Ain’t Nothin’ But a “Z” Thang.

A rare moment for Rachel Z. Standing still.

My plan for this blog is to update it every two to three days.  But events have a way of overtaking our best-laid plans.  I’ve fought a dry, hacking  cough that seems to be threatening to turn into something else, though since I’ve been vaccinated for both the flu and the H1N1 virus, I’m clueless about what that might be.

I’m trying to knock out a few CD reviews for Allaboutjazz.com, but since I’ve felt like crap and haven’t slept worth a damn for a week or so, it’s been hard to bear down and summon up 500 words of brilliance.   Additionally, I’ve tried to pick up a few extra bucks with some freelance writing assignments.

Freelancing was never something I ever thought I’d get rich doing, but I had some small hope that it was something I could do steadily.   When it was working for me, I had years where I was turning down assignments because I just didn’t have the time to handle all the work coming at me.  

As newspapers and magazines have begun to wither and die on the vine so has the work.   I’ve been at this since 1992 and I can say with all confidence 2009 has been the absolute worst year I’ve ever had as a freelancer.   Where I used to have much success writing for online publications, this year when I made submissions to The Root, Salon, The Griot and The Huffington Post, all I got back was dead silence.

It used to be sites were starved for daily content and they would give an unknown writer with a good story idea a shot.  That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.   Today websites are spoiled for choice with no shortage of professional journalists looking for work.  That’s great for the websites, but it means it’s a lot harder for a freelancer to get a foot in the door.

A skill that isn’t used soon becomes dull and rusty.   I like conducting interviews with musicians, even though nobody pays a nickle for them.   What I don’t enjoy is transcribing  the tape, but I do it just to stay sharp.   For over a week I’ve chased down Rachel Nicolazzo (a.k.a. Rachel Z.) for an interview for Allaboutjazz.   Rachel Z. is one of the most interesting and creative pianists working today.   She’s played with Wayne Shorter, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White and toured the world for two years playing keyboards for Peter Gabriel.

The last rock concert I attended was Gabriel’s “Growing Up” tour when it rolled into the now closed Germain Amphitheater.   I wanted to go, but the ticket prices were way too expensive for Vanessa and I to attend.  The only reason we was able to go was because Z graciously came through and gave us passes for some prime seats for the show.   I had always heard Gabriel put on one hell of a stage show and he did not disappoint.

We saw Rachel Z.  live in performance  in a far more intimate venue, The 501 jazz club which featured live bands and where you were within arm’s reach of the musicians.   The only thing bad about the 501 was how your clothes ended up reeking of cigarette smoke.   But it was a great place to hear jazz as it was meant to be.   Unfortunately,  live jazz isn’t the draw it once was and the 501 is gone, though not entirely forgotten.

So I’ve played text messaging tag with Rachel Z.   We were supposed to do the phone interview on a Saturday afternoon, but when I called she was hanging out with her parents and had forgotten about the interview.  No problem, we’d just reschedule.  We moved it to the following Tuesday.  Uh-uh.  That was the day I had handymen working on the bathroom and installing new windows.  

I call Rachel Z. and beg her forgiveness and can we shoot for another day this week?  Fine she says.  Howzabout we try for Wednesday, Thursday or Friday?   Cool, she says.  Just let her check to see what time works best and she’ll text me right back.

But she doesn’t.  Not later on Tuesday and not on Wednesday either.   Thursday evening as I’m pulling into the parking lot of a grocery store, my cell phone starts chirping.   It’s Rachel Z. and we can we talk Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.  Hell yeah, I say.

Friday at 2:00 pm rolls around and I call Rachel Z.   No answer as all I get is here voice mail.   I leave a message, but Rachel doesn’t respond to voice messages.  So I text her to ask if our mutually agreed interview time slipped her mind again.   A few minutes later Z sends me a message saying this wasn’t a good day for her and could we try for next Monday at 8:00 pm instead?

In search of the elusive Bad Bunny.

What else could I say but, “yes?”   I sighed deeply and rolled my eyes heavenward, but I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.   There’s a reason Rachel Z. calls her publishing company Bad Bunny Music and trying to nail her down in one place for 30 minutes is showing me why that is.

I now have serious doubts whether this interview will ever happen.  Maybe it shouldn’t happen.   I’d like to conduct this interview, but at some point the law of diminishing returns kicks in and you have to ask yourself, “Is this really worth the hassle?”  

Quincy Jones said he never met a musician that wasn’t a little bit crazy.  I bow to his superior knowledge, but my experiences with jazz artists is they’re usually pretty down to earth and easy to talk to.   Geri Allen had just finished making dinner when I called.   Everette Harp rapped to me like we had known each other for years.   Cheryl Bentyne was funny and if you don’t laugh at least once when you’re talking to Patti Austin you’re probably clinically dead. 

Rachel Z. is wired a little bit differently than most ordinary folks, but then most creative types often are.  You have to make allowances for their occasional eccentric moments and adjust accordingly.   First though, you have to get their attention and I don’t have hers yet.

Such is the life of the freelance writer.   We spend a lot of time chasing our own tails.   We will see what happens Monday night.

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