2017 was a tumultuous year for everyone, politically or what have you, and I certainly had my own share of trials and tribulations. But 2017 was also a year of self-discovery (and I’m beginning to realize) as the good years should be. In contrast to other years, where I felt like my vision of music was expanding or contracting, this year, I felt decidedly more confused about my place and musical identity. On one hand, I suppose that’s a good thing, considering my professional career has developed to the point where I’m being dragged into the demands of specializing, both in terms of technical and technological proficiency and in terms of musical vocabulary. On the other hand, these kinds of demands have put a huge strain on my own musical vision, and I’m starting to recognize the limits of my ability to retain my own ideas and sound within the evermore specific demands of whichever artist I’m working with at the moment.
I shouldn’t be complaining, of course, because there’s so much work to be done in the Chinese market, whether it’s Jazz or Pop, or grunge rock or what have you. On the other hand, so much work makes it difficult for a musician to maintain their musical identity when the gleaming prize of more money justifies setting aside ones personal musical vision for a “job”. Finding that balance has been tough, this year, and I’ve been struggling to make sure that I can keep up with “me” among the growing demands of other artists, as they try to find their way through the mist.
But 2017 wasn’t just about struggling with musical identity. I had some major health hurdles to overcome: I was sick this year more than any other year I can remember, and in no small part due to my poor life choices and the demands of my career. I underwent an appendectomy in September and some fairly nasty complications from the surgery, I had food poisoning more than 4 times before the end of the summer, two bouts of the flu and a nasty cough that lasted for a month. It made me recognize the importance of diet and maintaining a healthy life regimen that I, for the last year, have been unable to keep up with. Robin remains a huge inspiration to me, more so now than ever, because of his discipline and strict regimen that keeps him healthy and young, mentally and physically. And the more and more I look around, I see musicians doing away with the image of Bohemian nihilists, instead choosing healthy lifestyles that promote veganism or vegetarianism and mindfulness that keep their body and mind at peak performance levels.
You might be thinking: man, this year sucked for Terry. On the contrary, I had a wonderful year, despite its up and downs. Perspective is important, and this year, I gained a LOT of it. While not every gig was the best and I had my fair share of ups and downs, most of all, I’m happy to be alive. Ultimately, there’s no greater gift, but to find that perspective. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Now, onto the music.
2017 had some incredible memorable gigs:
Jaleel Shaw and the Blue Note Beijing Jazz Orchestra
Probably the highlight of my year: Jaleel has been a huge hero of mine since I was in high school. When Blue Note Beijing asked me who I’d like to feature for our second Master’s Series show, I was pretty dead set on a trumpet player, but when I saw Jaleel’s name come up, I almost immediately switched my order of preferences. Having him play in Beijing again was amazing, and I even was able to arrange one of his songs, The Heavyweight Champion, a sort of contrafact of 26-2, for the band. It was exhilarating performance, and I’m incredibly thankful that Jaleel brought such an incredible fire to the stage at Blue Note, despite the jetlag!
Terry Lin and the ONE tour at Wukesong Stadium.
钟兴民 known to all as Baby is one of the most prolific composers of the Chinese pop industry, having written over 3,500 songs in 10 years and an all around awesome guy. He’s known for being incredibly demanding as a composer and director, but for some reason, I’ve always seen eye to eye with him no matter what he writes for me. After working with him on I am a Singer a few times, he asked me to put a horns section together for Terry Lin, one of the contestants, for the opening show of his new tour, back in August. The show featured Liu Xiaoguang, Kyle Gregory and myself on horns. Terry’s a great singer with a commanding stage presence and it was an honor to work out some of his arrangements for the horns.
No matter what happened, I learned a lot in 2017: about myself, and about my place (or lack thereof) in the music, this year. I’ve come to the conclusion that making myself uncomfortable is probably the thing I should continue doing most at this stage in my musical career: putting myself in situations in which I have to rely on my training more than my intuition, keeping my ears open at all times. I hope that somehow, whatever it is I have to say translates to more than just music (I have a hunch that it does) so I'm not just rambling about being a professional musician-- I just haven't had time to extrapolate that to anything else, yet!
At any rate, I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season and I’ll see you all in the new year! To 2018!