Peter Hum at Thriving on a Riff (attention Big Media, if the Ottawa Citizen can host a full-time jazz blog, so can you... ) has a really interesting interview with alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel, a onetime Society co-conspirator now living in Berlin. It's nice to have some thoughts on New York vs. Berlin from someone who's lived the hardscrabble jazz musician life in both towns:
"New York really is a great and wonderful city, and the level of music and musicians there is out of this world." He knows exactly what he's talking about -- he had Chris Potter playing on his Manhattan School of Music grad recital.
"But," he continues, "I do think that it is ceasing to be the only place. For a while, and there are still musicians who say this, New York was the only place where you could go and see great music every night, and hear new experimental things and great creative musicians.
"New York definitely changed me as a musician and changed my playing for the better. I played with people who helped me and my music develop and saw some of the best concerts of my life. However, prices are still rising there and the city is already way overpriced. It's extremely hard to make a living as a musician there and most musicians I know are teaching more than they are gigging to pay the bills. Some people still love it and find the hardship worthwhile, but I reached a point in New York where I wasn't enjoying the scene at all anymore.
"If I played a gig, I had just run from teaching two hours away in Westchester and was too tired to even think about the music at the beginning. If I had a session I was stressed about making it to teaching in time. The rent was high, the living conditions bad, and everything just took so much effort that I was starting to reach a point where none of my energy was going into practicing my horn, writing new pieces, or even enjoying the music when I was doing it. Because of this I find it a great relief to be relocating to Europe, and as I talk to friends of mine in New York, (mind you some still love it and will never leave), more and more people say that they have thought about leaving also. Clubs are even starting to shut down there because they can't afford to pay their rent anymore and I think a lot of people are just starting to feel like the stress is too much.