Saturday, March 8, 2014

Big Brother, Big Thief?

I’ve recently been at odds about just how much I should disclose publicly on online blogs, newsgroups and bulletin boards about my personal approach and composition methodology. Call it paranoia, or reverberations from shady dealings of the past, but it’s no secret that Black musicians have been guilty of being generous to a fault – only to get shafted by the very personalities that they allowed into their circle of trust. Throughout history, time and time again, many innovations, brilliant ideas and glorious conceptual offerings have been adapted or outright stolen and used for insidious purposes that bore no reflection of the genius that initiated them or their true intent. Observation of such has made many, myself included, both wary and suspicious of alleged “information seekers” who grill me for my hard-gotten wares. This is most unfortunate, as most are genuine in their pursuit of informative higher learning. And yet, some are obviously on a quest for that “pot of gold” that will transform them from drifters with no true career objectives to overnight sensations who’ll rock the world with a momentous eureka-type discovery that they had no part in the development of.

My current state of mind is not without precedent. In my developmental years, I’d often been in the presence of many great musical contributors: some of whom were been so paranoid (or even jaded) that they made me vow to never reveal the gems of light that they bestowed upon me. Several were of a generation and era where they were literally and unabashedly robbed of their gifts outright with no apologies. They commonly bore witness to seeing the careers of their white counterparts who miraculously, came out from nowhere and ascended to dizzying heights as beneficiaries of dubiously-acquired information. These practices, as commonplace as they were, makes it unbelievable that any information and discoveries would have been voluntarily shared at all. And yet, as I have also witnessed, it was a joyous occasion when these very personalities, through their suspicions, actually have “given up the goods” and untold amounts of questions were miraculously answered with the dissemination of a few choice verbal treasures and anecdotes. One simply can’t buy information or experience of this sort anywhere – anymore. This is evidence that sharing is indeed important. I firmly believe in extending a lifeline to anyone who is sincere and earnest in their inquiries.

But before I fully comply with any such requests, I first have to question motives and intentions of those in want. I also have to think of what the result of my disclosures would ultimately mean on a broader scope. For instance, there’s already a bit of grumbling going around about there being too many white artists representing and speaking authoritatively on behalf of the music. This, in reaction to the current documentary “Icons Among Us”, of which I am also a participant. The criticism is that the Brothers have been systematically displaced in order to make room for a new generation of successful white guys who haven’t payed any real dues – meaning that they didn’t play with any of the greats, and yet are held in high esteem and dominate the bookings of all of the most prominent festivals and tours. It’s not entirely how I feel, but I certainly have questioned how some current artists got to their present stature so quickly and easily, when their track records don’t include having played with any important contributors in the music. I’ve never heard of several of them and certainly wouldn’t classify some of their presentations as Jazz or even Jazz-based. Improvisational, psuedo-classical or experimental, yes, but containing almost no Jazz elements whatsoever. However, none of this is a criticism. Much of the same has been said of my own music. And some of it is accurate.

But would I be wrong to fear that by maintaining an “open book” policy on the workings of my craft to anyone who inquires, I would be setting myself up for those very persons to use my discoveries for their own purposes and in the meantime, leave me in the dust?

Makes me wonder… but I don’t want to turn into a musical Howard Hughes or Marlon Brando in the process. Paranoia can be overwhelming as well as debilitating. So, for the time being I’ll simply try to step lightly, trust my ability to read people and attempt to make wise decisions.

With this said, I may still have to sleep with one eye open – so to speak.


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