Once again, I find myself as a band leader. They say that it is the weakest musicians that become band leaders for the same reason that it is ugly people who start swingers’ clubs. But there’s another reason. Many musicians just cannot do management. They don’t like the hard work, they fear failure or they find the whole organisational challenge too daunting. They may also be bad communicators which seems odd for an artist because communication supposed to be their business. In some cases, though, happily, not with the musicians I work with, there is a reluctance to engage with management issues. They see themselves as precious artistes and commerce as being below them. This is a little like a mother in a Jane Austen novel talking about a suitor: ‘But darling, he’s in trade’. This line probably never occurred in Jane Austen – I’ve never got round to reading her. Some musicians believe that an aptitude for business is a badge of mediocrity. It seems silly, but these attitudes persist.
Separating management from creativity is very difficult for an upstart band because a manager controls the levers of power it is bound to influence the creative process. Business and art have very similar mental processes – they do not occupy different parts of the brain.
Some of my work is as a creative careers mentor. I deliver talks and workshops in schools, colleges and career fairs. For this reason, I have decided to keep a log of the management of Chico Chica. I will inevitably make mistakes and I am sure I will make money and have a lot of fun with the band. Chico Chica was to become not just a band, but also a case study. I make no claim to special knowledge but I have discovered something: nobody has a clue. This is a wonderfully liberating thing to realise. I speak to so-called experts but they all disagree with each. Some say CDs are finished some say there life in them yet. Some think the era of the professional musician is coming to a close, others believe that ‘we are the movers and shakers and: With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory.’
You should be able to guess which side I’m on. I’ve still yet to resolve the CD conundrum though.
Chico Chica comprises three musicians, Hilary Cameron, Barbara Snow and myself. We are all experienced freelance Jazz musicians with our own interests and inclinations. Hilary is the purist Jazz musician of the three. She trained at the Manhatten School of Music and has a voice and playing style which suits a more Bluesy, American style. Barbara prefers Latin Jazz, She has led and co-led her own bands (Que Barbara and Candela) and spent fifteen years working around the world with Roberto Pla’s salsa band. She takes a multi-lingual approach, and often sings in Spanish, Portuguese and French. I have led and co-led various Latin Jazz function bands, worked with Rat Pack style swing bands, Music Theatre (mainly composition) as well a few experimental guitar projects (Zeigon).
Hilary and I were busy working and Barbara started to join us on some gigs. This resulted in a decision to form a band. It was to be unusual in that all the players sand. I now feel a little short-changed when a player doesn’t sing or a singer doesn’t play. We also happen to be very good friends and we all write. Furthermore, one of the trio (myself) had a reputation of being good at getting gigs and keeping a band with a busy diary.
Reputations are funny things. Chico Chica was launched in July 2010. Seven months later, and I have not delivered the full diary. Am I losing my touch? Is this era so different to the 1990s, the one in which my reputation was earned? Join in me in the journey. And remember, I am happy to hear of any advice, suggestions or comments.
It seems right at this stage to set myself a target. We are professional musicians so need to generate an income straight away. For this, using my contacts within the event industry, we play at functions. Often playing a chilled-out, ambient Jazz set or else the full fiesta experience. Conventionally, function or covers bands are regarded as an aesthetic cul-de-sac. What differentiates a band playing at Glastonbury and one playing a mile down the road at a wedding in a country house hotel is not musicianship but imagination. However, we live in an era that has to challenge conventional assumptions. So I have decided that Chico Chica straddle these two worlds. When it comes to straddling, we will become Olympic hopefuls and possibly world-beaters. And besides, needs must.
This will become a journal of how Chico Chica makes the journey. It will be unknown territory for me. Of course the most important task will be to record an album. This will take place in February 2011 and will be the focus of my attention. I will let you know how this goes in my February blog