This Weekends Vibe Congress

We might have between 60 and 100 people for this weekends vibe congress. Is that amazing or what?

Have you read that Malcom Gladwell books? All about people doing amazing things in impossible situations. When I think about it, why can't the vibes be a more popular instrument? We just have to get people to like the instrument...... NO..... rather to know the instrument. Most people don't even know the name of the instrument. If everyone knew the name of the instrument wouldn't that make a huge difference. I think it would.

People sell all kinds of things to the public. And they buy it, they like this and that. Why not this instrument.

I really hope that we vibe players can organize and change things a little bit. Anything is possible, right? Trying to get this instrument in the public's eye a little bit more is nothing compared to some things that people have achieved. I do think though, we will have to organize. That's how these things work.

Well I'm excited for the weekend. We'll see what happens. Maybe nothing, maybe everything. Maybe something in between!

Access: Anonymous

Comments

Where I live most people have never heard of a vibraphone, when you explain it they say " xylophone"'. The only place in public that I hear the vibraphone is in restaurants that have "Muzak"

In the spirit of Bebop...a guide for the adventure by beat peot Bob Kaufmman. It's for Abomunists but... ;-)

BOB KAUFMAN'S ABOMUNIST MANIFESTO

ABOMUNISTS JOIN NOTHING BUT THEIR HANDS OR LEGS,
OR OTHER SAME.

ABOMUNIST SPIT ANTI-POETRY FOR POETIC REASONS
AND FRINK.

ABOMUNISTS DO NOT LOOK AT PICUTRES PAINTED
BY PRESIDENTS AND UNEMPLOYD PRIME MINISTERS.

IN TIMES OF NATIONAL PERIL, ABOMUNISTS, AS REALITY
AMERICANS, STAND READY TO DRINK THEMSELVES
TO DEATH FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

ABOMUNISTS DO NOT FEEL PAIN, NO MATTER HOW MUCH
IT HURTS.

ABOMUNISTS DO NOT USE THE WORD SQUARE EXCEPT WHEN
TALKING TO SQUARES.

ABOMUNISTS READ NEWSPAPERS ONLY TO ASCERTAIN THEIR
ABOMINUBILITY.

ABOMUNISTS NEVER CARRY MORE THAN FIFTY DOLLARS
IN DEBTS ON THEM.

ABOMUNISTS BELIEVE THAT THE SOLUTION OF PROBLEMS
OF RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY IS TO HAVE A CATHOLIC
CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT AND PROTESTANT
CANDIDATE FOR POPE.

ABOMUNISTS DO NOT WRITE FOR MONEY; THEY WRITE
THE MONEY ITSELF.

ABOMUNISTS BELIEVE ONLY WHAT THEY DREAM ONLY
AFTER IT COMES TRUE.

ABOMUNISTS CHILDREN MUST BE REARED ABOMUNIBLY.

ABOMUNIST POETS, CONFIDENT THAT THE NEW LITERARY
FORM "FOOT-PRINTISM' HAS FREED THE ARTIST
OF OUTMODED RESTRICTIONS, SUCH AS: THE ABILITY TO
READ AND WRITE, OR THE DESIRE TO COMMUNICATE,
MUST BE PREPARED TO READ THEIR WORK AT DENTAL
COLLEGES, EMBALMING SCHOOLS, HOMES FOR UNWED
MOTHERS, HOMES FOR WED MOTHERS, INSANE ASYLUMS,
USO CANTEENS, KINDERGARTENS, AND COUNTY JAILS.
ABOMUNISTS NEVER COMPROMISE THEIR REJECTIONARY
PHILOSOPHY.

ABOMUNISTS REJECT EVERYTHING EXCEPT SNOWMEN.

[Bob Kaufman. Abominist Manifesto (broadside), City Lights, 1959.]

If I could offer an opinion here, I think the problem with inquiring about what can be done to improve the visibility of the vibes is basically asking the wrong questions. It's not about the vibes; the real question to my way of thinking is what can be done to take music into a new direction where the vibes could play a more upfront role.

I'll give you an example. Although we all acknowledge the advances in the application of four-mallet technique that Gary demonstrated, we also know from his autobiography that there was an equal interest in taking his group into a market whose ears were primed by Beatles and Bob Dylan records. To that extent, simply wearing Nehru jackets and recording on Apple Records didn't cross the MJQ over to a new audience; but Gary did it due to his repertoire and there was a clear choice to stay the course with playing standards to Getz's audience. Fortunately for us, his inner musician prevailed.

So it's understandable that the question of how to get the vibes out there will come up, and usually it's within the context of rehashing what has already been done over and over and over. And for some it's within the comfort zone where they feel a comfort level operating. So with Gary being at the Congress (and I sure wish I could attend), I might suggest posing the better question of what new music of the 21st century could lend itself to the acoustic vibes. I do want to clarify that I'm not suggesting the established players change what is expected from them from their fan base. What I'm saying is that there is an upcoming generation of new players who might benefit from asking a different question than the one originally posed.

Hi John,
I just belatedly came across your posting about "new musical possibilities for the vibraphone." I totally agree with you about this perspective on the future visibility for the vibes. I never set out to promote the vibes, personally. My goal was promoting the music I could picture in my head, and the vibes just happened to be the medium that was available to me. There were times I felt trapped by my childhood upbringing with the vibraphone. By my late teens I had been playing it for a decade and although I briefly tried playing other instruments (guitar, sax, flute, trumpet), in an effort to find success with a more popular instrument, it was too late. I was too far down the road with the vibes to go a different direction. I see why Tony and others feel a passion for promoting the instrument, as an instrument. Heck, I'd like to see more people playing it, too. But, I think my main loyalty is to the music itself, mainly jazz, though I have visited other musical realms from time to time.

As I recently was telling Tony, the biggest boost to the vibes in past decades was the addition of mallet instruments to school band rooms, something that was almost unheard of in my youth (1950s). Now, most high school and college music departments have mallet instruments of some kind, often including a vibraphone. So students get to see them and understand how they are played. Unfortunately, the clock is turning backwards on us. With the economic collapse, schools don't have nearly the budgets for instruments these days, and less popular, expensive instruments like vibraphones are the first to suffer the cutbacks.

The only other ways for vibraphone to become more popular were touched on at the Congress. (1) the market needs an affordable entry level instrument to be competitive with other instruments. (2) More quality music needs to be composed and published for the vibes. (3) Today's and tomorrow's performers need to achieve visibility and commercial success to inspire young musicians to follow in their footsteps. I know, number 3 is what we're all trying to achieve, and with every CD release and every public performance, we do our part to spread the word about the existence of the vibraphone. I believe that's what is possible. There are probably other viable ideas out there, too.

And while I'm on the subject, the fate of the vibes is tied very closely to the fate of jazz. I know that's not news. But, the state of jazz is a good indicator of the future of the vibraphone. Well, sales of jazz recordings has dwindled to about 2% of all sales. Jazz clubs, concerts and festivals have suffered from the economic slow-down just like most other businesses, too. And, look at the demographics involved: the jazz audience is increasingly aging. Young people have a great variety of exciting kinds of music to grab their attention. There was a big resurgence of jazz exposure to young people in the 70s when the "jazz in schools" movement took off nationally. But, that too, has cooled considerably.

It's kind of ironic to me. I used to wish that jazz would become more of an "art" music, like classical, in order to benefit from the corporate and institutional support that follows. Well, that has happened to some extent, and jazz is suffering the same doldrums as classical music (also 2% of the music market, and facing an even more rapidly aging audience). I don't know the answer. I just do my thing and am grateful for the good fortune that has come my way. I would love to see new players bring as yet undiscovered musical innovations to the vibraphone, catching the attention of a new generation of music fans. More innovation, please!

Gary,

Thanks for your kind reply, and of course I always love it when you agree with me!!

Personally, I subscribe to Artie Shaw’s statement that jazz is essentially a progressive music, and that it follows a linear path rather than the circular path that pop music follows (recycling based on changes in fashion, technology, etc.). And there was this period following the Great Depression when the progressive nature of jazz intersected with the progressivism of our nation, and Benny Goodman meant something beyond just being a swing clarinet bandleader. Louis, Benny, and Duke were real symbols of American aspiration and idealism, and to the extent that the German swing kids embraced what they stood for. I felt that in the Beatles and in Dylan during their time (still relevant today), and I even felt that when I first heard Tango: Zero Hour although I didn't understand that visceral connection in the academic sense at the time.

I find myself very interested in a lot of jazz I hear coming from Europe, and feel that they seem to be less affected by a pop culture influence. I don't live there, so I'd have to defer to any of our European friends at the site.

As an unrelated side note, I've really been digging your rendition of "Faded Love" by Bob Wills, so maybe what we really need is a young country vibraphone player of great talent - a "Boots Randolph of the vibes."

John and Gary,

Love this thread - you really got to the heart of it, I think. There is a lot of emphasis on standards, and that is very important. We all need to know that repertoire. But then, if you are going to play that stuff, you better have some fresh ideas, cause we've all heard it a million times. After that, part of jazz tradition has always been what can be launched off of that. What is original.

There are some things that Herbie has said. One quote of his goes: "it is about excellence." He also talks about stepping way back, only thinking about people, communication, etc. Not very much about notes. That is why playing scales is not that fruitful after a certain point, IMHO. By the way, Herbie starts his first in a series of Norton lectures at Harvard today- a prestigious gig that was made famous by greats like Leonard Bernstein (...and I will likely be scouring YouTube later looking for this speech in full!).

And here are two more good quotes: Wayne Shorter recently said jazz means "I dare you." That about sums it up, no? And will also mention something that Steve Swallow once said that I have never forgotten: "the vibes are a baby instrument." In other words, they've only been around for less than a century. One great thing is they are not dying away, even if jazz in general is suffering. ALL the arts are hurting, and the status-quo musical IQ is way down. I liked Bruno Mars on the Superbowl but sadly, that is as sophisticated as pop gets these days. When Hamp and Getz and Paul Simon were part of popular music, that sure was pretty nice.

There is another thing about the vibes, which is how we can all fall in love with the instrument (even if we profess to hate the obscurity and lack of sideman opportunities compared to piano/bass/drums/guitar). It sounds cool. It looks cool, all shiny. It's very jazzy. A nice set of vibes is kinda groovy, like a fine sports car. That is something real, that maybe us folks on this site feel, and we can try to share with others every time we play?

Gary wrote, The only other ways for vibraphone to become more popular were touched on at the Congress. (1) the market needs an affordable entry level instrument to be competitive with other instruments. (2) More quality music needs to be composed and published for the vibes. (3) Today's and tomorrow's performers need to achieve visibility and commercial success to inspire young musicians to follow in their footsteps. I know, number 3 is what we're all trying to achieve, and with every CD release and every public performance, we do our part to spread the word about the existence of the vibraphone. I believe that's what is possible. There are probably other viable ideas out there, too.

I was thinking about this yesterday, and I thought I'd expand on this idea a little bit. Regarding #1, when I was a teenager the Jenco was the entry level instrument, and I wonder if there is anything comparable today price-wise. #2 totally makes sense to me, but it's #3 that had me thinking. I was a teenager during the late sixties, and there was one mallet player who was on commercial radio all the time thus allowing for the marimba to be displayed prominently on television quite a lot. That was Julius Wechter, who was the marimba/vibes player on all of the records by Herb Alpert. For those too young to remember, it's important to bear in mind that many of the acts who are thought of today as being the major sellers of their day - really weren't. They became major sellers over time as a result of having an in-demand catalog encompassing several decades, but even Hendrix was not a big seller during the period that he was alive. So people understandably are surprised to find out that among the top selling acts of the sixties were Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass (who outsold the Beatles in 1966), and also the Four Seasons (who used vibraphone extensively on their records in a Motown-ish style).

One of the highlights of seeing Frank Zappa was seeing Ruth Underwood or Ed Mann in action, and it's simply more practical today to use a Kat and avoid all that cartage (and that is not to denigrate the Kat as its own legit musical instrument in its own context). In 1970, I was just blown away to see Art Tripp actually playing a full-sized concert marimba in Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. But the associative problem that I find with electronic samplers is that people tend to think that it's the instrument's technology rather than the player who is the "artist." We all know that isn't the case, but speaking for myself - on solo piano gigs, people will come up and compliment my playing, and on electric gigs people always come up and compliment the instrument as if anyone could do exactly the same thing if armed with that technology.

This brings me back to Gary's #2, which is new music written for the vibraphone and I tend to believe that will be in classical music where acoustic music still seems to reign. And of course, that brings us back to Gary's original point about schools having mallet instruments available for young people to play and experiment with vibraphone music. I didn't have that, but it didn't stop me from getting a cheap Jenco to bang on in 1970, but that was 1970 and today is a different age.

In any event, I'm just throwing out some of my musings. I'll say one thing as far as 70's musicians go - anyone hip to Steely Dan knew what a vibraphone was, and anyone hip to Zappa knew what a marimba was. Of course, the latter was not a singles artist, and the Dan's hits tended to be the ones without vibraphone on them. Digital sampling has replaced those functions, and I don't have an issue with developing technology, but I would say that pushing into new and fresh areas of musical expression and not reinventing the past is going to be the ticket.

Consulting the I Ching about what the vibe congress might bring yielded...Ascending!

SincereAscending, the great auspicious.
United purposes above indeed.

The king avails of Growing,
a sacrifice on the twin peeked mountain
Auspicious.
Without fault.

Advantageous Trial: do not pause.

Great things are about to happen at the Vibe Congress!

what is this? looks good!

Yes, very good vibes me thinks...Thor brings his hammer!

Get a vibraphone/player into the Dave Letterman band/show and soon everyone will know what it is.

It's happened, but people still don't know what a vibraphone is (maybe because you only see it for 5 seconds!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExkWicvA3L8

why didn't you push to the front of the stage and steal the show. you had your moment! damn!!!

I did, but they edited it out. Security came and arrested me, it was on the news and the headline was "Xylophone Player Arrested at the Ed Sullivan Theater".

Haha!

Behn,
Have there been guest vibraphonists on the Letterman show? If so, I missed that(I don't watch regularly). To clarify, I meant that a vibes player should be a permanent member of the band, with even a solo once in a while, or some camera time, like the others.