By Deems Tsutakawa For The North American Post
I personally believe that commercial graphic artists are, in fact, a very creative and talented group of individuals. Some people would say that they, by and large, have to “paint within the lines,” always using popular attention-attracting schemes. It can also be said that to be successful, these artists must continually come up with creative visual ideas in cutting edge styles.
On the other hand, abstract painters are basically given a blank canvas, utilizing the concept of total freedom to produce something meaningful. Their work is supposed to have a profound significance with the hope that perhaps someone else, like a gallery owner or the public, will recognize and appreciate the greatness of their vision. Jackson Pollock comes to mind here; he was totally abstract and quite successful, too.
The same concepts also apply to jazz music as we make a conscious choice to play either avante garde cutting edge or “smooth jazz” stylings. Although the two concepts are quite different, there are many players who can do both but usually lean one way or the other. Playing abstract music and getting paid for it is a luxury as most venues and listeners cannot stand to hear such sounds. This is just a pure and simple reality. The vast majority of people want popular names and sounds that they can relate to. Steady work versus total musical freedom is the choice here.
Fortunately, like the good graphic artists, there needs to be a creative mindset to keep the music fresh when doing popular jazz. The musicians need to have fun, bring good energy, and communicate with other band members as well as with the audience. As it is jazz, there is always the opportunity to go ‘outside’ and make a musical statement from time to time. One must bring a fair amount of ‘attitude’ when playing to give the music meaning.
In Fine Arts versus Folk Arts, the actual line between the two is oftentimes obscured but the differences in people around the globe are what makes us human.