Arlen Roth on Session Player Attitudes
As the late, great Tal Farlow once said to me “Ain’t it amazing how there’s no end to the kinds of attitudes you come across?” Well, it certainly can be true, and there can be many rather rude and off-putting tacks that many experienced players can take with non-experienced players, but it is all something that be learned from, for sure!
The funniest thing about all of this is how it can be experienced on so many different levels, too. Each one, as you experience it, can have an effect upon how you view the other “attitudes” since they really do sometimes tend to “cancel” each other out! For example, when I was 18 years old, and starting to break into the recording and performing scene in Woodstock, NY even the “folkies” who largely inhabited that scene at that time had a certain “holier than thou” attitude about a lot of what they did, even if I was able to perceive the fact that they really weren’t very good musicians……still, I had to respect their place in the food chain, and understand that no matter how good I really was, it was experience that I really needed to gain!
Turn the page, and all of a sudden I’m thrust into the New York session scene, and confronted with a far more “heavy” attitude, possessed by far more “heavy” players! Well, now what does this mean? Do I then go back to Woodstock, carrying this new adopted “New York” attitude towards the “Folkies”, or do I simply go back into the scene, accepting all of the shtick that each level of music making can dish out!?
Of course, the best way was to learn to adapt to each and every situation I’d encounter, and nowadays I can see certain “types” coming a mile away! Of course the worst attitude you can encounter is the one where it’s a musician who really knows nothing, but still has to feel like they’re the boss of everything that goes down on the recording, and who must take credit for everything, creatively! These people should be allowed to think they are whoever they think they are, and then you should just chalk it up to experience, and simply “move on.”
The problem with a lot of session player’s attitudes is that they fail to realize that they are only “hired guns” and that the real boss is the artist, or the Producer of the session. Perhaps this is where the “attitude” thing comes from in the first place; the fact that the players must feel larger than the actual situation they are playing in. I had two guys like that in my band a few years back, and I was so glad to finally let them go…it was like I could breathe again!
So in short, remember that the best “attitude” to come across is the positive one, because it’ll only help to cement the positive nature of what you should be delving out in your own “attitude.”