On being patient

Eight years ago, I decided to do something financially silly, but musically rewarding: I decided to bring Kurt Elling to Toronto to perform with my big band, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra. It was an exciting event for all involved, and I took it upon myself to be Kurt's chauffeur for the few days he was in town (who could resist?!). I remember clearly, as we stepped into the car at the airport - me feeling proud at having pulled this all off - that he asked me how long the band had been together. "Five years," I responded, thinking that was a very long time to keep a big band running. "Oh," he said, "so it's still young."

I was flabbergasted. I had been running a big band for half of a decade, which felt to me a very long time indeed, and here's one of my musical idols reminding me that five years is in fact a very short time. It was a good lesson, and one which came to mind when I read a recent interview with Kurt in JazzTimes. Called "What Makes a Jazz Singer," the interview delves into what makes Kurt do what he does, what drives him and yes, at one point, what makes a jazz singer. But this section stuck out for me:

So by seemingly every metric that matters in his world, Elling is clearly on top. But don’t talk to him about preeminence, because he’s taking the long view. “I’m still only 43,” he says. “When I’m 70—and this is what I’m shooting for—then I’m the man. By that point I’ve paid all the dues I’m going to pay, and I’ll have a body of work behind me. So I can be patient." (Read more online...)

This is a musician who has been nominated for a Grammy eight times and finally won it in 2010, a musician who has repeatedly been voted top male singer in all sorts of jazz polls - a musician who, as far as I'm concerned, already is "the man." I find his viewpoint humbling, and an excellent reminder that no matter what I want right now, it will take time to cross off everything on my list.

In a very practical way, this reminder comes at an ideal time. With the festival fast approaching, and with various deadlines approaching even faster, I want everything to be settled - now. I want the musicians I want to book to be available - at the fee I can offer - now. I want the logistics, the details, the fine tuning, to be done - now.

Happily, by relying on my own experience, the experience of my colleagues, and the occasional external influence (thanks, Kurt!), I'm reminded that with patience, things work out. Not always perfectly, and not always exactly as I had hoped, but usually for the best. So - in these final few days before we announce our lineup, I will take many deep breaths, remember something about patience being a virtue, work my butt off, and look forward to the results.

Speaking of announcing our lineup - and patience - you only have a few more days to wait before we reveal who will be stopping in to Toronto June 24 to July 3 for the 25th TD Toronto Jazz Festival. Synchronize your watches, and tune in to JAZZ.FM91 on Tuesday, April 5, starting at 2 pm, for the big reveal! It's going to be fun...there are a lot of big names that have been hard to keep under my hat...

Finally, it's my pleasure to be hosting three screenings on Monday (March 28) of Music from the Big House, a documentary detailing Rita Chiarelli's musical visit to Angola Prison, Louisiana State's Maximum Security Penitentiary. I watched the film last night and it deserves the praise it has received (including Best Canadian Documentary at the 2011 Edmonton International Film Festival) - it's moving and inspirational, challenging and thought-provoking. Rita is a Canadian blues treasure, and she'll be on hand to answer questions following each screening. The film is showing at the Carlton Cinema starting at 1:30; I'll be there for the 5:30, 7:30 and 9:30 screenings (my colleague Brian Blain will handle the 1:30 and 3:30 screenings). For complete information on the film and the screenings, go to musicfromthebighouse.com.

I hope to see you soon!


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