Top 50 JAzz Blog

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jazz Session Restoration.

The Majestic Mr Crane's profile got caught in crossfires on a day of despair when I deleted piles of stuff. Now it's back and staying here. And in the creeping dynamism that blogging is, I'll be adding more to this as Mr. Crane has a book out and has also revealed some notable promise at poetry.

1. Describe your discovery of Music.
"My grandfather, Bernie Flanders, was largely responsible for my initial discovery of music. He was a clarinet and saxophone player in a small territory band in Western Massachusetts in the 1930s. By the time I came around in the 1970s, he had a nice record collection of big band music (including his favorite, Glen Gray) and also some music by popular singers, particulary Nat Cole and the duo of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. I listened to all those records on the big console stereo my grandparents had. It looked like a cradenza, and housed a stereo and record player. (I talk about this at great length in The Jazz Session#100, which is a tribute to my grandfather:

In high school, I met a group of friends, particularly my friend
Kevin Baird , who introduced me to prog rock groups such as Genesis (the good stuff from the Gabriel era and immediately after),Yes, King Crimson, Rush and Marillion.

During my 15 or so minutes in college, my friend Mike Fortune, a very talented drummer, widened my horizons to include more small-group jazz and free jazz, plus folks like Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart and Roky Erickson.

My wife, Jennifer, is a big fan of Americana, and she hipped me to Los Lobos, Lyle Lovett, Iris Dement and her personal favorite, Bruce Springsteen.

And along the way, I guess I picked up a few things on my own, too."

2. Describe your research into various periods of the idiom as an ad hoc scholar and fan.
"I think my "research," which is probably too lofty a word, came in two intense bursts, surrounded by lower-intensity periods of continued study and appreciation. The first burst started in 1996, when I became a professional saxophone player, working mostly in the latin jazz and straight-ahead worlds. I listened to tons of music then to learn more about what I was playing and what was appropriate for the genres I was being paid to play. My bandmates during those years were great teachers and guides, particularly Roberto Moreno, a conguero in Tucson, AZ, who turned me on to Israel "Cachao" Lopez, for which I'll forever be grateful.
Through the doorway of Cachao was an entire universe of music that I haven't come close to exploring fully.

Probably the most intense research period occured from 2001-2004, when I was the station manager and afternoon drive-time host at Jazz90.1 (WGMC), a 24-hour community jazz station in Rochester, NY. Coming up with several hours of music and talk each day, plus doing hundreds of on-air interviews, necessitated a lot of reading and study. The Jazz Session is similar, but I feel like I'm starting from a more solid foundation these days. That said, I'm learning every day about artists who are new to me and who excite me and demand further listening. That's the beauty of music.

One note about my knowledge base: I think there are enormous holes in it.My good friend, the saxophonist
Josh Rutner , has been helping me worry less about the holes and encouraging me to just enjoy the discovery, which is very useful advice."

3. Describe the attractions and appeal of your favorite periods.
"A few random examples of my affinity for particular musicians:

I love Chuck Mangione because his music is incredibly tuneful and rhythmic and reminds me of my early discovery of small-group jazz. (His An Evening of Magic: Live at the Hollywood Bowl was the first thing I bought with my own money.)

I love John Coltrane because he showed me a wider horizon of possibility where performance is concerned, and because he always seems to be speaking through his horn.

I love Nat Cole because of my grandparents, and because he could swing and sing his ass off.

I love Sun Ra because he's surprising and dignified and silly and brilliant and satirical and unknowable, all at the same time.

I love Ella Fitzgerald because she took the music seriously but remembered it could be fun and funny, too.

I love Rahsaan Roland Kirk because how could you not love Rahsaan Roland Kirk?

And on and on. I give up! This question could be a book rather than a blog post."

4. Describe the trajectory of your work as an advocate, include affiliations and community aspects.
"I've gone through several kinds of advocacy on behalf of the music. The first, which was wrapped up in economics, too, was as a musician. When I played this music for my living, I walked a line between advocacy and personal gain. That said, the gain was never too large, so it was easier to retain some aspect of the advocacy.

Later, as the manager of a community jazz station, my role as an advocate for the music was very explicit, but also tied to raising funds to keep the station running. The fundraising was incredibly stressful, but the direct connection with the listners was extremely rewarding. The station staff also spent a lot of time in the community at single concerts and larger festivals, which was a wonderful way to meet the people who loved the music and the station.

I now host The Jazz Session in hopes of some day making it my actual job, but in the knowledge that such a day may never arrive. Thus far, it's been a money-losing proposition. The set-up costs and the cost of travel and technology are all out of my own (mostly empty) pocket. I don't say that to set myself up as a martyr or even as any special kind of altruist, merely to point to the reality of deciding to interview jazz musicians as a potential revenue source. It may be the only thing more foolish than trying to play jazz as a revenue source. (Which I say with love and and a smile!)"

5. Describe evolving methods that are a facet of preparing Jazz Sessions..
"The Jazz Session is a fairly simple beast. In many cases, record labels and artists send me CDs and digital downloads. In other cases, I seek out artists with whom I'm already familiar or who I come across online. In either case, I listen to the record quite a few times and do online research to prepare for the interview. I don't submit questions in advance or offer shows for review before publishing them online. In recent months, I've been doing too many interviews, but I've got a more rational pace going now. Starting in January, The Jazz Session will be back down to two shows a week. It generally takes 6-8 weeks from interview to finished show.

In terms of the mechanics of interviewing, I try to ask a question and then get out of the way, letting the artist answer each question for as long as it takes. I do sometimes remove entire question-and-answer segments during the production process, but I don't remove pieces of a particular answer. I do, of course, edit out many of the "ahs" and "uhms" to make things flow more smoothly.

Most interviews are fairly easy if you're familiar with the music and have done some basic research. And even some of the interviews for which I've done no research (for example, an unexpected interview at a festival) work quite well."

6. What role does Web 2.0 and other tech have in your work?
"For starters, the entire show exists online, so the Web is crucial to what I do.

I recently ran an online survey for The Jazz Session's listeners. The survey just ended on Oct. 31, but I think the data will be very useful as I craft the show going forward. Asking the listeners for their opinions was very eye-opening for me.

I use Facebook and Twitter quite a bit to promote the show. I have a digital newsletter that I send out each Monday via my email distribution list and via The Jazz Session's Facebook group. The indivdual blog postfor each episode of the show allows comments, but most people send me comments via email rather than commenting directly on the post.

I have a partnership with All About Jazz, and AAJ has created a widget for The Jazz Session that runs on the right side of every AAJ page and on several other sites. The survey results suggest that the exposure on the AAJ home page and in the AAJ news feed has been great for the show's profile.

I've been uploading the episodes to iTunes since the very first show, and many survey respondents said they discovered the show that way.

Regarding the technical aspects of the show, I record in-person interviews onto a Marantz PMD 660 solid state recorder. It has a USB-out so I can transfer the digital audio to my laptop. I record the phone interviews using a Telos ONE phone hybrid. It runs through a mixer and into my Linux-based laptop. I use the open-source audio editor Audacity to record the phone interviews, and to mix all the shows."

7. What old media elements are used?
"I use a phone line for the interviews that I don't do in person. Other than that, it's all fairly new technology."

8. How has change in the economy impacted your work?
"Well, I'm a lot poorer than I used to be, so I can't travel to New York nearly as often as I used to. Other than that, though, there hasn't been a big impact. The artists are still out there, and it doesn't cost that much to make a phone call, so I've been able to keep up a strong interview pace."

9. Describe aspirations, projects and future hopes.
"My dream? I'd love to do The Jazz Session for a living. I think there are two ways to make this a reality: (1) Get the show picked up by a syndication service or network such as National Public Radio or Public Radio International; or (2) give the show for free to stations across the country, then use that radio presence (combined with the strong download numbers) to attract underwriters.

I'd also like to turn some of my interviews into a book. I talk to many artists who aren't included in the classic books of interviews, and I'd like to be one of the people who helps preserve their thinking about the music."

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