Friday, August 14, 2009

Dues and the Abstract Truth

I've had a few people in the arts (music, acting) tell me they're tired of paying dues. Unfortunately, you don't get to decide when you're done.
At least there is a sort of perverted meritocracy to the world of sports. If you make the statistics and help win games, you get the big contract. Winners sell more tickets, which makes the owners more money. Terrell Owens and now Michael Vick have shown that much can be overlooked in the pursuit of the gold. And how many lifetime bans did the late Steve Howe get in baseball?
Pianist Herbie Nichols is one of the countless talented and nearly invisible musicians out there. One of the phrases you'll see in reference to Herbie Nichols is that he played Dixieland/Traditional Jazz gigs "to pay the bills." (One of the many forms of paying dues.) I accidentally ran across one of these stints when I bought a Rex Stewart album (Dixieland Free-for-all) on eBay. Listen to Herbie's solo on Original Dixieland One-Step and compare it with a sample of his playing as a leader . This was a truly versatile and complete musician!
Sadly, it doesn't take much to collect most of his output as a leader. As a start, check out his Blue Note sessions. Besides Herbie's original compositions and playing style, you get either Max Roach or Art Blakey on drums.
He wasn't sidelined by the substance abuse problems that have plagued many musicians. For him, it was leukemia. He died in 1963 at only 44 years old.

There's no telling when (or if) you'll ever stop paying dues.

1 comment:

SAXOMAN said...

One of the many sorely neglected jazz artists that never received the recognition (then and now) that they deserved. Bravo for some "props" to Herbie Nichols.