Last Call

Duke Ellington, Elvis, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, the Stones, Miles Davis, Prince, Zeppelin … all the music John Bohlinger loves was born from the trailblazing jazz and blues of Bessie Smith (above) and Satchmo.

While watching the Ken Burns documentary Jazz, I realized all the music I love was born from the jazz and blues of Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong.

Ancient Egyptian paintings and sculptures all look like they were created by a sixth grader. They are stiff, flat profiles with feet, nose, and chin pointing in the same direction: no depth, no realism. All art was this primitive until the 5th century, when Greeks took a giant step forward … literally. They developed contrapposto, where a standing human figure is posed with their weight resting on one leg. The weight shift brought organic movement, bringing the paintings and sculptures to life. (Check out the 5th century Kritios Boy, which is the earliest known Greek statue to use contrapposto.)

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John Bohlinger shows off his glove game at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium before his musical director gig at the NHL Stadium Series 2022 on February 26.

At a recent outdoor NHL Stadium Series performance, it was so cold that my hands went numb. So, I had to improvise.

Last month, I wrapped the NHL Stadium Series at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium in front of 68,619 screaming fans and an army of TV production, crew, etc. The network chose to lean into Nashville’s Music City theme by including performances by 12 of the city’s biggest names in music. About a month ago, the director, Michael Dempsey, whom I worked with on several award shows, hired me as the music director. Here’s how it went.

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In the interest of science, go to a live show and see if you feel connected to your fellow fist-pumpers when the chorus kicks in.

Playing guitar in solitude is bliss, but for some of us, making music in public requires impersonating an extrovert.

Crowds energize extroverts. I find them draining. My favorite social evening plans are canceled social evening plans. When the pandemic hit, my first thought was: “Limited human contact. Sounds great! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I never had to shake hands again?”

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You can stare at the Mona Lisa and just feel its power, or you can wonder why she doesn’t have eyebrows and miss the experience.

If you’re constantly getting lost in the details, you might miss out on the enjoyment of things.

Life is like an Impressionist painting: You look too close and it’s just confusing, blurry blobs of paint, all textured and ugly. Stand back and all those unsettling, seemingly random clumps become Monet’s Water Lilies. That’s why I’m a big picture guy … or at least I try to be.

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