My first weekend in France (in Brittany specifically in the region called Finistere, which means end of the world) I was on the road with the trio Starlicker from Chicago. Starlicker is led by trumpeter Rob Mazurek with John Herndon on drums and Jason Adasiewicz on vibes. As a solo artist on his first solo tour it was a comfort for me to be on the road with some other American musicians. Rob, John and Jason are a powerful trio and for three nights I heard them play uncompromising music that was deeply sincere and dynamic. Starlicker inspired me to reexamine my own music and to pull something new out of my repertoire every night. I quickly learned to ignore my doubts, nerves and the fears of being alone on the road playing in front of new audiences.
In my generation (and younger) of jazz musicians we learned mostly by proxy, meaning we learned from stories, books, classroom settings and from teachers. Musicians learn less and less from peers and our own experiences because there are less gigs, less tours, and less access to our peers than there were just 10 or 15 years ago. For example, we all know, whether it is from interviews or biographies about Art Blakey, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane or even Wynton Marsalis, that when you improvise and play jazz, or any music, in public you are supposed to play like it is your last gig and play with every ounce of focus and energy. Hearing those stories and actually seeing it are two completely different things. To hear and see that from your colleagues every night and then do it yourself is a profound event that affects your relationship with music in a way no second hand story or classroom jam session can. Because I have experienced those feelings myself, they have awoken a fierce confidence along with a new urgency to play and share my music with as many people as I can on this planet before I die. The more I reflect on my time in France with Starlicker (watch video below from their tour this past october in Poland) the more I consider it a major turning point in my journey in music. Thank you Starlicker and thank you Penn Ar for the inspiration.
The next Penn Ar Reflections post will introduce all of the most important figures of the festival, the dedicated and passionate French organizers, producers, volunteers and audiences.