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Uh, truth and beauty, truth and beauty

September 12, 2007

Haven’t been thinking about information for the last five days, as I was entirely consumed by the Guelph Jazz Festival. It’s one of those weird events where I meet people that I haven’t seen in a year, but we all act like we just saw each other yesterday. The same folks come every year from all over the continent (and elsewhere) and pick up where we left off at the previous edition. They are an extremely sweet and generous group of people who just love the music (and their encyclopedic knowledge of it is endlessly amusing). I’ve been selling artists’ merchandise for the last bunch of years which puts me right in the middle of the tornado, dealing with artists and crazed jazz fans, and sleeping about 5 hours per night from Wednesday to Sunday.

Moments …

1) Standing at the side of the stage at the tent while Pierre Tanguay plays drums … he looks over and point at me and taps his hand on his heart … friendliest drummer in the world.

2) Tracking down Imiri Baraka to give him money for the books we sold and getting him to autograph a copy of his new book, which now says “Unity and Struggle” on the first page … nice.

3) Catching up with Loka on Sunday morning at their hotel and having a very nice chat, although they’d had to wait ages for me to arrive with their money.

4) Everything Dave Clark did … what a fantastic man … and hilarious and gracious.

5) Sitting with my 9 yr old daughter while she so courageously concentrates on an entire Anthony Braxton show. She is heading for being cool on a biblical level. (?)

6) Anthony Braxton performance Sunday morning. Absolutely remarkable, but you had to be there. I have never heard sounds like that and the playing together was like it was from another planet. A revelation. And the band was some of the nicest people I have ever met (despite the fact that the trumpet player and I had a bit of a spat before the show … we made up later).

7) The usual run-in with an artist who decides to get all cranky about some aspect of CD sales. Won’t say who it was this year, but another artist’s work has been ruined for me by being a jackass. Nothing like tearing into someone who is making money for you out of the kindness of his heart (I’m a volunteer, fer Pete’s sake!)

Example from 2006:

Artist: Where are my CDs?

Me: You play tomorrow … I wanted to have some of your product left to sell at that show.

Artist: They have to be here! How can I sell my CDs if they’re not here? This is your job!

Me: This isn’t my job … I’m a volunteer! (so, I glare at her, storm out, drive home
and return to slam her CDs down on the table … none of them sell (it’s not her show), I sell them all the next day at her show … she does send something like an apologetic email once she receives her cheque). I can no longer listen to her music.

However, I must say the most amazing thing was listening to Amiri Baraka and William Parker discuss how Black culture has been continually made into a commodity and thus diluted and taken out of the control of those producing it. Examples of this are everywhere … I suppose that rap music is an obvious example. It once was intelligent and had a message (see Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, etc), but was made more “entertaining” for MTV and turned into the ridiculous thing we hear now which is solely about “bling”. Anyway, after that talk, they perform that evening and it suddenly became clear … this is the pure expression of that culture, and it is incredible. The beautiful and exciting interpretation of Curtis Mayfield’s music nearly brings me to tears as they begin “People Get Ready”. Perfect … and it will never appear in any kind of mass media … f#cked up.

After all of this music and thinking, on Monday morning I find that my ears are like raw nerves … everything I listen to is rich and beautiful and seems to hit me right at the core. I’m still there although it’s starting to fade. Festivals do this wonderful thing to me …. I become so immersed and focused on art, that I remember what matters and who I am deep down inside. Sometimes it’s quite startling to realize how I have been buried in layers on other “stuff” and lost track of the important things. Truth and beauty, truth and beauty … all the rest is a waste of precious time.

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