My artistic, maybe even my personal, aesthetic had me identifying with the music of John Lurie the first time I heard his compositions on record. Close to a bunch of things I cannot, or do not care, to be. The celebration of the idea. The joy in imagination. But serious, measured, and often biting. Love in darkness. The acknowledgement that illusion permeates commercial music and we are responsible to rebel against it intelligently. To question and act with care, craft, and commitment. That’s where I hear Mr. Lurie’s music to be. Someone else may take it an entirely different way. But there is no lying there. Some pain maybe, but no lying. And no nostalgia. A voice for the moment he was, and is, creating in.
I feel John Lurie’s music because it felt like me when not much else did. When I was plagued by doubt because I couldn’t do much of anything the way anyone else did it – play jazz jazz, burn through Parker tunes, feel honest while chunking power chords, or feel comfortable in the time constraints (whether long or short) of the commercial song as we currently celebrate it. I’m now able to consider my inability to assimilate to anywhere fully a gift, on my good days, though I still struggle with who I am not. I am also not John Lurie. It took me a while to stop trying to write anything as good as him.
There is something very personal to me in his music. The music understands me. I bet his parents, bandmates, lovers, friends didn’t love everything he wrote. I bet that hurt. They maybe even made the occasional suggestion or comment he found offensive. I bet people called it weird. Some stupid. Some probably used the “well he can’t really play” line. All that. The jocks thought he was eccentric and faggy. The jazzers mocked the rock. The intellectuals found him too playful.
It doesn’t matter. Didn’t matter to me when I got to love the music. That noise was organized for people like me. And everyone else.
I don’t presume to know anything about Mr. Lurie’s personal life. I can presume from his output he is relentless in his commitment to discovery. I can also observe he rebels against the obvious. Against what he’s done. What people expect. That I love. He trusts his audience. He leaves something to us. It doesn’t need to be obvious nor purposefully obtuse. That’s the art of John Lurie and why I love him. I don’t know him, but I love him.
I was in a hotel room in Nyack, Ny, the town where Steven Bernstein lives, but we were just passing through on a tour in the northeast. It was our first run out there, so by tour I mean driving around in a van playing to mostly empty bars. I remember though, I had messaged John a number of times to express respect. I am weary of idolatry or even adoration really, but I had reached out in hopes of talking. About nothing specifically. Just feeling a conversation happen. Expressing support. One thing I have learned in performing with musicians and artists I admire, and did as I grew up, is that none of us are that different than any other. We all like to interact if its honest, loving, and respectful.
I was in the hotel bed in the Super 8. A non smoking room for smokers. And I was on Facebook and began talking to Mr. Lurie. I hope he doesn’t mind me writing this. It is truly out of respect, and in aims of inspiring. So we were talking, and John was in Portland I think. He was very warm and we talked about the musicians that had come through his bands, and how they had touched my life. Billy Martin, Bernstein, Anton Fier.
I gave him my phone number if he ever wanted to talk. Within 30 seconds my phone rang. I knew his voice. I feel heavy hearted and tear swollen writing this. It was a very special moment. A real man that had been adored, and surely the converse, by me and many. That I had spent days listening to. I never thought I could make music like him, or anything like that. But he called me. And we talked for maybe 3 minutes. It was brief. I didn’t really breathe during the conversation. I’ve never had that happen to me.
More on John Lurie at www.johnlurieart.com