I’ve gotten a bit spoiled when it comes to concerts — I know enough professional players that I rarely pay admission to attend live performances. Of course, there are some artists that are worth the price of admission and Eric Johnson is unquestionably one of them.
My son and I had the opportunity to catch Eric Johnson’s group at the Sellersville Theater just over a week ago and it was worth the drive and the price of admission. As it was my son’s first ‘rock’ concert I’m pleased he witnessed musicianship of this high caliber.
The great thing about this band is that they play together — not just laying down a foundation for flashy guitar and machine-gun-like riffs. They interact and respond in the moment, much like a well-developed jazz group. In fact, that’s the way I prefer my group to work and, apparently, the way Eric J wants his to function as well. This was one of the best bands I have ever seen live.
In an even greater sense I came to a realization during the show — good music and musicianship is appreciated, even if it’s in a niche market. Eric Johnson transcended the typical definition of a ‘rock guitarist and band’ and set a flame to an idea that has been rolling around in my mind lately: It’s time to transcend the narrow definitions of a music market and bring high quality music to the public. Sure, some will want beer-guzzling ear-splitting volumes and over-energized power-chording, but there are a lot of listeners out there who don’t want this and maybe some who will decide it’s good once they hear it.
I am going to move my group in this direction — not changing the actual music or character of what we do, just expanding it sonically so it opens out to a wider audience. Jazz has become its own worst enemy, especially with the penchant to always look back and pay homage to the past. It’s time to face front and advance — after all, jazz was a non-conforming style of music and life when it first appeared and now most often gets identified as either ‘old people’s music’ or background ambiance for restaurants. My group does not follow this Wynton-esque view and it’s time, I feel, to make some bold steps forward and bring what we do out to as many people as possible without watering it down or playing down to our audience in any way.
Time to get really serious — like Eric Johnson.
Power trio jazz, perhaps?