Speaking Freely

In fact, his antipathy for this petrified jazz has forced him to repudiate the entire genre: "For me it's not interesting to be involved with jazz music, or what people have come to think of as jazz music. I hate the word now. It's background music, restaurant music. People ask me what kind of music I play. I say I don't play jazz." And neither, he insists, does Yoshihide. "Otomo's work incorporates turntables and samplers, which are elements that so-called 'traditional' jazz musicians hate. But music isn't about particular instruments. A sax isn't any more genuine than a turntable. I used to go to John Cage concerts, and he would amplify a cactus, strike the spines and make a whole performance out of that. Any instrument works if the performer insists upon his or her own individuality. And as technology creates new instruments, we must learn to use them."

Technology, of course, takes many forms. Bley's label has released a number of enhanced CDs that set improvised music to improvised visuals, in this case computer-generated abstract paintings. In addition, Bley has spent the last few years exploring the implications of network technologies like the Internet. "In less than five years, you'll be finding that everything will be changing in the distribution of art," he says. "All music will be digitized and available for you to download right to your home computer. And live appearances will evolve, too, with Internet simulcasts and those kinds of things. Going to play a concert, whether in Coral Gables or in Europe, will seem as antiquated as asking a president to do a whistle-stop tour from the back of train cars."

After the festival, Bley goes back to upstate New York. Yoshihide returns to Japan. Rivers makes his way upstate to his Orlando home. Only Maslak remains in Miami, hopeful that he can create enough local interest to turn the festival into an annual event. "A lot depends on the turnout we get and the response we get. To present this type of music down here especially is like pulling teeth. Generally speaking, audiences have no knowledge of it and no experience of it. Florida is a very commercialized venue, at least as far as music is concerned. So I'd love to see something like this happen next year. It all depends on the response."

The Japan/U.S. and Friends Creative Music Festival is being held Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1, at Coral Gables Congregational Church, 3010 De Soto Blvd, across from the Biltmore Hotel. Showtime for both nights is 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 per day or $25 for a two-day pass. Call 324-4337 for more information.

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