Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Older I Get, The "Outer" I Like

The subject first came up in a conversation over lunch in Denton (where I had accompanied a student to auditions for my beloved alma mater). I can't remember what brought it on, but I remarked that, as I have gotten older, my musical tastes have changed quite a bit, so that things I would think were rather "out" (avant-garde, outside the mainstream, whatever you want to call it) in the past are now things that I enjoy quite a bit. It's not that I don't like plenty of basic, straight-ahead jazz, but certain other things that never would have made it onto my college radio show are now a prominent part of my collection. (I should mention that the three rules I had for my radio show, which took place in the morning drive slot, were: Nothing too slow, nothing too long, nothing too out. Part of this was my concerted effort to create a certain mood that I figured most people would appreciate at six in the morning, but some of it was a reflection of my own personal tastes as well.)

The point was driven home later in the evening when I got the chance to hear a big band playing some rather "out" charts, especially for the setting (a college-sponsored jazz festival for high school and middle school bands). I was really digging what I heard, but it seemed like they may have lost the majority of the parents with the first tune; the response was not the usual unbridled enthusiasm that is found at most such festivals. Yes, I know the composer; yes, I have several friends among the bandmembers. But I really liked the music on its own merits, and I'm not sure I would have felt the same way about that music as an undergrad.

Granted, what's "out" is (to quote Dewey Redman) in the ear of the behearer. While I'm still not a big fan of what I once described as the "five people dropping acid and all improvising at the same time without paying attention to each other" type of avant-garde jazz, I've managed to develop an appreciation for the likes of such artists as Eric Dolphy, Kenny Wheeler, Bill Frisell, Tomasz Stanko, and even the "high priest of out" himself, Ornette Coleman. I still like my outness to have a sense of humor rather than wallowing in angst all the time (emo jazz?), and I'm sure that some of the appreciation for odd humor has come from working a camp with the guys in THRASCHER for the past nine years. Where I used to recoil from the squawk in favor of another interesting bop line, I've come to realize that the two can coexist nicely on the same plate.

But some would say that this is odd; don't most people's musical tastes get more conservative as they get older? Or does "most people" only refer to non-musicians in this case? It certainly makes sense that the more one knows about music, the more one can appreciate something that's more complex and off the beaten path.

So I'd like to hear from you, whether working musician or avid fan: Have your musical tastes gotten more, or less, adventurous as you've gotten older? And how out is "too out" for you?


Eric Grubbs said...

A big fear I have: being that fuddy-duddy who thinks all modern music is bad. I'm trying to do something about this.

Anonymous said...

If you start with the premise that all modern music is garbage, you won't be disappointed too often.

The only Pat Metheny recording I have that I only listened to one time is Song X. Got the vinyl at Half Price for like 4 or 5 bucks many years ago. I think I paid too much.

Kev said...

Eric--I wonder if I've managed to skate around the fuddy-duddy situation a little bit by ignoring nearly all pop music, period? I can miss a lot of throwaway stuff that way, and I have a good excuse: I'm listening to jazz so I can learn something from it and become a better player myself.

(But no worries, I'll listen to the bands that you cover in your book, and I'm sure I'll find something I like.)

Gary--I didn't like Song X when it first came out, either, but someone who got the 20th anniversary remaster (and didn't like it himself, LOL) gave it to me, and I liked it more on second listening. They put the bonus tracks (which are way more melodic) up front, which was an interesting touch.

When I was program director at KNTU, I was training a new DJ who was very nervous on her first shift. She chose something from Song X on that show, and when it started, she was afraid something had gone wrong with the recording; she looked at me with a horrified glance and asked, "Is it supposed to sound like that?"

Anonymous said...

She chose something from Song X on that show, and when it started, she was afraid something had gone wrong with the recording; she looked at me with a horrified glance and asked, "Is it supposed to sound like that?"

Heh. I vaguely recall a similar reaction of my own when the needle dropped on Song X in my apartment all those years ago.