Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Al Tashlicheini L'es Zikna

I'm sure this is nothing new, but over the past few years I've become more aware of a number of older musicians -- who used to be mainstays of the simcha circuit -- who are no longer getting calls for gigs. I'm not certain why this is, although I have a few guesses. I suspect that the reasons include image, weaknesses in their playing due to age, bandleaders wanting a more contemporary sound which is often more easily obtained from younger musicians.

I'm not sure how the industry should be addressing the situation. As a bandleader, I understand the image problem of having, say, an 80 year old sax player on the bandstand. I also see the need to have players with a more contemporary sound on many gigs. And, it wouldn't be fair to the client to use a musician who is no longer at the top of his game.

But, as a musician who respects and has learned much from these musicians, I'm perturbed by the way the industry seems to have simply lost these people's phone numbers. Are there really almost no gigs where a musician with an encyclopedic repertoire of Klezmer/ Jazz/the Great American Songbook/traditional Jewish music (choose one or more of these) fits in? Shouldn't bands owe some loyalty to musicians who have played for them for years?

I don't know if there are any easy answers, but I thought I'd share these thoughts.