To make a steady living as a jazz musician is in itself no mean feat, and Mr. Fuller has done so his whole life. His experience offers some insight into the requirements for survival as a working artist, especially in a specialty like jazz where fame and fortune are not realistic goals. Talent most certainly helps, but single-mindedness, passion, humility and the ability to live modestly seem critical too.
I sense a kind of manufactured bias towards pianists who choose to work with others, as if a musical life that is spent working in collaboration rather than in the spotlight is a kind of disappointment (hint: re-read the title of the article). Buried near the end of the article is a disclosure by Fuller that he in fact makes $80,000 to $100,000 a year playing, a pretty respectable amount in the jazz field. Why not celebrate the fact that a jazz pianist who has managed to maintain an extremely stable career for years while overcoming enormous personal odds is able to make a solid living from his love of playing jazz?
Be sure to check out the tracks of the Larry Fuller Trio on the multimeda sidebar. Although Sontag's article makes no mention that Fuller has ever led his own trio, the Larry Fuller Trio's recording on Pony Boy Records lists Fuller on piano joined by the legendary Ray Brown on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums.
One of the things I mention in workshops I give about my blog is how the media's perception of collaborative pianists colors what we do. Could you imagine the direction of this blog if I had named it "Accompanist's Corner"? "In the Shadows"? "At Your Service"?
And if there ever was reason that much still needs to be done, simply take a look at the anonymization of the pianists (and the abuses hurled at them) who are mentioned on a Twitter accompanist search.
Previously on the Collaborative Piano Blog: