D.F. Bailey, a novelist friend, recently “tagged” me to participate in a “blog tour” that promotes writers and writing. The idea is that each tagged writer will respond to four basic questions and post the answers on his/her blog. The writer then tags two other writers, inviting them to do the same. Readers of the blogs can then follow the links in the chain and discover new (to them) writers and their works.
D. F. Bailey’s fourth novel, Exit From America, is set in San Francisco and explores the intersecting lives of a writer, a guru, a therapist, an artist and her daughter — and their escape from a world slipping into environmental collapse. He lives on-line at dfbailey.com
First the writers I’ve tagged:
Craig Morrison is a Victoria-born ethnomusicologist teaching courses on popular music and its roots at Concordia University, as well as a musician and bandleader with 11 CDs released. He is the author of Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and Its Makers (University of Illinois Press, 1996), American Popular Music; Rock and Roll (Facts on File, 2005), and numerous articles for encyclopedias, journals, music magazines, and daily newspapers. He is currently writing a book on West Coast psychedelic music, based in part on dozens of interviews with musicians active in the 1960s.
My second tag is in the works. Stay tuned.
And now my (Rick Gibbs’) answers:
1. What am I working on?
I’m writing two books. The working titles are The Perfect Guitar and West Coast Jazz: The Long and Short of It. The first is a work of creative non-fiction that follows the building of an acoustic archtop jazz guitar by Victoria luthier Robert Anderson. I commissioned Robert to build the guitar for me in 2012 and sat in his workshop off and on for a year while he completed the project. Inspired by books like Tracy Kidder’s House and Witold Rybczynski’s The Most Beautiful House in the World, I’m weaving various historical, technical, scientific, cultural and personal threads into the story, including my encounter in 2010 with internationally acclaimed jazz guitarist Pat Metheny while working on a CBC radio documentary about the celebrated Canadian guitar builder Linda Manzer.
The second book will be a collection of articles about Canada’s west coast jazz scene, some already written for publications like Monday Magazine, Boulevard, Coda, and my blog Island Jazz. I’ve covered the scene for seven years now, writing profiles of jazz greats like Ian McDougall, Hugh Fraser, Phil Dwyer, Ingrid Jensen, and Joe Coughlin and profiling institutions like Hermann’s Jazz Club and the lively jazz vespers scene on Vancouver Island. We live in one of the most jazz-rich regions in the world but it’s never been seriously documented except in short pieces in the local media. By collecting stories I’ve already written and telling new ones, I intend to create a historical and contemporary mosaic that tips a literary hat to the great jazz musicians on Canada’s west coast.
2. How does my work differ from other work in its genre?
I’m not sure that it does except to say that I always try to find my own voice and write as clearly and simply as I can. I’ve been told by editors that reading my work is a pleasure because there’s rarely a bump in the road. I embrace Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sentiment that “easy reading is damn hard writing” and do a lot of rewriting even for the most basic piece of journalism. But all good writers do that and so ultimately any differences will be found in voice and subject matter.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Writing for me comes down to three things: love of subject, love of form, and love of language. It’s always about my heart even when my head is involved. I spent a year writing about a four-month trip through India, Nepal and Sri Lanka that my wife and I undertook in 2002. While that manuscript remains unfinished, it’s a good example of my heart driving my writing. I fell in love with India and so I wrote about it. I love travel books like Tony Cohan’s On Mexican Time and Gary Geddes’ Sailing Home and and so I tried to emulate them. Similarly, my latest projects are inspired by subjects that excite me and works I’ve read and admired. Books like But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer, the only book about jazz that Keith Jarrett recommends.
4. How does my writing process work?
I’m not a planner. I plunge in with an image, quotation or detail that excites me and go from there. I’ll follow it until it runs dry and then grab something else and pursue it, gradually piecing the story together around ideas and details that interest me. In the end I have a rough mosaic that I work and rework until all the pieces fit. I tend to rewrite on the fly, which goes against all the advice I gave my students when I taught high school English and creative writing, but I can’t help it even though it slows me down and sometimes blocks the flow of ideas. I just can’t wait to get in there and tinker with the words.
As I write 155 people from the west coast jazz community and beyond have pledged their support for the project on Kickstarter that will see ten Ross Taggart compositions arranged and recorded by the Jill Townsend Big Band in Vancouver. With 8 days to go they are doing well, having reached nearly 75% of their goal.
It would be a shame if they fell short now.
For those who haven’t pledged – fans and musicians alike – here are seven reasons to consider doing so.
1. It’s a good cause. Ross Taggart was a beloved member of the west coast jazz community and this project will honour his name.
2. Under the Kickstarter crowd-funding model, the campaign must be 100% funded to succeed. Otherwise the project will receive nothing.
3. This is the first major Kickstarter Canadian west coast jazz campaign that I’m aware of. If it succeeds it could set a precedent for future campaigns that would see other local musicians receive funding for their special projects.
4. It won’t cost you much; you can pledge as little as a dollar (although I would hope you would pledge a little more than that :-).
5. Our provincial and federal governments do little for the arts (particularly jazz) compared to European countries like Norway; this is a way for you to support directly an art form that is starved of funding.
6. For musicians: it may seem odd or inappropriate to pledge money to your colleagues when you work so hard yourself to be part of this community and to raise funds for your own projects. But consider this: by adding your name to the list, you help create a groundswell that will see this and other jazz projects succeed under the crowd-funding model. (The list of contributors can be viewed on the Kickstarter site and your name will carry a lot of weight.)
7. For fans: if you pledge at least ten dollars, you’ll receive a wonderful recording of some great tunes and help keep not only jazz but big band jazz alive on the Canadian west coast. What better way to spend the equivalent of two fancy coffees at Starbucks?
I wish them success. You can pledge here.
Note: if you have concerns about the security of the Kickstarter site, read the security notice they issued following the news that they had been hacked recently. It may reassure you.
I learned today from Cory Weeds that The Cellar in Vancouver has a Kickstarter campaign underway to fund an album in honour of the late Ross Taggart. Ross grew up in Victoria and was a huge part of the jazz scene here. I hope that every jazz fan on Vancouver Island will get behind this project. Act now because there are only 22 days left in the campaign and they need your support. Here’s an excerpt from the campaign description:
Jill Townsend Big Band Records Compositions of Ross Taggart
Arranger extraordinaire Jill Townsend will arrange 10 compositions of the late Ross Taggart and record them with her all star big band!
On January 9th, 2013 saxophonist, pianist & composer Ross Taggart succumbed to cancer. Ross’ passing hit the Vancouver, Canadian and North American jazz scenes very hard and his presence has been sorely missed by all. Ross was a larger than life figure, always making people laugh and continuously putting the needs of others ahead of his own. Ross had an instantly recognizable tenor saxophone sound that was big and robust a la Dexter Gordon and his touch on the piano was remarkable. He had the rare gift of making everyone around him play better and sound better and feel better.
Ross left a large legacy of compositions behind that have been played and recorded by many. In collaboration with award winning bandleader Jill Townsend, Cellar Live had the idea of getting Jill to arrange 10 of Ross’ compositions for her big band of which Ross was a founding member, and recording them to make up the big band’s second CD.
You can pledge and read more at Kickstarter.
Because I’m working on longer writing projects, including a book on the west coast jazz scene, I’m not posting updates on current jazz events. However, musicians and promoters can advertise their own performances and events by clicking on “Upcoming Events” (above) and leaving a comment. Feel free to post a simple blurb or a complete press release.
Jazz fans can find out what’s going on by reading the comments and by going to the Calendars page.
I asked a few of Victoria’s premier jazz musicians to pick three JazzFest shows they would most recommend. Here are their picks:
Saxophonist Monik Nordine likes
Vijay Iyer Trio
David Murray Infinity Quartet featuring Macy Gray
Vocalist Joe Coughlin chose
And pianist Brent Jarvis picked
With the repeats on Herbie Hancock and Esperanza Spalding (no surprise there) that gives you six surefire shows to add to your must see list for this year’s JazzFest.