Since I started playing music more seriously, I’ve often come in to contact with what I’m referring to as the M.W.B.A. or Musician with Bad Attitude gene. The bad attitude gene is exceedingly prevalent amongst musicians who quite notably perceive their own “chops” (or technical skill) as being better than the next guy, even if that supposed skill exists only in their own minds. For years it has been a notable characteristic of many who have crossed my path, and will probably continue to follow those who cross my path in future. I guess it has something to do with pride, as a means of solidifying one’s place on this earth. If not pride, it has to be fear. Fear that disarms the security of pretending to know better. Some of the M.W.B.As know what the better attitude is, but seem to know very little when it comes to social skills. Bear with me as I illustrate.
Most times, the gene can be detected upon M.W.B.A’s arrival at any given Monday night jam session. More often than not, his arrival is fashionably late as a means of indicating his grandeur entry. I would at this point stick out my hand to greet M.W.B.A., exchange the expected pleasantry, and initiate idle colloquial conversation. “Hi, I’m Josh – you are?”. Past experience has taught me to never initiate chit-chat with the M.W.B.A. – the conversation generally ends sooner that it starts. It usually goes something like this:
Me: So, what do you play?
M.W.B.A: Depends who’s asking.
Me: Nice! Uhm… I play bass.
M.W.B.A: Who doesn’t?
Me: So you play too? Cool.
M.W.B.A: Mostly jazz, I’m not into other genres. They’re below my level of playing.
This is the part where I stare awkwardly down the inner shaft of my drink, and pretend that the quiet effervescence at the bottom is more interesting than anything else happening around me.
I’ve heard stories of M.W.B.As in the jazz scene ejecting young players off the band stand because their level of playing is not up to scratch. What happened to playing music because you love it, and not because you’re trying to prove a point? I often get frustrated with some of the jazz musicians I regularly play with. They’ll spend hours debating about which player is more “cooking” than the next one, and how their own level of skill doesn’t match up with that other M.W.B.A from Cape Town who eats Charlie Parker bebop lines for breakfast! Play music! Stop trying to be someone else! If you do, you’ll never feel satified with who you are!
At best – I didn’t get into music to show everyone how flashy I play, No – it was more intrinsic, more holistic, a natural progression from that of a spectator of the form to an active partaker. A sincere attempt at communing with melodies that soar, lyrics that transcend, and harmonies that engulf me as though I were enveloped in a blanket of sound.
I know this topic is rather controversial but I’d really like to hear your opinion. Am I the only one who feels this way?