Playing What You Want To Play

(c. 2010, from an abandoned first draft of a Brick’s Picks column in the LA Weekly)

Was at one  of those media events a couple nights ago at an old flamenco joint in Silver Lake. All kinds of people, no idea who most of them were. But you sure could tell the musicians….they were the ones who looked so uncomfortable. Nervous, really, all these rock musicians vying for a must gig and scared to blow it. Life is rough for any  kind of musician anymore, there’s only a few venues left, and most of you out there don’t have any money to spend in  night clubs anyway. Hell, when 15% of the population has 90% of the cash in the country—that is real money, the kind you blow in a club—well, things get rough. Hard to fill joints like that. People can’t afford to see you play on a regular basis. No one has cash to record, no one has cash to back you, no one has cash to release your record. You spend your time kissing the asses of whatever impresarios, promoters and A&R people that survive, hoping for that chance at maybe making something of yourself. You soften your sound, commercialize it, make it nicer. You go pop. You go smooth. You go whatever works.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you just play what you want to play. You play loud, crazy rock music in dingy little dumps for freaks. Or, if you’re a jazz musician, you play your jazz straight ahead, and pour your heart out every solo. That’s what we love, those straight ahead guys. That’s why we can’t stop talking about them.

Chuck Manning and Sal Marquez

Though the party is over and the people gone, Sal Marquez is on flugelhorn and Chuck Manning on tenor, improvising on a melody for nobody but themselves. The photo (a perfect photo at that) is by the late Tony Gieske.

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