He was the epitome of sophistication and class yet his music was acceptable to all classes of people. His music surpassed labels and genres. As a pianist he ranks among my top five most influential pianists. I was deeply saddened to hear the news of his passing. The news came not too long after the passing of one of my mentors Harold Battiste which put me in a more than vulnerable state. I’ve been among Mr. Toussaint’s physical presence at least a dozen times and I never knew what to say to him. He had an aura that demanded a high level of respect without intimidation. I never saw him without a three piece suit on (even in the middle of a 100 degree New Orleans summer). I always told myself “…don’t bother that man, he gets enough strangers bothering him everyday…”. I wish I could go back in time to take advantage of the many opportunities to shake his hand and look him in the eye and tell him how much his music touched my soul.
Below is a solo vibraphone recording I did at Jeff Coffin’s house. I hope to have the musical career and touch people’s spirit the way he did.
It’s been a little while since I updated this blog. I have been told that not keeping my blog up to date will result in people not coming to the site anymore. I like the idea of people coming here once a month for an update as opposed to going to my Facebook profile where I mostly talk about sports. Anyway, here goes my informal and humbling attempt for an update.
It has been about year since my wife and I sold our house and left New Orleans for Nashville. Nashville has been the change I was looking for. It is not New Orleans which is both a good and a bad thing. There is a laundry list of reasons why I left New Orleans but the biggest reason is to expose myself to a bigger spotlight. In an ideal world I would have a residence in about a dozen cities and spend a month of my life in each one. Obviously I’ve chosen some wrong genres of music to make that dream come true. This will be my 5th city I have taken up residence in (Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, and Nashville) and I have grown quiet accustom to how the DMVs work and the correct paperwork to show for changing plates.
Since moving here I’ve had some great opportunities to record and/or perform with the likes of BJ Thomas, Pat Coil, and Steelism at some great venues such as Music City Roots and The Jazz Workshop. I wish I could make a longer list of the other great musicians I’ve made music with here but that list will unknowingly leave off some great people. Living here has given me an insight into the music industry that has been very educational. This city has helped me redefine what it means to be a successful musician. To see more on that topic please visit my previous blog post here. I see some of the greatest musicians here in Nashville that make their living through a day job while I’ve heard other musicians that play high profile gig$ refer to themselves as “stage actors who learn the notes on the records”. A few years ago both of these scenarios would have confused me but it somehow makes sense now. The music industry is a lot smaller than what I imagined it would be. It is still hard for me to detail my opinions and experiences without a bit of rambling. I’m not one to reminisce about the good old days and pray that the old music industry will come back. I’m more of a “living in the present and accept reality” sort of guy. Nashville is a southern Los Angeles. It is a small town with a southern charm fading ever so slightly.
I’m looking forward to 2016: Both Bionica and The Wee Trio will be releasing new albums. Look out for this news in a future blog post!
I will leave you with a few highlights of my 1 year anniversary in Nashville.
[Editor’s note: Every week, New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose, or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask:AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
Since I was very young, I’ve always wanted to be a successful musician. I have practiced and played in many bands and done everything I can to get my music out there, but the dream of making it big just seems to get further away and more impossible. I feel like I should just give up, but I love music so much and want to succeed at it. How can I get there? How can I be a really successful musician?
Thanks, Striving For Success
Dear Striving For Success,
This is an excellent question and I’m going to answer it as simply and as directly as I can, with the hopes that it makes the point as clear and as helpful as possible.
The traditional modern concept of success — being the measurement of monetary income as the primary indicator of effort and mastery in a certain field — is essentially a scam, a con, and a lie. To equate success with an amount of money earned, or an amount of fame achieved, is at best an unfortunate miscomprehension of the very nature of success. At worst, it’s a malicious distortion.
To truly succeed at something is to devote yourself to what you love, and to allow that devotion to bring out the best and most admirable qualities inside of you, so that in the end, you ultimately succeed at the only effort that really matters: becoming a better person than you were.
The musician whose efforts in music only add to the size of their bank account is really just a businessperson — a successful banker, not necessarily a successful musician. If music is the means to an end, and that end is money, the music might as well be real estate investment, or commodity trading. Individuals whose primary interest in music is positioning themselves to impress others with their style and wealth may be successful marketers and salesmen, but they’re not successful musicians, or even successful human beings. They’re just rich.
The idea that making money is the best indication of success is fundamentally flawed. Far too often the individuals who make the most money are the biggest failures in every other area of life, most notably those related to personal integrity, kindhearted values, and quality of character. Many people think that achieving material success is worth total sacrifice in every other part of their life — but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Success in one area of life should enable further and more meaningful success in all the other areas, too. Success materially and failure spiritually is no success at all.
Furthermore, success is not power over others, but discipline over oneself. Success is not doing whatever one wants, but doing what one is truly meant to do. Success is not fulfilling one’s most immediate desires, but fulfilling one’s true purpose — and fulfilling it despite obstacles, inconvenience, or how much it differs from what one otherwise feels like doing.
At best, the typical material conception of success inspires the shallowest and most superficial type of selfish ambition, and at worst, it keeps one hopelessly locked in a cycle of perceived failure, vicious competition, and unfulfilled lustful desire. It’s set up from the start as a losing game, so that no one can ever really succeed, because in the contest to see who is “biggest” or “richest,” no one ever really wins. You just keep scheming and clawing and battling, getting closer to emptiness and further from the truly worthwhile things in life.
Music, like all the arts, is a sacred pursuit. It is an end in itself. The reward of playing music is in the joy of experiencing it, and a successful musician is the person who becomes so connected with that spirit of music that he or she becomes inseparable from it. The successful musician aspires to be music itself.
So, for you to be a successful musician, all you have to do is really, really love playing music. Really, really, really love it. Worship it and adore it and turn yourself over to it. And then allow the music to make you a better person from the inside out, not just a richer person or a more famous person, but a more valuable person to the people around you and to the world, and to yourself.
Now go put all the energy you’ve spent worrying that you’re not successful enough into just playing and loving your instrument. If you can say that you’re in love with playing it, you can say that you’re successful. Never give up on what you love. It’s what makes life worth living.
Your friend, Andrew W.K.
A new review of The Wee Trio from my second most favorite country.
“Listening to Live at the Bistro is a truly exciting and fulfilling for Both the mind and the body. We hope to see them as soon as possible and listen to These latitudes.” – Di Luigi Sforza – Italian Allaboutjazz
Track Listing: Cherokee; Drum Intro; Sabotage; Vibraphone Intro; hite Trash Blues; Queen Bitch; Bass Intro; There Is No Greater Love; Space Jugglers; New Earth; Ranthem; Tig Mack; Drum Intro; White Out.
Personnel: James Westfall: vibraphone; Dan Loomis bass; Jared Schönig: drums.
Record Label: Bionic Records
New Orleans Jazz CDs of 2013
“Vibraphonist James Westfall, a Houston native who again makes his residence in New Orleans, is an immaculate player who assembled The Wee Trio, a talented and aggressive group, in 2005. The Wee Trio Live at the Bistro stands as an excellent representation of the variety of rhythms, styles and textures – from funk, to swing and even a cover of David Bowie’s “Queen Bitch” – of their performances.” – Geraldine Wyckoff
Every year Offbeat Magazine hosts an awards banquet here in New Orleans. I’m honored to be on a list with musicians that I look up to and/or have mentored my career. The idea of winning or “beating” these artists has no appeal to me but I can’t help but to feel honored to be mentioned on the same list!
If you would like take part in the voting process you can click on the link below.
Or if you would like attend the event please visit: