26 Responses to Jazz Bums
1. Jake Hansen says:
October 19, 2009 at 1:47 am
It has to do with the belief, that they pay more attention to the music than their personal hygiene. but i do agree with the fact that musicians should look more presentable at shows.
2. Darrell Grant says:
October 20, 2009 at 1:20 am
Greg, Got your post from our jazz dept discussion blog. It will be fodder for a great deal of discussion, especially here in t-shirt & flip flop wearing Portland. Here is my two cents.
The function of both appearance and stage presence is to support the performance. A committed performer thinks about every aspect of his or her presentation in terms of its effectiveness in increasing the level of communication with the audience. It’s all about the message, and how best to reach people. I don’t believe, & I don’t think you would say either, that there is a single dress code to play any kind of music. I played plenty of gigs with you where you were not wearing “vines.” The message that you have always presented loud and clear is that an artist should CARE about the message his attire & presentation communicate because it matters. And to ignore it is to waste a means to make a more powerful statement. What that statement ultimately is, is up to the artist to decide.
3. Gerard Cox says:
October 21, 2009 at 1:21 am
Well, the only thing is that on one level, it’s “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” Jazz musicians dressing down can definitely be a problem. I see a lot of Tevos, pale legs and shorts in the summertime, which I think is just lazy and wack. Black men wearing huarachis isn’t much better.
“Dressing up” in the jazz world however, typically amounts to wearing a suit. This may be appealing to older listeners and couples on a date night who want to feel like they’re in an elegant atmosphere, with all the attendant romantic lore of jazz’s yesteryear….but to a lot of younger folks, suits and ties is just another thing that helps reinforce the stereotype of jazz being an old music for old folks, or of course, the E word- “elitist”. I agree that musicians shouldn’t appear slovenly or like they just don’t care, but I’m not sure I would advocate dressing up. Wynton and his crew kind of cornered the market on jazz “style” anyway, right?
Really, I’d be in favor of just seeing more individuality in dress on the bandstand, whether that’s purely casual or more toward the formal side.
4. Elk Haven says:
October 23, 2009 at 11:06 pm
With everything that needs to be fixed in the jazz world today, a world that is crumbling from ignorance, neglect, and narcissism, the issue of etiquette seems like the most trifling by far. Conceded, you dress well. Now what have you got to write about?
5. Perry J. says:
October 23, 2009 at 11:43 pm
The Beatles actually dressed like street punks until Brian Epstein told them to clean up and wear suits.
6. Jake Hansen says:
October 24, 2009 at 12:46 pm
So just out of curiosity, do you have anything interesting planned for us, Mr. Osby?
7. Penny Penn says:
October 27, 2009 at 1:25 am
As musicians we put years and years of study into our craft. One would assume after doing this that we give a damn about our music. Or maybe part of the problem is that people have started phoning it in!
As a musician in my late 20′s I grew up listening to hip hop, pop AND jazz. By day, I’m hip hop meets punk as far as dress is concerned. Hoodies, t-shirts, holes in my jeans, crazy sneakers..facial piercings. When I’m on the bandstand I try to be the best version of myself. That for me means to look sharp and dress for the venue. You don’t have to abandon edge and personality to look like YOU are the performer not the audience member. People stood in LINE to hear you! They paid! If you’re not getting the gigs where people pay, maybe its your barbecue stained flannel that wreaks of b.o. or your hair that’s so greasy that the drummer on the gig uses it to lube his throne. How are people going to care about your music if you don’t care how its presented? GRANTED I’m definitely not suggesting that I listen to music based on how people look but you’re not making a very good case for how your music sounds if you look like a f***ing slob! Also, I doubt the clubs are going to want you back and they will hire all those people you talk shit about that are willing to dress appropriately. If you’re at a festival, it can be more loose. Its just knowing the situation and dressing to support the music.
This is definitely a time where people are preoccupied with the internet and phones and today’s generation is more rude and detached. Musicians have become more like athletes in my opinion. They care so much about impressing other douchebag musicians to the point where they develop no individual musical brain then the hate envelops their soul and they look for someone successful to hate blog about.
Bottom line: Many people miss the point. You don’t look cool just for being the slob on stage that looks like you were in a practice room all day..there are no points for that, actually you get -500 for that. IF you show up to said gig and play all those patterns you practiced wearing flannel shirt THEN you turn around and hate when people who DO give a damn about their appearance do well for themselves thats JUST PLAIN CORNY! Jazz didn’t start out this corny. Presentation is key!
8. Penny Penn says:
October 27, 2009 at 1:27 am
Help is on the way to those who don’t know how to dress..holla!
9. Elk Haven says:
October 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm
As a record producer, I don’t care how you dress and it doesn’t affect your ability to get a record deal one bit. Not. One. Bit. I may even dig on your artful disdain for social edicts.
10. Rick Louie says:
October 30, 2009 at 4:18 pm
I can see both sides of the argument. I was once at a jazz program where Terrell Stafford was in residence for a week. It came to the day where he was going to preform with his quartet and, I think it was Pat LaBarbara who said to me something to the effect of, “Terrell is a class act, he’ll be looking real sharp in a suit tonight.” Sure enough, the concert came along and he looked great. When asked about it later by us students, he gave an answer about being respectful of your audience, which I totally understand and agree with. Duke Ellington always made sure his band was dressed up and looking sharp, though you have to remember, he was an African-American in a white mans world back then. Thankfully, racial tensions have been greatly reduced since then when the crazy white folk wouldn’t even let the band come in through the front door.
On the other hand, today’s world, especially the jazz world, has changed significantly. With the emergence of artists like Mehldau, Rosenwinkel, Redman, and Mark Turner, for example, there was almost a “youth” jazz counter culture in the 90′s, which has continued to set the tone for today. The younger generation (my generation I suppose) doesn’t put as much stock in the need to dress up. I just saw Dave Binney’s band at the 55 Bar the other week, and they were all in t-shirts and jeans, which I’m sure didn’t diminish the quality of the music at all. Then again, the 55 bar isn’t Carnegie Hall.
11. Rick Louie says:
October 30, 2009 at 4:32 pm
Although, a shower is a good thing- a very good thing.
12. John Lee says:
October 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm
I have been a fan of jazz for the last 20 years, I enjoyed reading this blog because I do care for where jazz is heading. When I go back and Watch Duke Ellingon and Louis Armstrong, it seems totally clear why they would wear a suit; at the time, that was the only option. Today, people are more open and loose about their attire, also celebrities and public figures from the art and entertainment don’t always wear a suit. But, when I go to a concert and it seems like the performer didn’t think even one second about what he’s going to wear, that feels disrespectful to the audience. I don’t enjoy looking at this person, and since music concert is a visual experience, I would prefer to have my eyes rest on a beautiful, well-taken-care-of figure. That’s my personal preference. More words than these will be too much. I’m looking forward for the next topic mr Osby has to offer us. It’s great that a well known and respected artist like himself shares his most inner thoughts and concepts. and he knows what he’s yapping about, he has been out there on the other side of the stage so many times, I went to a few of his concerts. Thank you! I’ll be listening!
13. Elk Haven says:
November 2, 2009 at 12:40 am
The minute someone mentions “beautiful well-taken-care-of figure,” as an important part of their experience, the awful shallowness of this whole charade is exposed. Is someone going to say that it is wrong or “disrespectful” for a musician to be fat, middle-aged, and non-pretty? This is a slippery-slope argument that will prove hard to escape.
14. Meilana Gillard says:
November 2, 2009 at 8:13 pm
Elk, I don’t think that's the argument at all. The issue it hand is for those who do live shows and dressing for the venue and the people who are paying. It has nothing to do with getting a record deal. Also I don’t think many people are looking for record deals anymore because the record companies aren’t really doing much for the artists anyway. You don’t have to look pretty to make a record but If someone paid 50 bucks to hear you for a set I think you should not look like ass. Just my opinion. A lot of the other stuff you mentioned doesn’t really pertain to this topic. I think we need a new blog to discuss some of the things you mentioned. There are plenty of master musicians who respect what they’re doing enough to leave the stained t’s at home. You can’t really call them shallow.. i mean you could but you’d be easily proven wrong.
15. Elk Haven says:
November 4, 2009 at 6:32 am
Meilana, The quoted “beautiful well-taken-care-of figure” refers to more than clothing. While there is a commonsense aspect to what you are saying, there is also a continuum of cases, and a genuine slippery slope argument suitable for a grad seminar in metaphysics and epistemology. I’m a bit hurt that you think I don’t do anything much for the artists anyway. Working inches from you, I’ve raised money and financed projects for many of your personal friends.
16. Meilana Gillard says:
November 4, 2009 at 1:26 pm
Well if I knew who the heck you are, I might feel differently but record labels in general are not looking at artists as artists, they are looking for a product that generates numbers that are the same as some other successful “product” on their roster. I speak of majors not indies for the most part. Why the anonymity? Why is there nothing on your page, no photos, bio etc? Who out of my personal friends have you financed? I didn’t say YOU personally didn’t do anything for the artists because I have no idea who YOU are. You have come on here and basically took a blog that was about dressing appropriately for gigs into your own vehicle to make stabs. “Conceded you dress well. Now what do you have to write about?”. Do you have a personal problem with Greg Osby? I would very much like to discuss some of the things you mentioned but in a new blog topic. Working inches from me??? I’m confused.
17. Meilana Gillard says:
November 4, 2009 at 6:08 pm
Still waiting for the big reveal…..(hums jeopardy theme song)
18. chris conners says:
November 5, 2009 at 12:35 am
I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting on a reply from someone who slams etiquette. It’s really the same as saying ‘respect is really not that important…’
19. Elk Haven says:
November 5, 2009 at 3:59 am
I’m someone who gave the best years of my life and everything I owned to the musicians, without hope of reasonable returns. I don’t disrespect etiquette, but question who defines it and for what ends. Etiquette has some uncontroversial elements, and some very controversial elements. Uncontroversial is take a shower. Controversial is “beautiful well-taken-care-of figure” and excessive conformity. Osby’s post does not fall entirely in the take-a-shower realm, and is open to some critical analysis. I don’t disrespect him, but am questioning the ideas he wrote about.
One of the beautiful things about art is that from time to time someone can break all the conventions (and I don’t mean the take-a-shower kind) and make history. I don’t want to stuff that urge back into the box.
Thank you for qualifying your remarks as being about major labels. I agree.
20. Meilana Gillard says:
November 5, 2009 at 11:49 am
Back up…You said you were a record producer who has worked inches from me and funded projects of my personal friends. I’d like to know who you are.
21. Mantis Evar says:
November 6, 2009 at 10:08 am
I have worked inches from Meilana (and Osby) hundreds of times and shout out loud – it is always an honor and my pleasure to work with such fine talented individuals.
I look forward to my future workings as I feel nothing is better than supporting and being in the company of beautiful people that are upstanding and respectable.
Meilana for President!
22. Meilana Gillard says:
November 6, 2009 at 11:04 am
Mantis, I love you!
If somebody wanted lessons on how to be at the utmost level of cool, kindness and classiness I’d point them to Mantis because he’s always consistent with being a great person!
23. Rick Louie says:
November 6, 2009 at 11:24 am
I agree with Melinda….Elk, your argument about a “beautiful, well-taken-care-of figure” is a non-argument. I can’t believe for one second that Mr. Osby is putting down artists like Oscar and Tatum (for example), who were over weight, yet, they were always well dressed on stage. I really cannot believe that he would put someone down for being, as you put it, “fat, middle aged, and non-pretty”. We jazz musicians are a motley crew.
24. Greg Osby says:
December 5, 2009 at 3:48 pm
Darrell, as you may recall, when you were in my band in the early 90′s we did very few acoustic gigs that would dictate the wearing of suits of any kind. This was during our electric period and the dress code was very flexible. I have pics and videos from those days and a lot of what we wore is quite comical to me now, but that’s what was happening then. And then again, you also played with Betty Carter, so of course you know the deal. No musician would dare show up for any of her gigs improperly attired without enduring the full onslaught of her wrath. (She always complimented me, and I’m very proud of that fact.) I’m also happy that she never had cause to holler at me for or about anything.
25. martin carde says:
July 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm
nice that it can be a timeless music, soothing and be ready to get relaxed. jazz performances quite where to follow venues
26. Eric Hochberg says:
May 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm
It seems to me that whatever ethos a bandleader wants to project will determine to a certain extent the particular audience that is attracted to a performance. I came of age in the late ’60s and early ’70s and saw Miles’ transformation into a rock star, complete with style befitting that role. With the rise of the “young lions’ in the mid 80s, I was kind of befuddled with their retro look and sound as both elements had already been executed to perfection 25-35 years earlier. The rise of the corporate in the arts, maybe. I was a member of the band of a now prominent musician early on in his career, and he insisted on suit and tie. Being 15 years his elder, I felt very strange performing adventurous and creative music in such button-down attire, as until then, my look, along with my contemporaries had been much more casual. This feeling was amplified as much of our audience of college age people showed up in jeans and t’s. I’ll never find “dirty” and “threadbare” attractive in stage clothing, but I do think a band can look sharp and respectful to their audience without wearing Armani.