was, well smooth. Melodious. Bright. Mellow. Did I say melodious?
Somewhere in the past 40 years my main man had gone a little contemporary. A little hip hop. A little infusion.
And that’s all his portion of the concert was.
I tried to find and follow a melody in all the songs he and his little band played. I am used to jazz players going off script a bit, throwing some fancy key strokes in and above what the song calls for. A lot of musicians do that.
But every one of his songs added a mess of notes that matched nothing. Riffs and repeats and wrong keys and 10 minute drum solos and base solos that played the same riff over and over and a saxophonist who played the same four or five notes 15 times in a row before moving the next four notes, repeating the jam again.
I hated it. I felt bad, but I hated it.
It was painful to listen to. My hopes for a melodious conclusion were smashed against the rocks. I couldn’t wait until the set was over. Eventually it was.
The audience loved it.
They cheered and screamed and yelled yeah baby after every solo, after every piano riff, after every jam and hip hop funky fusion song.
So my question to you today is — was that performance still art?
The musicians were spectacular. Amazing drum work. Smooth steady base playing. The saxophonist played the flute as well, and he was spot on. The headliner ran his fingers over the keyboard like Liberace.
Yet every song grated on my nerves like some abstract art painting.
Was the music still art if I didn’t like it? If it didn’t sound like music? If it didn’t ebb and flow and bring joy to some of the hearts in the audience?
I think over 40 years everybody changes. We are not the starving artists of our 20s. We are more mature these days, more confident, more willing to try something new and exciting.
Just not like this.
What do you think?