“This music is immediately accessible and appealing, going a long way toward Flaire’s goal of making jazz more visible (and audible).”-C. Michael Bailey
C. Michael Bailey is a senior writer for the All About Jazz website who over the years has offered an amazing number of album reviews, nearly two thousand as well as 579 other articles and reviews. He discovered my new album, Sounds Like Jazz, and has written a review on it:
Some highlights from the review (and my comments):
“Coming from seemingly out of nowhere, guitarist and composer Peter Flaire makes a case for exposing a larger audience to jazz.”
–If you wonder why isn’t jazz more popular, it’s not because it’s a style of music that simply fell out of favor with a contemporary audience because much of today’s music still carries a jazz influence (including hip hop, rap, and R&B). I can think of at least three reasons for the sag in interest. As discussed by musicians at one popular forum, one of the “problems” with jazz in today’s world is when there’s too much emphasis on improvisation, i.e., long solos with blazing notes. This is often impressive to other musicians, but consumers of music are not necessarily musicians themselves. How well an audience responds to a jazz musician’s improvisational indulgence depends on factors other than the virtuosity of the player.
Secondly, a lot of jazz presents the listener with dissonant tones. The use of altered and extended chords are at the core of jazz, so if you remove them you end up with the rhythms of jazz but with a bland harmonic texture and tone.
A third reason the jazz genre itself might seem unappealing at first, particularly to a younger audience, is because it’s associated with a history of covering jazz standards. There are brilliant versions of songs like “Autumn Leaves,” “Blue Bossa,” or “Round Midnight,” songs that jazz lovers might say seem to transcend time, but they are associated with the historical development of jazz. They are academic for students to learn from, and indeed there’s great value to this, but it leaves many listeners today with a lingering feeling that this is “old” music.
The characteristics some describe as making it unappealing to listen to jazz can be modified so that you still get a form of jazz. You get what “Sounds Like Jazz,” hopefully appealing to more people but that doesn’t disappoint those of us who are already fans of jazz. The smooth jazz movement said to have peaked around the 1990s was a similar attempt to make jazz more popular. Music technology and recording as well as how music is delivered to the public has vastly changed since then.
“The opening ‘Change’ is a contemporary take on love in the 21st century.”
–The lyrical theme of the song “Change” is about how even though the state of the world seems to be one in which it’s so hard to find compassion, and hope for the future appears to be gone, we can at least as individuals and then collectively change this even though change is something many people are not okay with.
” ‘Leaving Home’ is the closest thing to a traditional ballad that captures the essence of Flaire’s artistry.”
–I was writing songs when I was 19, and this is one of them, but it’s been altered in various ways to become what you hear on Sounds Like Jazz. It’s a song that actually has two meanings. The easy one to understand is a person wanting to leave a sad life behind to find a new tomorrow, but because memories of the past where you’ve had your home make it difficult this requires determination.
The other meaning behind the song draws from the philosophy of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In general, what humans know as the truth is not necessarily so because we are ultimately bound by our human limitations of understanding. The metaphor is that of a person who lives inside a cave and only sees shadows on the wall cast by the artificial light of a candle. What if someone could come out of the cave? They would see the true forms of things. They would find wisdom. They would have knowledge of a type that transcends those who only dwell inside the cave. The cave is “home” to people who believe the shadows they see are reality, and they don’t (or can’t) know anything beyond it. Sound a little like The Matrix movies? –as if those in the cave have taken the blue pill but those willing to venture outside the cave (if that’s possible) are willing to take the red pill?
Today, you find some people seem to be so bound by a socio-cultural or political reality to the point that they’re like someone living in Plato’s cave. There are forces that exert pressure to keep you inside a cave and call it a home. Once I became more aware of how these forces work I took more control over my own life, but it required “leaving home.” The song is sad because what I’m talking about is a solitary act. Nobody can take the red pill for you.
“Flaire is a capable singer with an immediately identifiable timbre.”
I try to sing cool and focused. Developing yourself as a good vocalist is one thing, but to find your own unique voice and a style that fits is something much more difficult and in some cases even more valuable. Think of the name of a famous singer and at the same time you can probably also hear the “identifiable timbre” of their voice. It’s the accomplishment of a mature vocalist.
Believe it or not, I spent many years wailing hard rock before I made the switch to jazz. In doing so, I discovered rather than having a loud emotional tone I prefer to sing in a way I consider to be cool and focused.
Thanking C. Michael Bailey for writing an album review that’s also cool and focused. Read the full review: May 2022: Music In The Air