Mastery of the Instrument – Not Fame – Determines Who’s Best

“I was having an interesting conversation yesterday with a musician friend about recognition.  There are people that place more value on what you’ve done rather than what you can do.  Or who’s talking about you or who isn’t.  This person over here might be on 100 records and this person over here might be on 15.  Who’s better?  Who’s more deserving of praise?  Trust me, in my radio job I hear more mediocre records than great ones and many of the great ones aren’t produced in NYC.

I see artists all the time using a musician because they may have a little more name value but musically it’s not working.  It also won’t matter much in the bigger picture if you have someone with a little more perceived market value in jazz on your record in terms of sales.  This is why I always tell musicians to get the best musicians for the music.  Not the best for marquee recognition.

A question could be who is/was exposed to more opportunities?  My friend lives in Georgia, not NYC and for jazz that’s significant.  Plus, he plays his bee-hind off.  He could deal quite easily in the NYC market but chooses to live down south.  He’s not exposed to a more condensed jazz market.  Logistics can definitely play into it.  An artist might be looking for a guitar player in NYC.  There’s a great player they like in Florida but in addition to salary, they’ll have to pay transportation and hotel costs to get them there.  NYC is loaded with great guitar players and musicians in general.  Does that make the guitar player in FL less talented?

Some pursue every possibility.  Some are more selective in what they decide to do.  Does that make them any less of a musician?  No it doesn’t.  The bottom line is if you can play it doesn’t matter how many records you’ve been on or who’s talking about you or what gigs you’ve played.  The ultimate truth spoken is when you start playing your instrument.  That said, it will always be difficult to make people hear and see things they don’t want to hear and see.” – Jae

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