NOTHING HAS CHANGED, EXCEPT JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING

As a musician, it’s easy to have tunnel vision, says Jon Regen. We spend our time focused on recording projects and tours, social media impact and streaming numbers. But for the first time, we’re all confronted with something that’s bigger than our …

Published: 6 May 2020. Updated: 2 months.

As a musician, it’s easy to have tunnel vision, says Jon Regen. We spend our time focused on recording projects and tours, social media impact and streaming numbers. But for the first time, we’re all confronted with something that’s bigger than our career goals.

''Since 2001 when I became Little Jimmy Scott’s pianist, I’ve pretty much been in some sort of home lockdown.

''I don’t mean I don’t leave my house, because I do… daily. But as someone who makes their living performing, recording and writing about music (for outlets like The New York Times, Keyboard, Billboard, Variety and others), I’ve always felt strangely at home being home. I always joked that living in New York City – with my Steinway grand piano, a fast Internet connection, a banging coffee maker, and my choice of great food delivery, made me totally fine staying home. In fact, the doorman in my building used to literally think I was on-tour when I simply was just upstairs in my apartment, hunkered down on a myriad of musical projects. (He would say to me, “Where were you?” And I would reply, “On the 21st floor.”)

''I’m so comfortable staying home that I literally made my latest album Higher Ground (released by Ropeadope on 4 October 2019) in my living room. And while that was more of a necessity than a desire (as I was a new parent and my wife has a “regular” job), I was totally comfortable singing vocals and triple-tracking piano solos in my apartment. I finally realized why so many of my favourite artists have at one time or another eschewed traditional studios for home recording rigs.

''So while the physical act of staying home is familiar and in many ways comforting to me, the new normal brought-on by Covid-19 is everything but. First and foremost, as a parent, I worry about the safety of my family. Gigs can be replaced, but health and human life can’t be. Perhaps this is the first time that for many of us, the gig hasn’t been the biggest priority. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we need to remember to be humans first, and creative artists second.

''I’ve been busy hosting my weekly radio show New York Notes on Berlin’s jazzradio.net, writing new music, and performing live-streaming concerts (check-out my appearance on the Jazziz Daily Brunch last week). But live gigs and tours? Those are totally up in the air. No one knows when those will return. So we wait, united in our sense of the unknown.

'If there’s anything to be gained from this terrifying time, it’s that maybe we’ll all be more aware of our fellow human beings as we move forward'

''As a musician, it’s easy to have tunnel vision. We spend our time focused on recording projects and tours, social media impact and streaming numbers. But for the first time, we’re all confronted with something that’s bigger than our career goals. And if there’s anything to be gained from this terrifying time, it’s that maybe we’ll all be more aware of our fellow human beings as we move forward. Kinder and more compassionate, and less focused on ourselves. I learned a lot about that (and continue to do so daily) as a new parent. And this terrifying pandemic has amplified that sentiment exponentially for me.

''It’s a beguiling time, and none of us truly know what tomorrow will bring. But for me, with kindness, coffee, great music, and (hopefully) a fast Internet connection, I’ll keep on keeping on until something like life as we knew it returns.''

Jon Regen top, photo: Anna Webber

Tags: Guest posts

Dancing to the music of time

It's interesting what the passage of time does on certain jazzers. You could argue that all four members of the Moodswing band were ''old souls'' back when they definitely were not old. They're still not old but of course older on RoundAgain, all …

Published: 6 May 2020. Updated: 2 months.

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It's interesting what the passage of time does on certain jazzers. You could argue that all four members of the Moodswing band were ''old souls'' back when they definitely were not old. They're still not old but of course older on RoundAgain, all four what we now call proper legends. The second preview track of the album set for the gig-less tumbleweed days of the summer has just been unveiled by issuing label Nonesuch. 'Father' actually is more interesting but certainly less feelgood than the first track released back in March before we truly entered the tunnel of doom that is Coronavirus.

The Moodswing 1994 quartet of Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride and Brian Blade belong to that very different era and I remember it well when the album was first issued. Feelgood, feelanythingbutbad this new stuff picks up as if we are still back there in a more optimistic time when suddenly jazz was getting a bit more attention even if to some it was all a bit too retro and too many people wore suits. We need some of that feeling, perhaps not the clobber and the yuppie frills. However just think: the Internet was not in your office, there was no email unless you happened to be a very early adopter, people carried around mobile phones the size of bricks. I can recall listening to Moodswing on an advance cassette tape sent over by bike to the old Jazz on CD office in Mayfair like everything we got back then. Redman was hot property after Wish. I never was an Eric Clapton fan but Redman almost made me one with his cover of 'Tears in Heaven.'

Moodswing was deeper and the line-up different, gone were Pat Metheny, Billy Higgins and Charlie Haden, instead a bunch of younger players around Joshua's age joined the saxist, and if you weren't quite hooked by Wish you certainly were with Moodswing. If memory serves me right McBride hadn't debuted then. I interviewed the bassist for the first time a little later when he made his debut as a leader for Verve with Gettin' To It doing interviews and posing for photos at the Grafton Hotel where he was staying on London's Tottenham Court Road. His role on Moodswing is vital.

But we also need some clarity and I think you get that more on 'Father' than the earlier track for this new album. Redman has had an interesting few years often curating aspects of his past. In that regard I absolutely loved 2018's Still Dreaming that paid homage to Redman's own father revered free-saxophonist Dewey Redman (ex-Keith Jarrett American Quartet back in the 1970s) and Brian Blade was on that Old and New Dreams-referencing record too. I have my doubts if RoundAgain will repeat the success of Moodswing but going on what we know so far it certainly will be solid. Have a listen. SG

Top clockwise from top left: Brian Blade, Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride. Photo: Nonesuch/Bandcamp