One of the new things I’m doing this year is every day I try to do at least one thing that gets me closer to one of my professional goals. Granted, every day that I write, I’m getting closer to one of my professional goals, that of a daily writing practice. However, what I am really looking at is something aside from the things that I already do on a somewhat ritualistic basis. Today I’m kind of crammed because it was the first day of classes, so I’m a bit behind the power curve when it comes to getting my regular things done, like this writing bit. I also have a rehearsal tonight in Addison, Illinois with one of the bands that is actually working. This rehearsal also includes auditioning a keyboard player, so I’ve got to set up my book to put the songs we’re working for the audition up front. This week I’m trying to get in an hour a day working on jazz standards with one of my guitars. This is the daily thing that is aimed forward.
I am tenuously forming a goal for a direction to pursue musically that provides me with both personal satisfaction and an element of regular challenge. I’m still trying to flesh out the concept but it’s related to jazz, so that’s why I’m working the hour a day on standards drill. I’ll continue with it until the concept crystallizes further and gains more clarity, at which point I’ll sharpen the focus in what I’m doing with the guitar during that time frame. I am drawn to improvisational music and using pieces for the jumping off point, but I’m interested in finding something that speaks to me as an individual more than the jazz standards do. I’m not certain at this point if it’s going to come to me writing material, or finding a niche of existing tunes that gives me a better sense of it all. It could be a combination thereof for that matter.
I’m also open to the possibility of using some classical pieces as jumping off points. There are many pieces that are theme and variation sets that essentially are the end result of the composer playing or working around the original concept in what could be thought of in terms of a documented improvisation session. Bach’s Art of Fugue runs through quite a few variations based upon an original concept, and while he used the fugue as the form, and the variations as an example of what could be done, it is quite a remarkable piece of music in its entirety. When it comes down to it, Bach was known during his lifetime primarily for his prowess on the organ and his improvisational abilities as well. Today we know him most for the massive amount of extremely high-caliber compositional work he left behind. It is interesting that there wasn’t much of a divide between performers and composers at his time.
Whichever the form, or even a mixture thereof, I have my glimmerings of where I want to head next in my musical pursuits. I don’t want to spend the next forty years of my time on the planet chasing my musical tail doing the same things I have in the past, as that wouldn’t be productive in a manner that supports forward movement. Additionally that’s too much like treading water for my tastes. I want to move toward something that I feel reflects more of my take on music, and gives me a clearer avenue to shaping what is being presented in live performance and on recordings as well. I’d also like it to be my project that I take the lead on as opposed to another sideman gig. This would be another welcome change as well since the bulk of my musical career thus far has been as a dedicated sideman in other folks’ projects.
It has taken quite a while for me to get this far, to the point where I have at least glimmerings of where I want to go from here. About ten years ago I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I was ready to take the leap, put myself on the line and take the chance. What I was shooting for didn’t happen, in fact the opportunity to leap passed by in a blink. It took the wind and everything else out of my sails, mostly because I had my sights so firmly locked on it that I hadn’t allowed myself to come up with alternative scenarios, as in if I don’t do this, then what else is the next best viable alternative. Here it is ten years later and I’m just now starting to get an idea of what next. I guess that’s just the way it works sometimes. So, I’m going to do that one thing today that gets me closer.