My teacher, or mentor might be a better word for him, Charlie Banacos, was specific with his idea that music is a high powered form of medicine disguised as entertainment, and was quick to dismiss people who might study with him under the idea of becoming better “entertainers.”
“Art for art’s sake” was one of his more popular mottos.
I’m a studied jazz musician and I’m an entertainer so I did find some inner conflict around this thought because at some point they clash. There’s a line between the two: Are you playing for yourself or for your audience? It’s the one point I can remember not completely agreeing with him on. And yet, I did somehow at the time try to believe it might be true.
Ten years after his death and in the wake of covid, I’m in full agreement.
When I see people responding to musicians outpouring of live concerts and broadcasts during the lockdown, regardless of the quality of the sound or the musicianship, the evidence is hard to overlook. I’m reminded of the new age book movement of uncredited authors quoting the healing powers of the harmonics of vibrating crystals and the sacred chanting of buddhist monks (not necessarily untrue it seems).
On the other side of that, the people I notice who don’t listen to music as much anymore seem to suffer as well, in complex ways that they don’t even see.
And while it might be easier to talk about the physics of vibrations and harmonics (science) it might prove a leap of faith when relating to an amateur musician singing the lyrics wrong to “Smells like teen spirit” with an out of tune guitar from his bedroom, there must be a connective thread somewhere to be found.
And if we’re not playing for ourselves first we can’t really be heard by anyone else, but the magic in the medicine is in the sharing of it with others.
Playing in Paris in 2018
I would like to think that the music I’ve made has helped bring happiness or insight to people. I would like to think that this is what moves them and it’s the reason why my music returns to their memory and consequentially they show it, or give it, or point it out to others.
I’d also like to think that’s why I’ve been able to be here, there, and everywhere.
As the internet landlords (facebook/google/youtube) try to choke organic growth and interest it means even more when the people I’m connected to talk about what I do, the music I make, and the mission that I’m on.
It will be remembered as a place where the cool people went, the music lovers, the art lovers, the conversationalists, the crew who wanted to experience themselves on the stage with the musicians because that’s what it felt like at Bull McCabes, once you paid your 5 bucks and got in the door you were actually taking part in something special because you couldn’t be there…without being there, in the light, with the band, the bartenders, and everyone else. Thanks to Brian Manning for putting up with the world for so long so that we could give us his world, in the form of Bull McCabes.