Music and the Creative Spirit
Lloyd Peterson is not a full-time jazz journalist. By day he is a Boeing executive in Seattle. Perhaps that is why he is so successful in getting artists to open up to him.
His book contains interviews with 40 jazz musicians, mostly left-of-center. Peterson’s questions focus on several key themes. He is fascinated by the creative process in the context of improvisation. He wants to know how artists are affected by current world events and by the state of the music industry. He seeks the perspective of American and European musicians on the evolution of jazz into an international art form.
He elicits frank, fascinating answers. Music and the Creative Spirit is unfiltered, gut-level jazz oral history. In the best of these interviews (those with Tim Berne, Joey Baron, Maria Schneider and George Lewis come to mind) there is a sense of getting to know these artists intimately as individuals. Their insights on subjects like race, sexism, religion, politics and the Information Age are often penetrating, and always based on hard-won personal experience. They harbor few illusions, but also very little self-pity. These people are about getting their work done.
As for Peterson’s primary subject of creativity, his efforts to explore the mystery lead his respondents, necessarily, into metaphor. Tim Berne says, “You get transported to this place that’s kind of like being in love.” Drummer Joey Baron speaks of time as floating spheres: “Grab one, embrace it, but let it float.” Maria Schneider describes composition as musical ideas attaching themselves to memory.
Tim Berne’s interview contains a contradiction that vindicates jazz journalism forever. He says, “I really don’t concern myself with what the critics think.” Later he says, “There are a lot of people doing great music, but unless … someone writes about them, you’re not going to know about them.”