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Musical Osmosis Thru Musical Exposure

By Michael Stevenson


This is the follow-up to my article, On Musicianship and also about listening. I didn't have anyone point out or train me in being a sharing musician but I'm not claiming that it came naturally. I think it just came from the other musicians I performed with, although it wasn't something we spoke about either. It very well could have just been an occurrence that evolved from the music scene at that time!

I'm considered “old school”: I started playing by learning songs by Isaac Hayes who passed away today and prompted my writing this article, Quincy Jones, “The Bar-Keys”, “Kool and the Gang”, James Brown, “Chicago”, “Blood, Sweat and Tears”, “Sly and The Family Stone”, Jimi Hendrix, “The Beatles”, “The Who”, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Maynard Ferguson, Cannonball Adderly, Horace Silver, and many others.

The music was the music of the 60's and 70's but thru my music lessons I was exposed to classical, standards, Jazz, harmony and theory via Joe Fava and Mickey Baker. Before I started playing, I was fortunate to grow up across the street from Smokey Robinson; Aretha Franklin lived two streets over, I hung out with Diana Ross' younger brothers, and I would go to sleep listening to the Miracles singing under the street light. (I was around six-years old). My brother Jon was a classmate of Smokey but Jon also listened to Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Oscar Peterson, and many others, so that in turn meant that I listened to them also.

I also performed with the Detroit Central High School Stage Band, with the Detroit Central High School Troubadours, and The Norris Paterson Young Success Band, (which was a 19-piece orchestra that had all young musicians performing with at least one seasoned veteran musician in each section - except for us rhythm section musicians). Acoustical balance was a necessity and I guess we were expected to know it, it was incorporated into the rehearsals; the band director cued the volume levels on the rare occasion that we got “out of hand”! We were aware of volume, balance, and dynamics and we applied it to our playing: that was simply part of what we considered being a musician.

I state all of this to say that, at that time, music was evolving; styles coming into existence. Motown was grooming professionalism into their acts and growing up in Detroit, we went to the Motown Revues as well as jazz concerts and these venues also molded our concept of musicianship and professionalism.

The musicians I played with had hopes of playing for Motown; a few of them did record at Hitsville or audition to be backup band musicians. The experience of being around, listening to and playing with older seasoned musicians made listening and blending into the music something that JUST WAS.

The same type of learning was going on all over the planet; the melding of styles. Young bands, on both sides of the Atlantic, were basically learning from the same listening pool.

I've seen this aspect of “osmosis” being passed along when watching and listening to our oldest daughter, Robbie Love. Starting from a young age, Robbie had been exposed to the music of her mother Mary Love and later, our music; even singing background on some of our songs. Robbie sang in the church choir and practically grew up being in the studio, listening to her mother and I, coming to our performances as well as other notable musicians and recording artists in Los Angeles during the 70's and early 80's. In turn, Robbie has passed it along to her children, Jason of “Cap'N Hood” and Jenay.

The next article will be about trying to nudge other musicians to becoming sharing musicians. Until then, take care.

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