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Some thoughts on the blues

I think the blues exists in places other than the usual packaging oftwelve bars… 1-4– 1– 2-5–1…

I think the blues is an approach to playing, rather than a song or a tune. Of course, there have been millions of songs or tunes written on the blues form of twelve bars. We all love to hear and play the blues in that form, but the way I see it… there is more.

The blues is in all music. It’s the phrasing…a bent note here or there, a pulled string, sliding into a phrase…and don’t forget the blue notes themselves.

The blues was originally characterized as sad music, but nowadays I don’t hear sadness when people play the blues. I hear complaining and anger. The blues to me is beauty. When one is sad, humbled, and has the blues one can express the beauty of the blues. Anger is not beautiful. It’s not humble or sad. It is ugly.

Of course the blues doesn’t have a lock on sad music. Standards and other songs can communicate sadness. When you hear a blues program or show on the radio, you hear people who are musically illiterate. They have soul and have a natural feel, but they haven’t studied their instruments enough to play in more than two or three keys. These people are limited and demean the potential of the blues. The term “Get Down” means to me that a person has experienced pain in his life, is highly evolved, classically trained & an accomplished instrumentalist, and can get down, get funky, bluesy, & soulful. Take Herbie Hancock, he is a highly evolved and accomplished musician, but when its time to he can “Get Down” and play some funky blues.

There are a few gifted individuals who span the distance between being highly accomplished on one’s instrument and are still able to get down to the nitty gritty of the blues. They are our only hope to connect with so called ‘unsophisticated ears’ and bring them up to a level where they can achieve a broader appreciation of the blues.


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