It might be obvious by now that one of my favorite venues in Montgomery is the 1048 Jazz and Blues Bar. The setting for taking photographs isn’t as good as it is at the Rock Bottom Pub. However, I love the atmosphere of the 1048. I’ve never seen it packed here, which gives it an almost small town pub feel, though it is in the heart of the city. The fact that so many people know each other here, and the friendliness of the bar tenders, adds to this.
What I really love about going to the 1048 is seeing the raw talent of the local musicians. Every week I’ve gone there has been a pleasant surprise. This past Saturday (4-30-11), I went expecting – from the website’s schedule – to hear a band I had never heard of called the Woodpeckers. As it turned out, the band was unable to make it that night. The 1048 promises live music 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so not having a band play that night simply wouldn’t do. So two musicians who didn’t know each other (and thus had never played together) were contacted by a mutual friend and asked to come play (according to drummer Andrew).
I had met the drummer, Andrew, before when he played with his brother, Jay, on Monday nights. He was accompanied by guitarist Jeremy (I hope I got your name right! I’m going on memory.), whom I don’t believe I’ve seen play before. Both of them are outstanding musicians, and though I could tell that they had never played together before (as I watched and listened to them work to match each other’s rhythm), they still managed to sound amazing together. They even managed to succeed when faced with an bar of people who couldn’t decide on what songs they wanted to hear, as evidenced by the drunkard who insisted on Alice In Chains and nearly started a fight when nearly everyone else disagreed on his music choice. (Fortunately, no fight actually broke out. Everyone basically ignored him, and he eventually quieted down. Thankfully.)
During the musicians’ first break of the night, I took a moment to speak with Andrew. He explained to me that many musicians learn to play by ear. This is in contrast to how I learned – by learning to read sheet music. With sheet music, everything is laid out before you like a map. The notes you’re supposed to play, how long to hold each note, the tempo, even the crescendos and decrescendos. Playing by ear, on the other hand, involves hearing pitches and rhythms and learning to reproduce them. It may sound easy, but unless you know the difference between a high E and a high C (for example) and know those notes when you hear them… Suffice to say, it takes talent to play either way. I love that I know how to read music and believe that it’s important, but I know that’s not the only way to learn.
I’m impressed by musicians who can play by ear because it’s something that I cannot do. Sure, when I’m playing, I can hear when I get something wrong. But that’s not the same thing. I am stuck relying on sheet music to play anything.
But to the point… It’s important to support local musicians. Go places where live music is played. Give them a chance, because there is so much raw talent out there. Musicians, the good ones at least, don’t play to get rich. They play because they love their music, because it’s their passion and they have fun doing it. They enjoy playing for an appreciative audience. Without the audience… Well, then they’re just playing to a brick wall, and who wants to do that?
If you’re in Montgomery, the 1048 downtown plays music every night of the week. Go check them out!