More on Entertainment

by Jason on June 18, 2009 · 6 comments

in Thoughts

If you’ve read more than one post on this blog you’ve probably sensed a theme. I hope that there will be many themes as we delve deeper into what it means/takes to be a working musician. But the early life of this blog is starting to come together around the idea of entertainment. I’m a firm believer that even the most artistic and complex music can still be entertaining. And it’s our job as musicians to know how to entertain our audience. I first wrote about entertainment in the post Why We Play and then again in Give ’em Something to Grab On To. Both posts prompted comments by my new friend Andrew Durkin and got me thinking about the concept further.

Then I came across this profile of pianist Geoffrey Keezer at All About Jazz. This is a great read for many reason, as Keezer talks about his approach to his career and his association with the amazing “record label” ArtistShare (if you don’t know about ArtistShare you really should follow the link – this is the future of music distribution and oh-so-much more!). At the end he talks about his take on entertainment, no doubt informed in part by his associations with Art Blakey and Ray Brown:

I look at what I do as entertainment. I understand the role of entertainment in society more than I used to. Yes, it is art and it’s complex and all those things. But I don’t want to put the art factor so high that it alienates people. I don’t want to be one of those kinds of musicians where people come and sit like a stone in the audience and observe me torturing myself on stage. It’s not about that. I want the audience to have a good time and walk away from my shows feeling better than when they came in.

I couldn’t agree more! I love feeling like we really gave something to the audience. And when we do, they give back. That’s the kind of relationship I want with the people in the room with me, both on stage and off. Keezer goes on:

it’s OK to talk to your audience. It’s OK to smile on stage. It doesn’t cheapen what we do in any way to actually reveal to the audience that we actually enjoy what we’re doing. I think that’s one of the comments I get the most from the audience after shows. They say, ‘Gosh, you guys look like you’re having such a great time up on stage,’ because we are.

Amen brother Geoff!

Follow him on Twitter: @geoffreykeezer.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Andy June 18, 2009 at 9:44 pm

I came up to Geoffrey Keezer after seeing him play with the Christian McBride Band. I told him what a great time I had and how great it was to see a jazz musician (I am one too) look like he’s having fun onstage and not taking it so damn seriously. He said, “How can you be serious about Bb7?” He’s the man.

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
June 19, 2009 at 1:46 am

Thanks for sharing, Andy. Great story!

Michael Owcharuk June 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I would like to argue that all great art is entertainment and all great entertainment is art. Take the painting Guernica by Picasso. Pretty safe to say that it is a master-work of art. It depicts the bombing of the city of the same name by Italian and German warplanes at the behest of Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Heavy right? Not what you usually consider “entertainment.” But the the drama and violence of the scene communicate and present themselves in a way that engages the audience the same way theater or a serious movie does. Why do we like those types of movies and plays? Because we are entertained by them. They speak to us and our emotions. they make us think and feel something. Entertainment can range from the comic to the deadly serious. The common thread is the conscious, willful, engagement of the audience through the use of some craft. Chris Rock is another good example. Crass entertainment or artfully crafted social commentary? He keeps an audience engaged for 2 hours and makes them think through the most powerful tool of all: laughter. That’s art in my book. High art and entertainment are not and should not be made mutually exclusive. My own musical aesthetic runs along the complex and challenging; “arty” if you will; but I have found that the simple act of putting my work in context for the audience though a related anecdote, an outline of the compositional or performance process, some “clues” to listen for, or just saying: “I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote this…” makes their concert experience more participatory, more entertaining. They can listen for these things I talked about. They feel connected to me and the band because we shared with them. Everyone wins. And yes, sometimes you just have to rock out that Bb7.

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
June 20, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Great comments, Mike! I appreciate your perspective, as always. And thats one of the reasons I love to work with you. Take the Slava concert, for instance. That was some challenging music, to be sure, but it was presented in a way that was entertaining for the audience. I think the passion that we on the bandstand had for the music translated to the audience. My dad was in the audience and said it was one of his favorite concerts he’s seen me play. That’s high praise!

PS – are the Slava recordings available on the web for people to hear? If not, you should consider uploading them to or some other site. It’d be cool to let folks check ’em out.

Annette August 13, 2009 at 11:38 am

I’m glad I followed the links from the All About Jazz Article “Jazz: A Museum Piece or a Living, Breathing Artform? It’s up to Us! ” and found this blog. Good post, Jason, and useful links.

“High art and entertainment are not and should not be made mutually exclusive.” Well said, Michael.

Twitter: 1WorkinMusician
August 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Annette! Hope to see you again.

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