Learning to Let Go

I can’t stop thinking about this story:

Legendary pianist Keith Jarrett tells a poignant tale of his days with Miles Davis, c. 1970. According to Jarrett, Miles was very ill during a particular gig and too weak to play the high-energy music the band specialized in. Rather than stop the show, Miles started playing a ballad, something he never did. Before long, he had to stop that, too, and the band left the stage.

When they went backstage, Jarrett found Miles, who looked at his pianist and said, “Keith, do you know why I don’t play ballads any more?” Jarrett shook his head (which he said he would have done regardless) and said no. Miles responded, “Because I love playing ballads so much.”

Jarrett marveled at his former bandleader’s statement. “That is the mark of a true artist,” he said. “Miles recognized that even the music he loved has to move.” Things change. People must accept this and adjust. Which brings me to today.

My future life in music journalism is picking up momentum. I find myself somewhat inundated with CDs, downloads, and requests for critiques. I’ve taken a position with an online magazine where I’ll be contributing pieces geared toward jazz. I’m heading down a new musical path full of unheard wonders.

I love the music of Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, and King Crimson, among others. I could spend days playing their music alone. But I no longer have that kind of time on my hands. I have to move forward. That means I have to put their music behind me, if only for awhile.

There are far too many choice archive recordings coming forth from these artists to completely ignore them. I’m champing at the bit for Crimson’s Heaven & Earth box set, due at the end of this month. I’ve been enjoying Zappa’s In New York box set. And there’s always something interesting coming from Davis’s Bootleg series.

I just can’t linger there after I get them.

I recently asked Adrian Belew for an interview. It would cover his new album and tour, and whatever else might come up. I interviewed Adrian for my book. We’ve talked several times. I’ve come to see him as a friend, even if we don’t hang out. So when he told me he wouldn’t be able to oblige, I was disappointed. That feeling lasted about five seconds, and then I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief.

Only then could I admit to myself that deep down, I didn’t want to interview Adrian again. He’s my hero and I love him, but I’ve already done that interview. I couldn’t see the point in doing it again.

Everything moves. I owe the world to Adrian, Mike Keneally, Deborah Holland, Vernon Reid, and everyone else who helped make my first book possible. They opened the door to a new world, and allowed me to walk through. But I can’t linger in the doorway. I must venture out into the new frontier. Losing Adrian wasn’t the end. It was a whole new beginning. It would seem that I owe my hero one more debt.

I sent requests to at least a half dozen artists last week. I’ll send out another half dozen or more this week. And I’m getting positive responses. I’ve had great conversations with Markus Reuter and Andre Cholmondeley, which made or will make for wonderful in-depth interviews. Another major piece is coming together. Other slightly shorter pieces are coming together as well, based on other enjoyable talks.

I don’t have time to go back. I have to let go of what got me here and embrace what’s pulling me forward. I won’t forget my old musical loves. But they’ll have to get on without me for a while. There’s too much new music. Too many interesting new people. Too many tunes to hear, concerts to attend, pictures to take, and words to write. I can hardly wait!

At the end of nearly every science fiction movie, the captain settles into the center seat on the bridge of his brand new starship. The crew looks at him with a sense of awe, respect, and anticipation, knowing the next adventure lies ahead. The helmsman asks the captain for a course. The captain looks thoughtfully out the window or view screen, and says exactly what I’m saying to myself at the dawn of my new adventure, knowing that the old world is about to be left behind:

“Let’s see what’s out there …”


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Check out my book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears. It’s available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers.

Want to have your album reviewed? Contact me at cirdecsongs@gmail.com

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