Audiences understand and appreciate beauty.
Freedom is beautiful.
Therefore audiences appreciate freedom.
I’ve known this all of my life. I’ve seen this proved many, many, many times. There is no doubt in my mind about the power and validity of The Music.
Long ago, I played in Ken Simon’s trio with Todd Capp on drums. The music was Ken’s compositions. Free Jazz. We played all over New York City. Literally. We played in Jazz clubs, cafés, public libraries, public parks, convalescent homes, homes, lofts, train stations, the list goes on. We played everywhere and wherever we played, audiences were inspired and rejuvenated. One of my most memorable experiences from that period was a show we did at an assisted living facility in Manhattan. It was an early hit, during the morning coffee break for the residents. So, there we are, at 10AM, in a room full of very old people playing. P L A Y I N G. As I looked out over the audience, I saw that they were as engaged in the music as we were. They listened. They applauded and we PLAYED. After the concert, there was a “meet and greet”. Autograph signing and that sort of thing. These two really sweet old women came up to me, asked for an autograph and then proceeded to tell me how much they enjoyed the concert. They weren’t just doing the perfunctory “Thank you, it was nice.”. They were genuinely blessed and impressed.
Encounters like this have been the rule for me rather than the exception. If I learned anything from my years playing Ken’s music, it was that The Music is universal. People get beauty. Play beautifully and you will always elevate an audience. Beauty isn’t always pretty.
Beauty is truth and truth is beauty and that is all ye know on earth and that is all ye need to know. – John Keats
When we play with sincerity, when truth is our guide, beauty is the result.
For the last few years, I’ve been working in trio with the Pianist Doru Apreotesei and different vocalists. We perform in the Jazz lounges on the Color Line ships Fantasy and Magic under the rubric “Beautiful Music In Beautiful Places“. We perform four, forty-five minute sets, seven nights a week for a month or two at a time. Most of our time is spent – yes, that’s right – playing free. Openly and blatantly improvising freely without a safety net. How else does one make Music? The audiences are exactly what you would expect to find on such Scandinavian luxury cruises. These aren’t the tragically hip nor adventurous. The passengers who find their way into the lounges where we perform are looking for an escape from the banality of the pub sing-alongs and variety shows. They’re looking for beauty. They’re looking for substance. They’re looking for a glimpse of the unseen made visible. They’re looking for magic. Improvised music is magic. Audiences know this and they know that the improvising musician is a magician. They get it.