Who’s got dirt?

Is there a case made for the dirty playing, the sloppy technique, the approximate sounds you can get from an instrument?


One name: Theolonius Monk.

Another name: Singer Louis Armstrong.

And Bob Dylan.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

We love those sounds. They create emotions from their very sketchiness, the very edge of mistake they walk to close to. Christina Aguilera is said to a perfectionist. But she had a song that described a messy life. And her producer made sing it first thing in the morning. “But I need to warm up, she protested! I need to practice, to wake my voice up.” The song was made, she had to sing it. No questions about it either. And they had to put strong boundaries after that. So she wouldn’t redo the take, erase the “bad one”. Make a perfect one. She is obsessive about her craft. How could she let go. Well, let go she did. And they pressed the song the way they recorded it. And Christina acknowledges that it is a good song. Acknowledges now. Not at the time.

Omar Hakim’s playing always possessed some amount of dirt. Accurate always. But a bit dirty. Edgy. That’s what makes it breathe. It gives his playing a life, a spark. And musicians recognized that. From Madonna to Dire Straits.

Jazz, oh Jazz was full of dirt. Miles bent notes, Art Blakey’s momentum, Ron Carter’s use of dissonances. What a festival of incorrectness!

I am exploring that. People wonder how we can live in the age of machine. Here is a way: dare to be yourself. With dirt and all.