6. Not how, but why we play

 RADIO 3  SUNDAY 11th March  –  special live interview featuring brand new material
[mentioned in blog 1].
Hi folks,
Try Googling up the word Belonging in any kind of artistic or sociological context and you’ll be treated to several PhD’s and a clutch of cool famous quotes to adorn your fridge door.  To Belong is indeed a fundamental need, and a major motivator of our work as artists and performers.
A brilliant CD cover is Keith Jarrett’s “Belonging” from 1974. I learned to sing along with every solo on that CD by the way.  The strange gravity of those party-balloons on the cover is poignant:
 Our playfulness is grounding, it is our life-blood. Our music-making, fleeting and beautifully imperfect, represents something fundamental in us which only finds expression with fellow souls.
I remember flying from Heathrow to play one 90 minute concert with Chick Corea in Charleston South Carolina.
During the first couple of years of touring with Chick a very odd thing had started to happen, I was getting more and more nervous about flying.  It was something that just developed, isn’t that the reverse of what’s meant to happen?
It had much to do with having a good imagination, and being on my own. I’ll do a separate blog about this and how I made friends with fear, as we are a nomadic profession, it might be of interest!
Anyhow, this gig was three flights there and three back:
A deep sense of alienation took hold on the trip out, what with delays and tight connections and almost losing all my instruments during a transfer.
I remember finally, finally getting onto that stage and hearing Chick open up, freely improvising his way into the first piece.  He might not tell you what it was going to be, but you’d pick it up from the little themes and motifs he’d start to throw in.
That moment of his piano resounding through the concert hall, the freedom and the joy of exploring was a home-coming, a welcoming back into the fold and an invitation to co-create. I belonged there, I was home.
Within hours I was back at the airport, on that intensely anonymous journey that Joni Mitchell says “Scrambles time and seasons”.  Did the physical home I arrived back to, feel any more real than the musical one I’d just experienced thousands of miles away?  Not really actually.
This Sunday I’ll be interviewed at Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival.
 “The One And The Many” is the theme, looking into the differing roles some of us juggle as composers, performers sidemen and leaders.
Taking ourselves very seriously at the 606. Myself, Gwilym Simcock, Joe Locke, Nadja (great friend and Joes manager) and my very own Joe (family family)!

I’m not sure what I’m going to be asked so in case I don’t say this on air, (find out by tuning in!)  I’ll say now that these musical hats we wear are informed constantly by our relationship to a group. They are part of a broader unity, for me anyway.  This broader sense of unity, a Belonging with capital B, is so important to me that I’ll travel the whole world to experience it.

I’m fond of the definition of the word play that children are familiar with. To play music without much goal orientation, centred in the moment, is something we don’t speak about that much.  Music education is, for better or worse, largely goal orientated, but isn’t playful absorption  just the best feeling?!

To find kindred spirits that share this view is wonderful, it is family.

I used to watch the Paul Motion Trio and note that Paul’s drumming had a knack of taking very serious things with humour, and taking all the humorous bits very seriously.
I heard this approach only the other night when I joined some musical “family members” Joe Locke and Gwilym Simcock who were deep in duet brilliance at the 606 club. What a privilege to have this musical family, it is a heart that  beats meaning and love into our work and our world.

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