The realities of popular music culture and jazz are you can rely on individual expression to achieve things — the technical mastery doesn’t matter so much. But classical music requires both. The analogy I like to use is the difference between an actor in a sitcom and an actor in the theater. In a sitcom, pretty much the job is just to be funny, and most actors generally can be funny. But to be in a play by a Tom Stoppard or an Arthur Miller, you have to develop a character that is convincing.

-Branford Marsalis

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  1. I dunno, I think jazz would be like… well, doing an improv show. (isn’t there such a thing as entirely improvised plays? yes?) And… I’m pretty sure that both take quite a bit a training and that I, as a classically trained musician, am terrible at that jazz thing. 🙁 Perhaps pop music is akin to a sitcom, though.

  2. Years ago, I would have agreed with “the technical mastery doesn’t matter so much”, but after being married to a jazz player, I know the technical language and proficiency of many “jazzers”, especially the great ones, is second to none. You have to know your instrument inside and out. Great classical players need the same knowledge of their instruments. We are just speaking different languages, using the same tools. I’m actually kind of surprised Marsalis would elevate classical musicians to a level above jazz musicians. At least, that’s what I got out of his quote.

  3. Yeah. I disagree with Marsalis on this one. Sure, the specific skills at work in jazz or pop music are different than in classical music. But they are skills, nevertheless. And some performers are great at those skills, while others are not. I’ve heard any number of local lounge, restaurant groups who labor through their songbook. “Feeling” alone just won’t do it, once you get beyond playing for your own friends and family.

    Same goes for actors in TV sitcoms. The best of sitcoms create characters that are kind of over-the-top, but also recognizable to us. And I think it takes real acting skill to pull us into those characters.

  4. I was surprised by what he wrote. (Understand that when I post these I don’t necessarily agree or disagree!) I’ll post more later … I’m out of town and on my way to visit our daughter and son-in-law!

    Stay tuned. A-440.