I'm very often disappointed when I go and hear straight-ahead jazz guitarists play in a club, no matter how good they may be. Many have practiced their technique and have a knowledge of harmony that is clearly impressive. They have good time and play well with the other band members. But 9 times out of 10 I am disappointed and for the most part I think I know why.
Most of these players spend countless hours in the bedroom practicing, working on stuff, perfecting things, analyzing chord changes, working on harmonic ideas and so on, something that no one recommends more highly than I, but it seems that so often these musicians lack the ability to communicate musically.
It actually reminds me a little of when I used to live in London and I'd be having a drink with a few horn players at the bar during an intermission (in the UK, horn players particularly from the north of England seem to enjoy a pint or two!) and I'd listen to them say how much they had no time at all for the 'punters' in the audience. With this attitude, those horn players put themselves on a pedestal, instantly separating themselves, drawing an imaginary line at the end of the stage. More like an electric fence! I never understood it, it was almost a way of justifying how little work they were prepared to do to really get their musical point across. What they said musically might have been very clever, even impressive, but whatever it was remained on the stage. No one in the audience was invited to experience that musical conversation. The audience was the last thing that mattered it seemed.
Now I'm not suggesting that we as artists entertain with tap dancing, plate spinning, telling jokes and so on, I'm talking about finding a way to connect with the audience, and the first step to doing this is through sound projection with our instrument. Don't forget, as instrumentalists we have to try that much harder to communicate with the listener because there is no vocalist to do that for us. We have to make sure our instrumental voice carries.
And I find, going back to my disappointment with so many jazz guitarists in clubs, that they simply are not concerned with that communication between themselves and the audience. I do not believe it has been an issue with most of them and I believe it is extremely important.
I am talking about playing with real conviction. So many players lack that strength, everything is quiet and timid and they seem like they are looking for the right notes, meandering away, somewhat apologetically. This does not translate to an audience, very often does not translate to other musicians. Too many hours in the bedroom practicing obsessively and not enough time in coffee shops talking to other human beings about THEIR lives! Musicians can be horribly insular and those completely obsessed with their instruments usually end up as the bigges...