I wrote a while back how I was rejigging a few things in my personal life which is well underway now, and a big part of it is spending more time playing music.
It’s been about two years since I left my last band and I’ve not played much since then. But I dusted off my horn a few months ago and started dragging my ass out to a few gigs and, as often happens, it seems that the break has done me good. I’ve been stuck on a plateau for quite a while now but I could tell that I was ready to move up to the next level so I’ve been doing some serious wood-shedding.
The term woodshedding in jazz means more than just practicing. It is a recognition of the need to sequester oneself and dig into the hard mechanics of the music before you can come back and play with a group in public. There’s something philosophical, almost religious, about the term. The musical treasures of jazz are not easily accessed. You have to dig deep into yourself, discipline yourself, become focused on the music and your instrument, before you can unlock the treasure chest.
Philosophical and religious it may be, but it’s definitely hard work, swinging between intensely boring, insanely frustrating and extraordinarily uplifting. People who’ve played with me before know that I absolutely detest The Girl From Ipanema (it’s Stairway to Heaven for sax players ) so practising this song in 12 keys, with it’s fiddly bridge, well, I’d rather be gouging my eye out with a rusty fork. But I can pretty much nail it now, so the next time someone requests it, I might even say “yes” (I still draw the line at anything by Kenny Gee, though ).
One of the bands I’ve been playing with recently is a The Commitments-style soul band and one of the guitarist’s favorite lines from the movie is when the trumpeter is bitching to the sax player about his playing. “Soul has corners! You were spiralling, that’s jazz!”
And indeed it does. My background is very much blues, rock and fusion, which are much more structured, but I want to start playing more jazz and it really is about taking old songs, simple chord progressions and tearing them apart and putting them back together again to see where it goes.
Now, this has been an incredibly round-about way of getting to what I originally wanted to link to but I really dug this because I think it’s in the same spirit. Kent Rogowski takes teddy bears, rips out their guts and turns them inside out, then photographs them.
Teddy bears are designed to be innocuous and non-threatening creatures. Inside-out the bears are still sometimes recognizable but are now much more complicated and contradictory. The seams of the bear now look like scars, and some bears lose their limbs and other appendages depending on how they were constructed. When you look at the inside-out bears they appear to have a history or a past. They no longer offer comfort but instead seem to want our empathy.
More insanely cool photos on the website. Jazz teddy bears, indeed