I honestly don't know what I thought of the piece one way or the other, because I couldn't get past seeing Mr. Kovler performing as the narrator in his own piece. He looked like he had just fallen out of bed- he wore a sweater with the collar rumpled up haphazardly, blue jeans and sneakers. His hair looked unkempt, his face like he hadn't shaved for three days. He looked so bizzarly out of place in front of the (generally very stylish, I might add) all black-clad orchestra. My date for the concert had the same reaction.
I wouldn't mention this, and I know maybe it's not fair to single Mr. Kovler out, but I've thought about it several times over the past year. I've gone to a show jazz, classical and otherwise, when paying sometimes substantial money to see a performance, and the performer dressing and acting on stage in a way that never acknowledges it. While I've never said anything, I've definitely noticed, and it's always I think subconsciously biased me against whoever I'm seeing. We're paying to see a performance, dammit, not just a string of notes, and I'd appreciate at least a modicum of effort to acknowledge that. Rock acts from The Clash to Coldplay to whoever certainly are very aware of that, no matter what they look like, and lots has been made over the years about how jazz musicians from Miles to Mingus to Duke to the Art Ensemble present a performance.
I'm not saying we should all go Young Lion again and wear suits to a $10 gig again- I would certainly hate it- but when I perform I think about what I wear for either fashion, or theatricality or both. If I'm soloing with an orchestra (which, of course, hasn't happened) I take that into account in how I dress. (If I'm going to or playing at Lily Pad or the Sidewalk in New York, obviously, I care a lot less) If he'd dressed in a way that acknowledged the material but wasn't "dressy", I know I'd have a different reaction, and might have heard the piece better.
While I'm grateful that the mores of concert performance have gotten a lot less stuffed shirt, have we gone too far the other way in the way we present music. In jazz and improvised music, has this been a detriment, a boon, or something else? Or am I getting too cranky in my old age? Thoughts/rants/feedback appreciated.
UPDATE: See the comments section- clearly my reaction was not universally shared, and there was much more to it than I saw. Had I been able to go to the pre-concert talk, or seen Mr. Kovler afterwards, I might have responded differently. He was going for something that I didn't get. As I said, I am more interested in larger issues of performance presentation that this one case, and maybe this was the wrong example to use. More tomorrow.