Saturday, October 3, 2015

Are you inspired?

It’s a simple question, but presented to someone who is aspiring to become something they are not, (jazz musician, sports star, Hollywood actor, etc.) asking if they are inspired is a question that is riddled with thorns of interpretation. Let me try to explain.
The set up: Yamaha C-7X, top removed (looks smaller that way)
Last night Mrs. S and I went down to Birmingham for the first time in well over a year to attend a concert and hear banjo player Bela Fleck perform a duet with pianist Chick Corea. It’s a wonderful combination of consummate performers, who we have seen perform together in Nashville. Besides a number of works that they have performed together, such as Bela’s Waltse for Abby, Mountain, and Children’s Song #6, they stretched out a little bit playing some pieces by French classical composers (Dutilleux), and Italian Baroque composers (Scarlatti). There was also a new Fleck composition that Chick said helped him with his “bluegrass piano chops”. It was all quite captivating, interesting, and revealing.

Toward the end of the performance. Two observations: Jazz musicians are lucky to not have to spend a lot on clothes. And it's hard to focus a camera while taking surreptitious photos from the second row.
A little more than halfway through the last set, I was thinking to myself, well, I guess this is where I’m supposed to make up my mind to work harder, set myself to the task, and draw some motivation, if not inspiration, from the concert in order to up my playing, learn more about jazz and piano playing, and become a better pianist. The thought sat there at the top my spinal cord, sort of looking for a gap to slip through to get to my consciousness, but my consciousness just went, you know, you’re 50-something, Chick’s 70-something, and even if you live that long, you’re never going to play like him, so, just put that thought away and enjoy the music.

Which I did.

After the concert, walking back to the car, Mrs. S and I were chatting and she goes, so, are you inspired. I just said, no, it’s too hard to be inspired knowing that Chick Corea was way beyond my current capabilities at my age, and that if I live to be 100, I’m never going to have anything more than a shadow of his musicality. So, no, I’m not really inspired. Would I like to play better? Sure. Do I realize the only way to play better is to study and practice? Yes. Am I probably going to play the piano two or three times longer today and tomorrow and next week than a typical Saturday, Sunday and work week? Yes, probably.

Here's a shot of the back of a guy's head. Oh, and me shaking Chick Corea's hand. (Did I look that pathetically desperate to touch a star? I guess I did.)
If one of the thorns of interpretation of the word “inspiration” is: doing things differently from before to try to get better than you are, then yes, I guess I am inspired. But my aspiration is not to be like Chick. It’s to be a better version of me.

I printed out a score of the Scarlatti piece they played last night. That’s real inspiration in my book. We’ll see how far it gets me.

At least I got to shake the hand of one of my heroes. And so, we move on.