A couple years ago I played a recital tour with trombonist Chris Buckholz. We performed at universities; the whole thing was underwritten by UNM as part of his faculty outreach. We stayed at hotels; we received per diems. At the University of Colorado Boulder, we learned that a patron had recently donated a new Steinway D for their recital hall. We asked about moving the piano to a different angle onstage. “Sure, but you’ve got to put on the white gloves,” the professor replied. I laughed, but he wasn’t joking. Soon several student employees came out, put on white gloves, and moved the piano. This was a requirement of the patron. They kept white gloves around backstage for anytime the piano had to move.
I’m currently planning a tour with guitarist/composer/improviser Andrew Weathers, who lives in a tiny town in west Texas and does this sort of thing a lot. Andrew is prolific as a solo artist and collaborator, and he also runs a label, Full Spectrum Records. Say what you will about the extremely prolific, but they’re doing what they set out to do, and at such velocity, preciousness refuses to adhere. When I got into Bob Dylan in high school, one of my friends said he was put off by Dylan’s massive discography—he didn’t know where to start. As though that’s supposed to be Dylan’s problem. Similar comments often follow upon mentionings of Anthony Braxton. What do we expect, comprehensive mastery? No one knows everything. We chip off that which our time and curiosity allow, but it’s never more than a chip.
It is worth considering the words of another prolific musician, the brilliant songwriter Chris Weisman. Unlike AW, Weisman doesn’t much tour or even perform locally, and he has little to no digital infrastructure around his work. “I don’t like the whole shows hubbub very much. Lot of driving, lot of waiting, no money or worse. I’ll play a show every once in a while when I’ve got some new material at hand. My practice is as a jazz improvisor, theory weirdo (music theory, not the other kind), music teacher; the music I write—both the songs I tape and the music I put to paper—are like this indirect outgrowth of this life: bonus flowers.”
I’m looking forward to a couple weeks driving around with Andrew talking about this sort of thing. While I’m not sure if I’ll ever tour as much as Andrew, I do admire the rough-and-ready nature of his projects, collaborations, and album releases. By contrast it feels like I might handle ongoing entities like Golconda and Grant Wallace Band, and perhaps ideas and projects more generally, like those student workers at CU with their white gloves.
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues