A Sorry Moment

There’s a musician out there, somewhere, who I used to have a little more respect for.

I quite like some of his older, harder-to-get recordings, and I was researching online how I could get a copy of one when, of course, I found his website. Now, what do you think it was that made me lose respect for him? Was it shameless self-promotion? Nah, there wasn’t too much of that, considering he makes his living playing music. Was it rants about other musicians? No, because he was generally pretty nice in everything he said and his criticisms were more general and, I think, warranted given the state of the kind of music he plays in America.

No, what turned me off was his warning not to email him about spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes on his site. He told his guests at his website that he didn’t wish to receive email about these things because, after all, they were a form of his self-expression and he’d included them on purpose.

Now, what does poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation communicate to a reader? Coolness? Maybe, if the audience is made up of idiots. “Hey, look how laid back he is, he doesn’t even spellcheck his own self-promotional website! Dude!”

Or maybe it communicates how musical he is? As if, with his mind so taken up by musical ideas, he can’t be bothered to spell correctly.

To me, though, it communicated two things: firstly, that he’s not so interested in presenting himself in the best light—errors are inevitable, but publishing them is not—and that he’s either very arrogant or, more likely, pathetically self-defensive about them. “That’s not a mistake! I, like, did that on purpose! The extra ‘e’ in that word communicates, you know, like, my own unique take on the world, man. So there. And don’t email me about it, either.”

I felt sorry for him, and it was disappointing. He may be a good musician, but I suspect I wouldn’t get along with him personally. And that somehow is always a turnoff for me, I don’t know why. I guess I regard musicianship as a kind of humbling calling, and when I meet musicians who really get it, I can tell. When I met Renee Rosnes, a semi-famous Canadian jazz pianist, she did all she could to send the message she didn’t care if the pimply kid in front of her appreciated her stopping by his little city and playing there; it wasn’t just a case of being in the mood, it was quite active snubbing. Whereas, when I met people like Dewey Redman and Jane Bunnett, they seemed to be more than happy to meet someone else who actually appreciated what they were doing.

Hell, Redman invited himself to my table, told me he could tell I was a sax player from how I was so intently watching him play, and then proceeded to spend a couple of the breaks with me, talking about whatever—his mom’s cooking, what it was like to travel and be on the road, how much he practiced and didn’t practice, things like that. It was seriously one of the coolest experiences in my young life to meet this brilliant sax player and discover he was not just a normal guy, but a really nice, cool person.

And the vibe on, “Don’t email me about mistakes in my webpage, I, uh, did that on purpose,” is coming from quite another place. Ah well. Still looking for that one old album, though.

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