Our long discussion about jazz grants and their supposed encouragement of conceptual/interdisciplinary/backstory-heavy "interview music" (make sure to read the amazing comment thread at Nate Chinen's blog) has me thinking about how artists package their music today. It seems to me that as grants become a larger part of the jazz economy, and media outlets shrink, and general audiences decline, jazz musicians are increasingly being asked to justify and rationalize their work.
On the heels of all that, I received a certain new CD recently. I hardly never read accompanying press releases, but for whatever reason this one came in front of my eye:
There are artists, who, as Walt Whitman so eloquently wrote, are "multitudes." The twenty-something, New Guinea-born, pianist Aaron Choulai is such an artist: Polish/Jewish/Aussie and Chinese/Motuan; legally blind, an albino, and a fabulous young musician ...
I haven't made time for any of Choulai's forthcoming trio disc Ranu yet, and cannot recommend it on musical grounds one way or the other. But I can pretty much guarantee that now that he has a respected label (Sunnyside) putting out his records stateside, he'll make it to the public radio circuit somehow, with little involvement on my part. (See: Melody Gardot.) Not that being albino, blind and from New Guinea ever helped any jazzman in any other way. But who doesn't love an amazing story?
As if that weren't enough, he has made "interview music" before too. Again, according to the PR materials, Choulai was musical director/arranger for We Don't Dance For No Reason, a "multimedia production consisting of Australian's [sic] finest jazz musicians and the sixteen-voice Tatana Village Choir from his ancestral New Guinea village." Don't get me wrong; it sounds like a legitimately interesting, heartfelt project, and I'd love to experience it. It also sounds like a documentary in the making. Speaking of which: