Greg Henry Waters Newsletter May 2008 Part II
Jazz and Creativity, for me much of jazz, 80% of it is not creative but just good music!
Growing up as a serious instrumental artist in the USA or Canada is a long process and lonely process. In that, one has to separate oneself from one's peers and groups to truly understand the creative process. Music is one of the most uncontrolled art forms in the world. There are no degrees or licenses that one has to get to be a musician. Anyone can call themselves musicians and perform on whatever level. So this next few paragraphs will be about my new life in Toronto. Just after I graduated from Chicago Conservatory College with my MM in Music Composition and Theory, (1968) I just won the American Music Foundation Award for outstanding woodwind performer at the mid-west college jazz festival that year too and received a scholarship to Berkeley School of Music in Boston. I did not go to Berkeley for I felt something was wrong with the teachers’ attitude to the creative process. Their view of my work wasn't about music but about a time frame of music history which they called jazz and not music. To this day, May 2008 these same attitudes prevail in music and I do not see them changing. So what does the really creative person do? I am not sure. In my life I personally have separated my performing life from my creative life. For the professional musician will not accept the creative side of music for their real interest is making a living with their instrument.
So when I got to Toronto and had all kinds of education and experience in the professional music world, but had no idea how to fit my skills and desires into the world! I can only say it has been a comedy of miss guided opportunities. My biggest worry was that the people who hire musicians are not musicians themselves and have a very limited knowledge of music. And to find people with the same skill level and ideas was almost impossible, but not completely impossible.
Well, when I got to Toronto I met Bianca Rogge and her husband Yogi Narayana who took me in and made suggestions for me on how to live my life as an artist. They soon became 'my parents' in the arts and I followed their instruction. There first suggestion was to open a music school which I called the Greg Henry Waters Academy of Music where I shared a studio with Bianca and her dance studio in a building on the corner of Yonge and Bloor.
Soon I met an editor of Coda Magazine, who was in the same building, John told me! “If you want to be a jazz artist you have to work for 35 years or so and maybe then you will get noticed”, Coda was a Magazine about jazz and its musicians. as far as I am concerned we are living in the past, too much info on traditional jazz artists, I just saw an article about Phil Woods, I am so sick of it, always promoting people who have been around for 50 years, what about the next generation?
I have produced all kinds of jazz and classical music and trying to find the true essences of a creative performer and composer. Being a performer one is expected to perform the traditional music in a way of the past which I do accept, but what I do not accept is that one is not allowed to go beyond that. One is expected to follow in the footsteps of musicians that came before. Anyway, one can go to my web site at http://www.greghenrywaters.com/mp3 and view the many different songs and styles. I have there. Unfortunately, my classical music is too difficult to perform and costs too much money for me to have recordings and performances of, although I do have a few recordings of my piano pieces. I was able to place a few classical compositions there and all my jazz tunes, 170 of them from my site, jazz tunes, 32 of them composed in Toronto, which was a anthology of tunes from the jazz song forms that musicians developed in their composition styles, coming from a classical background; Toronto and New York musicians taught me the limitations one has to have in composing music for jazz musicians, to this day that same standard is still there, one cannot be completely creative when writing music, this made me very sad a few times in my life when I was in Toronto, New York, Acapulco and China, now I accept the situation for what it is which means I stopped trying to prove myself to the world for it is a waste of time. In Chicago I played in he Bill Russo Jazz Orchestra who was very creative and experimental.
Competition, Moe Koffman wrote Swinging Shepherd Blues, and played flute on it, he controlled the bookings in Toronto, it was a very small group of musicians who were professional! This man was the reason I left Toronto, he did everything he could to stop me from performing.
I performed with the musicians from Montreal and other towns, not the Toronto musicians or what I called the Moe Koffman click, they were a closed click, Moe never gave me a gig at the pizza place, so I did not think too much of the situation and the reason I left there; so, I could develop more as a musician, NYC gave me what a wanted a complete perspective on music. But there were many other wonderful people in Toronto that allowed me to contribute.
Moe Koffman would always come to my new music concerts and later create new music for his group, but he was connected to a record company and got his lps published. it is amazing how one person can make you or break you, the politics of NYC wasn't too much different, but one could express oneself here freely where in Toronto the group was so small it was harder to do. Yes, the studio arena here was closed and a lot of the musicians were into drinking and drugs and was part of the getting gigs too. My college friend John G. (trumpet) became so addicted to drugs that he lost 100,000 of dollars and lost everything including his family. I lost my family too but not because of drugs but because of poverty. My wife wanted me to be a rich musician not a musical artist.
Don Thompson was mostly a bass player and/or played piano in Toronto for a few groups, but only played jazz, not like Bernie Senensky who was a complete instrumentalist on the piano, me too, I came from a classical and jazz background and compositional background, MM, music composition and theory, classical clarinet major, performed in the Dallas symphony, but was so bored, it wasn't my cup of tea, so I have always been suffering from the lack of knowledge from jazz musicians, they have a limited perspective on music and for the most part only played traditional jazz from the 40 to the 70's period; and so do the classical musicians, to my surprised A LOT OF classical musicians really enjoy rock'n roll music. So how to find a place in the world of music? I never really did, because I was trying to create my own space.
I played concerts at the local universities in Toronto, I guess I should have been more contented, but I was young and wanted to move ahead like all young people, I was 26 when I moved there. To this day I still do not know how to find my way around in the music business. It seems it is all ego, ego and more ego if one wants to be a performing musician and not have any ideas of one's own.
My outstanding contribution to music in Toronto was my 32 Jazz Tune Book, my lecture, Creativity and the Artist, My Violin Concerto, (Major Work) and my Symphony for Concert Band and Strings.
In NYC I continued on the same line and created my jazz chamber orchestra. Composed many jazz tunes and worked as a free lance musician. I had three children here and one in Toronto. I promoted my jazz lps and created Creative Music Productions Inc. a non-profit composers organization who's main purpose was raising money for performances. Which really was not very successful, because of all the competition here. I also produced the Children's Music Show, for the education of children and what is real music and The Music Show for performance and new music.
My first two lps were from Toronto, I lived in Canada for 7 years to 1975. I received great reviews.
But what I did not understand that there was a distribution side of record productions that was so costly and expensive. Even if the radio stations accepted one's music doesn't mean that this music would be sold in stores. So from an economic point of view my music was useless.
When in Toronto, I started the first school of jazz there at the Ontario Education Building on Bloor Street. Plus I had my own teaching studio on Bloor and Young Street. But to my surprise I could not develop it into a business. A local trade school started a jazz school and my efforts were set aside.
Bernie Senensky, was one of the first musicians to play my jazz tunes composed in Toronto, 32 jazz tunes from my experience dealing with local musicians. We did a jam session at a local club for some out of town musicians who did not show up because the club owner announced it on the radio and it was just suppose to be a private session at the club not a gig. But anyway, I was so happy with Bernie and how he read and played my music from site. At that time, Toronto musicians were not into original music, after that Moe Koffman got into it some, but for the most part did traditional jazz.
Here are the reviews from that first LP and from my song book of 32 Jazz Tunes.
Canadian Musicians on my first two lps, Bobby Fenton, Piano, Jack McFadden Bass, Paul Leger from Montreal, Drums, Art Devilliers, guitar from Montreal, Dave Fields Bass from Vancouver and Robert Mclaren, Drums, Michelle Danoto on String Bass, Montreal
All skilled musicians that were not in the Moe Koffman click!
"Reedman Waters is a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and gifted composer
whose music deserves to be heard more widely."
The Observation Post, Frederick Seaman, New York City
"Waters was unknown to this reviewer, but his fine album, Mission,
made me really sit up and take notice. Greg is a musician of uncommon
Bronx News, Highlights in Jazz, Jack Kleinsinger
"Waters Mission Album stands among such artists as Mary Lou William's,
George Russell, Phil Woods, Beaver Harris, Jimmy Guiffre and others
in this class."
Bullets, Detroit Sun
Plus, I was on CBC jazz radio for one long concert at the University of Toronto on national radio.
Plus, I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council to Compose music, I wrote a lot of classical music for them for Canadian groups.
I should have stayed in Toronto, but I felt the other musicians did not accept me and it was such a small group. And when a musician school opened up for jazz, an accordion player got the gig. So, I started things, but was not able to finish them so I went to NYC where I could maybe do more. What is great about NYC is that if you do not make it with one group of great musicians you can find another group. But in Toronto there were such a small number of musicians that if one was not in that group one could not do much. Not that I did so much here, but I was able to create the Greg Henry Waters Chamber Jazz Orchestra and produce 60 public access TV shows which I am very proud of. And to this day no one has equaled this work.
Just out of college I did not understand the music business at all. And my experience in Chicago wasn't that great either. Musicians were into drugs and hanging out with their friends and playing gigs not playing music or new music from my viewpoint.
Here in NYC everything is old jazz for the most part. My friend, Sam Burtis,who use to run the Mingus Band, gave that up because of all the BS that went with it. For me jazz is in real trouble and this myth that jazz is OK is really funny for me. I really do not understand it all except it seems to be all ego, ego and more ego. And jazz is a small cult organization of people all patting one another on the back in one form or another.
When I lived in Chicago, all the musicians talked about NYC so I always wanted to go there. But Toronto had a big influence on my creative out put in jazz and classical music. When in NY I took those tunes, I wrote in Toronto and created the Greg Henry Waters Chamber Jazz Orchestra, six horns and rhythm. Before I moved to Mexico I took three months out to organize all my music and placed in the North Texas Music School Library and the New York City Music Library at Lincoln Center under the organization of the American Music Center. So if you want to see my music you have to go to the libraries.
Anyway, I did not have any trouble getting quality musicians to play in the group and had it here in NYC for three years.
Don Thompson said, "you have what we all want in your music!"
Anyway, a few thoughts about the Canadian jazz world and New York City all so confusing and so much of my life beyond my control. If I have learned anything is that one does not completely control one's destiny
I was in Chicago and could not find any jazz stations on my mp3 radio player. It was very sad for me. It seems that jazz is more of a cult than anything. And the musicians are all mentally very sick from this too. Back in NYC I could not find any full time jazz radio either. I just do not understand it why such a nice music has such a limited audience to the point of being a cult.
So much for this article, just a reflection of my life in Toronto asked my a writer from AllAboutJazz.com named Raul d'Gama Rose Thanks Raul for another reflection of my music.
Sincerely, Greg Henry Waters