Last week, DownBeat magazine released its 63rd Annual Critics' Poll. Topping the Rising Star Guitarist category is a young man named Michael Blum who seemingly topped this chart through email solicitations of all the critics voting. This caused a bit of an uproar, with many musicians, journalists, and others in the community decrying how such a thing could happen. How could such an artist be a rising star when other more deserving musicians aren't receiving their due praise. I can understand such complaints, but one must understand that situations like these, whether in music or in regard to any interaction is based on the nature of attention. To understand how Blum, a rather rudimentary, if not just plain soporifically pleasant guitar player, could top a list like this, would involve a reconciliation with the key elements of how attention works and how one must navigate it.
Attention is a gift. It is given, it is precious. It is the decision someone is making to spend time, however brief and fleeting or continuous and consistent. No matter its length, it is precious and should never be assumed, for it is a gift. It is always a gift.
What do you do when you've spent the majority of the last week playing an album, falling head over heels in love with it, but you can't let anyone listen to it (publicly, unless it's playing offhandedly in a bar somewhere where people have no idea what's playing, really, but sort of like it maybe)? You brag (subtly) about having it and try to hype everyone about it by reminding folks what's so great about the artist releasing it soon. I've been playing almost nothing but the Liberty Ellman Sextet's Radiate, so that may have shifted my focus in this week's show, particularly since I don't think I have clearance yet to play any of it on the air. I'm also fighting a cold so my voice feels weak and brittle and I'm a little loopy.
The Line-Up for 26 June 2015
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Aaron Prado didn't plan on being on the stage last Friday night. The pianist and former KRTU music director was merely planning on attending the performance of his old teacher's, Vijay Iyer's, composition,Time, Place, Action, with the Brentano String Quartet, a show as part of the Musical Bridges Around the World's Second Annual International Music Festival. He just so happened to be wearing a grey shirt and black slacks, perfect attire for sitting on a stage. Dr. Anya Grokhovski, MBAW's artistic director and CEO, wasn't quite up to the task that Friday evening of keeping up with the looping rhythms and odd time signatures (at least not tonight anyway). So Prado and Iyer talked it out and Friday night's performance of Time, Place, Action went off without a hitch.