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Been thinking this week about how, historically speaking, artists are normally slightly ahead of their audiences. In this way the artists themselves are always the ones responsible for the “progress” in the medium. Technology is driven by the market, Sports are driven by the competition, Politics are driven by the culture… but Art is driven by the artists, often to the dismay of the market/competition/culture. In this way Art plays a huge role in forming/influencing the future.

Sorry for being overly deep. I’m just really impressed with artists that take chances and intentionally move away from the comfort zone that brought them their success – pushing themselves into new areas that don’t necessarily promise the same results. Case in point: this cool interview with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois about the making of U2’s The Unforgettable Fire.

10/25/09 UPDATE: I’m watching the Youtube live broadcast of U2’s Rose Bowl show.  I am really struck right now with how HUGE this band’s footprint is on music/culture.  It’s hard to believe one band can accomplish so much.

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Man… Brian Blade is definitely one of my favorite drummers right now. He has so much control, his ideas are so musical, and his groove is so comfortable. Love it.

Brian Blade is on my mind today because I’ve been listening to Danial Lanois’ “Shine” quite a bit. Blade just destroys that record. His feel, his comfort and vocabulary… unbelievable. The album is a singer-songwriter style, and so Blade is of course playing appropriately within that realm. BUT, he is also a widely respected jazz player. THAT is the main point of this post.

I’ve had more than a few musicians whom I respect tell me that my best bet is to pigeon-hole my efforts on the drums into one genre/sound, and just try to make that as killing as I can. I understand the logic: don’t waste time trying to improve your weaknesses, just focus on making your strengths even stronger and soon you will be the only fish in the pond that anyone wants to work with, when it comes to those strengths. This idea is big in the business world, and it makes sense to a degree… but I’m not sure it applies to Art.

I studied jazz music extensively in college, and I’ve also spent a lot of time in pop/rock settings. In fact, I’ve done quite a bit of gospel lately, and some alt-country, and even some electronica/drum-n-bass. Therefore, I’m obviously in danger of spreading myself too thin according to the “ignore-your-weakness-promote-your-strength” mantra, but I don’t see it that way. I feel like I have learned concepts in studying jazz that I can apply to rock… things that make my rock playing different from another rock drummer who has never studied jazz. Conversely, I can bring rock elements into my jazz that sound hopefully make my jazz playing unique. Of course, I have to have a solid understanding of the difference between rock and jazz, but having a presence in both worlds is a challenge that I enjoy taking on.

Actually, I believe learning about and participating in many different styles/genres is an essential element to feeding creativity in your playing. I guess I just disagree with the advice I’ve been given. Maybe I’ll recant in a few years when I am wiser, but for now, I encourage every musician who reads this blog to surround yourself with as many different-sounding records as you can find, and soak them all in.

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