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Mark Stryker

Five Awkward Conversations with Paul Motian

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Enjoyed that, thanks

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Very amusing. Plus some good lessons on how to, and not to, approach musicians. As a general rule, if you really like some musician's music, it's better to avoid attempting a personal discussion. A bad encounter can sour one for a long time on the music itself. I like Vinny for shrugging off PM's reactions.

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That was great. Loved the ending. Thanks for posting.

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I've found that I have nothing remotely profound to say to a jazz musician, so I will occasionally say I enjoyed the set and that will be that. One time I did have my son at the matinee series at the Chicago Jazz Showcase, and Dave Holland talked to him just a bit, mostly about how hard it was to travel with a bass...

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Thanks for posting the link.

Edited by paul secor

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That was pretty good.

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I think I'm gonna buy his record and see him on one of those days he is playing @ Cornelia Street

Wonderful story told well

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Fun read!

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Hilariously awkward and relatable. In that last encounter the anticipation was killing me.

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I will ordinarily not speak to famous jazz musicians if I am sitting next to them between sets, because my conversations with them have been even more awkward and poorly received than what is reported here. I can really identify with the author's pain!

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I recall once that I was seated in the front row, right next to Howard Johnson, who was playing tuba with Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition, and seeing that he was packing up at the end of the night right by me, I made the mistake of making some praising comment about how greatly I had enjoyed his playing on tuba that night, to which he replied something to the effect--what do you know you idiot, you haven't heard anybody.

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truth is that most musicians are extremely gracious and happy to know they are appreciated, and if they behave otherwise they tend to be a-holes. This has been my experience starting in the '70s when I began to approach as many as I could because I was so interested in their lives - even guys like Duke Jordan, a mean s.o.b. at times, was easy to approach - but I can think of a list of great players - Budd Johnson, Harold Ashby, Earle Warren, Dickey Wells, Eddie Durham, Bill Triglia, Bob Neloms, Barry Harris, Chet Baker, Carmen Leggio John Orr, Art Pepper, Dick Katz, Jaki Byard, Curley Russell, Tommy Potter, Jamil Nasser, Paul Bley, Bill Barron, Charlie Banacos, Neal Hefti, even Al Haig, weird as he could be - who were all basically gracious and polite, never dismissive, and all people I had substantial conversations with and some with whom I became friends. And probably many more that I could think of (Mary Lou Williams was stand-offish but nice; Sam Price was a schmuck but played great; Jo Jones was an effin' maniac; Roy Eldridge ignored me).

I mention this only because I don't want all the old guys to get a bad rep. Personally I respond to everyone who sends me emails, or even phones me. People have different motivations in wanting to talk to musicians - they admire them, they've listened to them, they want to play themselves - so I never dismiss anyone. You never know someone until you know them. And all the guys I've mentioned above changed my life (for the better; to me it was like getting the chance to know James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Harold Pinter), so I keep this in mind within my own limited circle.

Edited by AllenLowe

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Thanks for the perspective, Allen. The article read as self-deprecating to me, and didn't come across as making Mr. Motian look like anything other than a musician with his mind on other things. I always figure famous folks are just exhausted by the attention so like Hot Ptah I leave them be.

I did make an ass of myself fawning over Marcus Allen (NFL running back) once. I won't repeat that lameness.

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well, Motian clearly had that somewhat narcissistic sense of self; a little Aperger's-ish as well. The article was self deprecating but Motian was clearly, at least to me, unnecessarily contemptuous until the guy who wrote the piece was in the company of someone Motian considered to have a high enough hipness quotient. I find that a bit obnoxious.

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Thanks for the perspective, Allen. The article read as self-deprecating to me, and didn't come across as making Mr. Motian look like anything other than a musician with his mind on other things. I always figure famous folks are just exhausted by the attention so like Hot Ptah I leave them be.

I did make an ass of myself fawning over Marcus Allen (NFL running back) once. I won't repeat that lameness.

Someone I know once had Marcus Allen help them reach a magazine on a high rack, in a store. They suddenly realized who it was and said, "Marcus Allen!" in a surprised voice. He immediately walked about 25 feet away in a few seconds. Maybe this will help you feel better about it, Noj. Allen just does not like to talk to strangers, apparently.

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My experience is that almost all the musicians I've said hello to have been kind and more than gracious. In fact, I can't think of one musician who has acted like an asshole.

Most of them have been very friendly and more than willing to talk about music in general, the music they played that night or at previous concerts.

Some of the standout nice guys have been Ray Anderson, Hamid Drake, Gerald Cleaver, Randy Peterson, Mat Maneri, Tony Malaby, Paul Flaherty, Nasheet Waits, Mark Helias, Evan Parker, Paul Rogers, Paul Dunmall, Cooper-Moore, Marty Ehrlich and others.

My favorite to chat with in person was Joe Maneri. The best of the best.

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It's indeed always akward talking to musicians , it is a bit like talking to a beautiful girl you try to act in a way so they will like you but too many times you end up doing the opposite.

Among the most approachable people I met among musicians is Hamid Drake and, I remember a very talkative Glen Hall once.. Locally Marianne Trudel is a sweetheart everytime I meet her.But overall as it was said people from jazz music are generally appreciative of people saluting their work as it is not like they have to go through a lineup of people wanting an autograph or so.

Edited by Van Basten II

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I've met/talked to Han Bennink, Peter Brotzmann, Evan Parker, Louis Sclavis, Bobo Stenson, Tomasz Stanko, Hamid Drake, William Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Barre Phillips, Eddie Prevost, John Butcher, Terje Rypdal, Ab Baars, Tristan Honsinger, Lol Coxhill, and many more and I must say I've never experienced anything unpleasant but that said I always try to be respectful and think of myself as a pretty good judge of whether to keep a conversation "short and sweet" or drag it out a bit!!

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hey, look, even Lennie Tristano - a legendary schmuck - was pretty nice to me. But then he expected me to behave in a robotic way.

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Musicians are human beings. Some like chatting with strangers who approach them with the presumption of familiarity (and, to be fair, who help pay the musicians' rent), some do not.

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Hey, I'm not always open when someone approaches me out of the blue - depends on the situation and person.

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I did see Haig contantly approached by people who wanted to talk about the Royal Roost in 1948 - and this did wear him down somewhat. But he was always polite; he was also always trying to get away.

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