Jazz Legend Kurt Elling Drops Jewels

And if you are interested in making music at all, you better listen.

We all know the mentor/players of the past whose bands created and affected generations of great musicians and teachers. The Universities of Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Buddy Rich, Betty Carter, Maynard Ferguson, and so many others we revere all helped shape the present. But now we — you! — are the primary teachers. Some people bemoan the loss of the old context without acknowledging the great opportunity before us – to embrace our own time and to make the most of it. We have access to great gifts from the past, and we are charged with passing them on through our own hands.

We have to figure how to transmit this great past so that it empowers students — not to relive another generation’s past — but to articulate what it means for the students, themselves, to be alive, now. Not wishing they’d been born decades ago, when giants walked the earth. Worshipping the past is a trap that causes chronic pain among our people. We must be wary as teachers and performers of seeming to yearn too much for what’s gone. It makes audiences and our students devalue their present experiences and regret — rather than celebrate and challenge — the moment they were born into. If jazz is to be truly relevant to the future we must stop defining ourselves to such an extraordinary degree by our glorious past. The Buddha says, “If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him and become Buddha yourself.”

Preach. Right on brother Kurt. If you substitute “music” for “jazz,”it stand up pretty well across the board.

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