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Imagine this.  You go to the office one morning after having worked on a project until well past midnight the night before.  You’ll be laboring in a relatively high-pressure situation where each and every task you perform will be monitored by a highly-paid technician who has connected you to a complex maze of very expensive electronic equipment.  Moreover, your work product for the morning will be recorded and analyzed down to its most minute detail by the people who hired you.  They may spend days at it.  If that’s not enough to make you nervous about the entire experience, those people will eventually take your work product from that morning and make it available for public scrutiny as well.  And get this --- some people will actually get paid to write about the work you completed that one morning, so that other people can better decide whether they want to expose themselves to it.  But there’s more.  When you arrived for work that fateful morning, tired from having worked so late the night before, the boss gives you only a general idea of what she wants you to do, then tells you to just make up the specifics as you go along, depending on how the other workers do their jobs!


Could you do your work under such conditions?  Could you do it so well that other people would want to buy a recording of your efforts and listen to it over and over again?  That’s what the best of the jazz musicians do.  Perform by night; record by day.  And we’re not talkin’ a five-day week here, either.  I’ve never heard a jazz musician tell a promoter or agent, “Sorry, I take Tuesdays off.” 


Then there’s the struggle it takes a good, working jazz musician to achieve the required  level of proficiency.  Years and years of practice.  A load of talent.  And significantly, a willingness to forego the security most people take for granted in our society.  Nightclub gigs and record deals don’t come with paid vacations, pension plans and medical insurance.


Yet despite all of these circumstances, great jazz is still being played and recorded.  An objective economist or workplace scholar would conclude that it just doesn’t make sense.  What manner of person would take such risks and endure such pressure for such small rewards?  The answer is deceptively simple.  Jazz musicians are true artists.  They do what they do for love of the music and the creative process.  Watch them work and you can see it.  Listen to a good jazz record and you can hear it.


So next time you put on some jazz, whether it’s one of those evenings where you hang on every note or one of those afternoons when the music is just contextual, give a mental nod to the folks who made it all possible --- the musicians.  They really deserve it.


Well, time to go.  We’re working on Don Stiernberg’s next release, and the studio beckons.  I just love to watch those cats work!


Steven Briggs

Barrington, Illinois

March, 2000




It’s the middle of Fall, 1999.  I’ve just retrieved my e-mail from somewhere in cyberspace, I’ve just communicated electronically with our web developer in Great Bend, Kansas, and I’ve just sent and received electronic messages from Don Stiernberg in Chicago, from a music critic in New York, and from a friend in California.  All of this happened over the last hour in my Montreal hotel room!  And today I was given a tour of RSB Disque, the outfit that manufactured “About Time.”  Talk about high tech, wow!  What a world.  It’s even more daunting when one contemplates the turn of the century being right around the corner. What’s next?  Computer chips imbedded in our bodies?  Oops, that’s already happened.


Don’t get me wrong.  I love living in this high tech world.  It allows me to send this column from my laptop to yours, wherever you might be right now.  But to have meaning, technological change needs a historical frame of reference.  That brings me to “About Time,” Blue Night Records’ first release.  It truly is “about time.”  The tunes we selected are mostly from the 1940’s.  They evoke historical images, reminding us where we’ve been and helping chart our current position in a sea of change.  Take “Polka Dots and Moonbeams,” for example.  It’s about this guy who goes to an outdoor dance and sees the girl of his dreams for the first time.  She’s wearing a polka dot dress and dancing in the moonlight.  It’s such a simple scene.  Low tech.  I don’t know about you, but I need a dose of low tech now and then.


“About Time” began with the above notion in mind.  The tunes take us back to an earlier era --- when a guy had more time to dream about the gal in the polka dot dress.  As I drove home from the studio after each session, through an hour’s worth of gnarled Chicago traffic, I listened to the tape of the day’s work and somehow didn’t even notice the traffic.  Hope it has that effect on you too.


There’s another reason we decided to call our first release “About Time.”  As you may know from reading his bio elsewhere in this site, Don Stiernberg has been a professional musician for over two decades.  He has honed his craft playing various stringed instruments in every possible venue.  Bluegrass in beer joints.  Dixieland at ball parks.  Jazz in smoke-filled clubs.  Jingles in recording studios.  Yes, and even wedding music.  But he’s also played dynamite mandolin in sold-out concert halls and at music festivals attended by thousands.  I once saw David Grisman and Martin Taylor on a tour promoting the second “Tone Poems” release on Acoustic Disc.  At the close of one of the best sets of live music I’ve ever heard, they called Don to the stage.  These guys had been cookin’ for about two hours, and Don had been sitting in the audience with idle fingers (you musicians know what I’m talking about).  Well, he walked on stage, strapped on a mandolin, and kicked off “Sweet Georgia Brown.”  At that moment I knew it was “About Time” the world heard more of Don Stiernberg.


Finally, we’re new.  We’re very interested in your thoughts and suggestions.  Just e-mail them to me (


Until soon . . .


Steven Briggs

Montreal, October, 1999


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