Maybe it's just me, but it seems like most musicians I meet are more into making music than listening to it. They don't care about how music sounds at home; many are satisfied with the sound they get from boom boxes or chintzy computer speakers. Some tell me they're more focused on the way the players play than the sound.
Sure, I've met a few musicians with ears for sound. That happened just recently when I struck up a conversation with jazz drummer and audiophile Billy Drummond.
He readily conceded my point: "Getting a good hi-fi isn't high on their list of priorities. Like everybody else, musicians listen to music while they're on the computer or sending e-mails. That's what music is now, a backdrop, so fidelity isn't important anymore."
Sad, but true, so what is music for? Drummond had a ready answer. "It's for people to enjoy," he said. "It can take you somewhere, you can dance to it, music conjures emotions. For musicians it's an expression, a way to challenge ourselves, and it can be inspiring. If you're a saxophone player and you're listening to Sonny Rollins or John Coltrane, music can motivate you. It lets you see what's possible.
"I really enjoy playing (live) for myself and for an audience, I want people to feel something when I play. When I listen to Tony Williams or Elvin Jones (two great jazz drummers) and what they've accomplished it's mind boggling, that's what music means to me."
That's all great, but how did he become an audiophile? Drummond explained that he was always an avid music collector, and when he first heard his favorite music played on a really great system he was blown away: "Wow, I never heard my music sound so real, so vibrant, so great."
It turned you on, I asked. "Right, I was even more motivated because I could hear the nuances of Max Roach's drum set or Tony Williams ride cymbal. It helped me become a better player because I can get in touch with the thing I'm chasing after. Which is, how can I sound as good as these guys."… Read more