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Why we keep beating our heads against the wall …. The Bop Arts symposium

Bop Arts logoTom Kohn is relentless .... He is passionate about the music that inhabits the edges of our listening and he wants to share that passion with Rochester. He doesn't care that, from all evidence, there are few around town who share his feelings. Listening to music that challenges him fills him with joy and Tom simply is going to root out those who the music has a chance to reach and then try to share his joy with them. This desire in him has led him to spend more than 25 years running the Bop Shop, arguably one of the best remaining independent record stores in the country and also to put on more than 200 jazz (and another 50 or more rock, blues and other music) events near his store and elsewhere. He continues to branch out in his work of proselytizing. It is why he recently formed a nonprofit, Bop Arts Inc., to help fund more of this innovative and improvisational music throughout the year. It definitely ain't making him money. A similar passion is why I do this blog. I'm not trying to shove one type of jazz or another down any of my readers' throats. I just want you to try once in awhile to open up your ears to something other than what you've always been told to was “good music” by others.

So I came down to the Bop Shop Atrium on Sunday night, March 1st, to check out the symposium, called “The Making of a Music Community: Perspectives on New Music from Performers and Listeners," that Bop Arts put on to bring musicians and others together to talk about building a community of music. In this world, the “experts” are the musicians. Like the music that Tom programmed which took up most of the event, the symposium was improvised, but it was much more than a panel of experts. Trumpeter Paul Smoker, who brought his jazz ensemble from Nazareth College, and percussionist and vibe player Kevin Norton, who was here with his trio Counterpoint, both riffed on some great stories of why they “keep beating their heads” against the wall of indifference that confronts their music. Both have deep and long association with jazz and those who ply its less traveled paths like Anthony Braxton (who both played with on several projects). As Smoker put it, playing the music and the focus and drive it has given him saved his life. Guitarist Adam Caine, whose trio finished up the night brought the perspective of a younger artist who was just coming up in the jazz world.

Like the name Kohn gave to the symposium, last night we created a small community. As Norton said during the symposium, the music he loves forms "audiences and musicians into a community of the moment.” We came together for some compelling music, some tasty lasagna, and a bit of exploration of why we keep “beating our heads” in trying to bring live music making and improvising to a wider audience. All in all, it was a good night....

This post was originally published on JazzRochester.


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