New music, finding peace, looking inward...

The end of a yearlong sabbatical leave is quickly approaching. It’s been an interesting year full of change both professionally and personally for my family and me. Change is never easy but often brings inspiration from some of the most surprising sources. A new home, new community, new people, new challenges, new music, old frustrations that I still spar with, new realizations…successes… hopes…continued curiosity. My wife and daughter are a never ending source of love, joy, inspiration, encouragement and wonderment in my life. I am fortunate.

I used to be very busy with several of my own performing groups and as a sideman but that energy and efforts waned over the last few years for a variety of reasons. The last many months I’ve endeavored to find forums to perform my own music and music that I love which has been rewarding albeit never short of the challenges we all face as performers of this music we call “jazz” in terms of finding a place to play, generating an audience and the obvious. The one constant is the passion and dedication I encounter in the colleagues I perform and interact with. It’s a constant struggle for me to allow myself to really get lost in what I do but I have found tremendous encouragement and inspiration in their collective spirits and abilities. The great “tangible intangible” is a phrase I like to use to describe the entity of music and playing with and listening to great musicians only reinforces this conviction. I’ve met and performed with some new individuals this summer that have impressed me beyond belief in a variety of ways. As prefaced, inspiration comes from sources and situations we least expect. I look forward to more surprises and more opportunities which seem to be appearing with each passing day.

I’d love to start a dialogue with people who actively pursue the act of composition. It’s a process I’ve tried to be involved in more than ever as of late. I find a composition has roots that develop from a variety of planted seeds. A harmonic idea, a riff, a melodic or rhythmic motive. Perhaps an instrumental range or technical obstacle become the source for creation. Challenges I am constantly confronted with include: development of an idea, extension of form, finding a balance between the mechanical aspect of craft and “the muse” (if you will) to complete a musical thought, knowing (or accepting) when a work is completed. I have been working within the context of short form compositions (no more than 60-80 measures) that include some aspect of improvisation but have been trying to expand that palette and am eager to do so. It’s an interesting and challenging endeavor for me to say the least. Would love to hear other people’s experiences that have really committed to the process. It is a process….

Daniel SmithComment