Author Archives: Ratzo B. Harris

A Quilted Culture

Pop music, like most of pop culture, sees itself as a commodity to be marketed commercially, targeting its listeners as mere consumers with the end result being to make money for those who distribute it—with the actual manufacture of the media (LP, cassette tape, CD, etc.) as part of the distribution process—while those who create the music in the first place receive as little remuneration as possible.

More on Art and Entertainment

I don’t claim the music of Frank Sinatra to be “inferior” to anyone’s and I have no problem, per se, with his music. In fact, I like it … a lot—even his drivel, like “High Hopes.” Ole’ Blue Eyes studied his craft diligently and held his music to high artistic standards. His bands played great arrangements and included top-notch musicians. But Sinatra’s music isn’t a vehicle that I find conducive for my artistic standards. For one thing, there aren’t enough bass solos.

Is It Art or Entertainment?

My blog from last week inspired one of my regular off-site commentators to a criticism that raises an important issue about American music. The springboard for the comment was my admission that a group I am in had agreed to explore a new strategy in our improvisation with the end of “presenting something palatable to a broader audience than just ourselves.”

Navigating Contexts

We’ve been playing as a group for about a year and at first we created very long pieces that morphed from one idea to the next, but a decision was made early on to work on shorter pieces that focus on a single idea with the goal of presenting something palatable to a broader audience than just ourselves. This agenda allows us to play well-known pieces as well as free improvisations without putting off the jazz “purists”.

Back Home Blues

The remainder of the International Society of Bassists convention was both stunning and anticlimactic. I listened to bassist Gene Perla play a fabulous set of music with locals pianist Sean Gough and drummer John Arkin and joined by vocalist Viktorija Gecyte. Wayne Darling followed by displaying his flowing over-the-bar approach to jazz improvisation with pianist Bill Mays.

From the ISB

It’s the 4th day of the International Society of Bassists’ bi-annual convention being held in the Creative Arts building on the lovely San Francisco State University campus.

Why Improvise, Part 3

Improvising and composing are not the same things: Even if an improvisation leads to a new composition, the act of writing it down is not improvisation.

Why Improvise, Part 2

The idea that there is nothing new is self-referential; that is, it’s nothing new—even derivative performances are unique, although they might be boring.

Why Improvise?

The aesthetic that informs most American audiences renders improvised music inaccessible; it’s a fact that the more popular the music to an American audience, the less improvisation is a part of it.

Improvisatory Skills

A commenter posting to a TED clip wrote that jazz skills are about building a mental catalog of phrases and patterns that you can then use and modify; this is so wrong.