Woody Allen on the merits of practicing and New Orleans jazz

The Village Voice this week has a wonderful, sprawling piece on Woody Allen and his love of traditional jazz.

Yes, the same Woody Allen, he of the artsy movies that define the neurotic New York archetype, also happens to have a standing weekly gig at the Carlyle. If you’re wondering if they’re any good, it might be worth noting that even at about $100 a ticket, it’s typically a sell out crowd.

But Allen doesn’t consider himself a stellar musician, apparently. He told the Voice:

“I’m not just saying this to be amusing: To be even as bad as I am, you do have to practice every day,” says Allen, with a small, almost imperceptible chuckle. “I’m a strict hobby musician. I don’t have a particularly good ear for music. I’m a very poor musician, like a Sunday tennis player.”

(I loved reading this the same day I’d written a post about having to practice my beginner piano.)

You can judge for yourself whether Allen is as mediocre as he says. Here’s video of Allen and his band:

Another reason I loved the Voice article — Allen is wisely using his fame to expose fans of his films to the music he loves. He says:

“I’ve been a great jazz fan my whole life,” he says. “I certainly like modern jazz as well, but my favorite kind is New Orleans jazz. Something about the primitive quality, the simplicity of it, the directness. It is the one style of jazz that stays with me the most.”

“Early jazz was very pleasurable and very simple,” explains Allen. “After a while, that stuff became concert music, and the chord progressions got very complicated, and the harmonies got very complicated. It became less pleasurable. Not less great—it certainly was every bit as great and, in many cases, stupendously great and greater. But it required more concentration and more effort from the audience.”

Who knew Woody Allen and I were kindred spirits? Traditional jazz makes my heart soar. Listening to Arwulf’s Sunday morning WEMU show back in Ann Arbor exposed me to music I’d never known but I now love. Thankfully we can still listen through the magic of the interwebs.

As the Village Voice bemoans the sad decline of traditional jazz in New York, I’m reminded of another reason Jazz Fest is such a compelling destination for me — whether at the festival, at evening shows around town or just walking down the sidewalks of New Orleans, I’m surrounded by marvelous, joyous traditional jazz morning ’til night. I don’t have to seek it out as much as let it wash over me.

I don’t want to take it for granted, though, and we’ll be making an effort to support more traditional jazz here in New York.

Coming up soon:

  • Arthur’s Tavern — the Grove Street Stompers play Mondays
  • Sofia’s — Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks offer early New Orleans jazz Monday and Tuesday nights
  • Lovin Cup — third Thursday of the month is traditional jazz, produced by Tight Like This
  • Nolafunk organizes a whole load of great New Orleans music events in NYC

And sometimes, I even stumble across great trad jazz in New York, like seeing Baby Soda Jazz Band in Penn Station recently. Love those moments of serendipity.

Here they are in Times Square:


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Categories: creativity

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4 replies


  1. Katrina spurred me to visit – and fall in love with – New Orleans « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  2. I am grateful for: traditional jazz « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  3. Evolving Newvine Growing in 2011 to tighten the focus a bit « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  4. Recapping posts you might’ve missed about living life intentionally « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally

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