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But is it jazz?
February 15, 2007 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Jazz '71-'89 Dave Douglas posed the challenge: “Is there a writer who can take on the project of an unbiased overview of music since the end of the Vietnam War?” The Bad Plus answered (though not unbiased). The Guardian and NY Times weighed in. Suck it, haters. And ultimately, Behearer used a wiki to answer the call.
posted by klangklangston (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is really great. I'm going to have to process it a bit. Thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 2:31 PM on February 15, 2007


There should be some debate as to whether to add Can to the list, though, if you ask me.
posted by koeselitz at 2:33 PM on February 15, 2007


Yeah, I'm still working my way through it. The late '60s through early '70s is my favorite time for jazz, especially the African consciousness stuff that came out of black nationalism (I'm a polyrhythm addict, really), along with the moves into abstract and "skronk" jazz. I'm really not a huge fan of the Kind of Blue or Hot Sevens, though I realize their place, so it's nice to finally see jazz lists compliled by folks who are passionate about this era, both to investigate and compare.
And it really is nice to see a rebuttal to the Ken Burns/Wynton Marsalis "neocons" in terms of jazz narrative.
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on February 15, 2007


Nice post, thanks very much.
posted by Wolof at 3:18 PM on February 15, 2007


Wow. I'll have to explore this after dinner, but right now I just want to say [this is cool]. Thanks, klang, and fuck the neocons!
posted by languagehat at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2007


OK, I just read the Yaffe piece (here's a better link that preserves its formatting) and I think you may have done it a disservice by linking it to "haters" without explanation; I almost skipped it, figuring it was probably some rant about modern jazz. It's actually a thoughtful and well-informed review (from the December 5, 2005 issue of The Nation) of several jazz books: Stuart Nicholson's Is Jazz Dead? (an argument for progressive/European jazz); Michael Dregni's Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend; Mike Heffley's Northern Sun, Southern Moon: Europe's Reinvention of Jazz ("the definitive study" of Eurojazz); and William Howland Kenney's Jazz on the River, about the riverboat jazz that connected its New Orleans beginnings with the later explosion out of Chicago and points east. Here's an amazing tidbit from the review of Dregni:
We are told more than once that Reinhardt took a Gypsy father's pride in his son's ability to steal silverware from hotel rooms, but buried in the middle of the book--in a well-researched account of Reinhardt's artistic and commercial triumphs in Vichy France--we stumble upon this little detail: "His mother was Jewish and he could forsee what that meant." This is the first and last we hear about the Jewishness of this Gypsy star of the occupied jazz circuit, an irony begging for pages of copy. We certainly shouldn't have to wait for the Gestapo to come knocking on page 155 to discover this in a book whose subtitle promises us "The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend."
Still looking forward to ransacking the music links...
posted by languagehat at 6:04 PM on February 15, 2007


The post Vietnam era is thus more dominated by fear and a resulting trend toward conservatism,

This is where I stopped reading.

Anyone who thinks the last two decades is marked by conservatism has not been paying fucking attention.
posted by docgonzo at 7:08 PM on February 15, 2007


Lhat— Yeah, I whiffed on the "haters" link (I previewed twice and didn't catch it, which is why I'm a better writer than an editor). It was supposed to go at the end, and I should have added more context (in that it was a marvelous rebuttal and examination of "recent" jazz).

"This is where I stopped reading.

Anyone who thinks the last two decades is marked by conservatism has not been paying fucking attention."

Y'know, I love Chris Speed, Hamid Drake, William Parker, Ken Vandermark, etc. as much as the next guy, but pretending that jazz conservatism doesn't mark the vast, vast, vast majority of purchased and discussed output is silly. Otherwise, I'd get my jazz coverage more from Downbeat and less from Wire. Blue Note loves Norah, not Dave Douglas. And there was a huge backlash over fusion, where musicians like Herbie Hancock made terrible retreats from groundbreaking music.
So, yeah, paying attention matters, but I find that avant jazz fans (more than most) seem walled off from what's actually percieved by the vast mainstream in their genre of choice. The most exposure that Joe Strawman gets to jazz is from a bandleader on a late show, and in Starbucks, waiting on the mochiato. There ain't no Matthew Shipp there.

As kinda a weird sidenote: I just saw the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble the night after I saw The Dirty Projectors and Grizzly (?) Bear from the Animal Collective, and I was struck by how much more animated and into it the jazz audience was than the rock audience, despite having the mean age at least 20 years higher.
posted by klangklangston at 8:34 PM on February 15, 2007


This is all kinds of goodness. It's a shame that this period of jazz music doesn't get more attention (but I suppose that could also be said for jazz as a whole). But at least it's not completely forgotten, it seems wherever I go I run into at least one person w/ similar music tastes.

I remember back in high school I stumbled across a copy of ECM's Music with 58 Musicans sampler album in a used vinyl store. That plus a love of Miles Davis and a borrowed copy of Heavy Weather is what I think sparked my interest.

It would be hard to include a group like Can in the list w/out opening the door for all kinds of krautrock. I'm a fan of mid-70s, early 80s Tangerine Dream, but I'd have a hard time trying to fit them under any sort of jazz label.
posted by timelord at 5:42 AM on February 16, 2007


pretending that jazz conservatism doesn't mark the vast, vast, vast majority of purchased and discussed output is silly

I saw a similar feeling expressed in a copy of Esquire sitting in our crapper at work last year. Given how little I know about jazz, I am completely unqualified to comment, but the author's thesis, which echoes your statement, was that "jazz" now is about maintaining the classics and ensuring a proper amount of reverence for everything that came before. Which does seem to be anti-ethical to the concept of jazz. The only artist I got into because of that article was Jamie Cullum and I'm sure that's not ok in terms of jazz street cred, but I do think Cullum's first album supported the article's point, that jazz should be about taking what came before and blowing it up to create something new.

On the flip side, the little bit of me that's still young enough to care about street cred tried desperately to get into new turks, but guys like Matthew Shipp sail straight over my head. It's such a walled garden, such an edifice. So much stuff you have to consume and think about and have an opinion about before you can drop a needle on a record and just enjoy it (obvs you can't ever drop a laser on a CD and whatever lossless compression you evangelize doesn't allow one to drop anything on it, so forget that). So where should I begin? I got stuck in the 1960s in Coltrane and I've never really moved forward because things seem fractured past that.
posted by yerfatma at 10:00 AM on February 16, 2007


I was struck by how much more animated and into it the jazz audience was than the rock audience, despite having the mean age at least 20 years higher.

Oh, I don't think that's surprising. The jazz audience enjoys music, the Dionysian aspect of it all, letting it move their feet, head, additional body parts however it might. The rock audience is looking around for the Alpha Fan who indicates the proper way to respond. And if there are no words to mouth along to, how the hell do you worship these gods?
posted by yerfatma at 10:04 AM on February 16, 2007


klangklangston: "I'm really not a huge fan of the Kind of Blue or Hot Sevens, though I realize their place, so it's nice to finally see jazz lists compliled by folks who are passionate about this era, both to investigate and compare. And it really is nice to see a rebuttal to the Ken Burns/Wynton Marsalis "neocons" in terms of jazz narrative."

While I'm not really one of them, I understand what you call the 'neocon' viewpoint, and I believe I've defended it here.

The chief difficulty with all of this is that both sides feel the same about their favorite music: they feel as though their era has been unfairly neglected, and they try very hard to convince people to open their ears to it. The Burns/Wynton contingent tend to be a little exclusivist about it for my tastes (Keith Jarrett can, for his part, be the same way) but I understand where they're coming from.

It is true that the '70s in Jazz haven't been taken as 'seriously' as they probably should have. It's also true that the '20s and '30s have been all but ignored except for three or four recordings deemed to be 'landmarks.' The vast quantity of really incredibly great material there-- from the luminous recordings of New Orleans transplants like Sidney Bechet in the early '20s to the fabulous rise of the great stride pianists in New York-- is enough to make your heart cry that it doesn't get heard. It's also enough to make you a bit, well, curmudgeonly.

It is true, and should not be ignored, that Jazz was very much alive in the '70s. But I have to say that it was much easier to listen to. And it seems to me that keeping those older recordings accessible to us-- being able to hear them, and being able to appreciate what they represent-- will keep Jazz as a whole closer to who we are. As it stands now, for most people, Jazz begins and ends with John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
posted by koeselitz at 10:59 AM on February 16, 2007


docgonzo: "This is where I stopped reading. Anyone who thinks the last two decades is marked by conservatism has not been paying fucking attention."

What in God's name are you talking about? The last two decades have been completely dominated by conservatism. Wynton? Bradford? The 'young lions' and the resurgence of formalism? Where precisely have you been?

I had a friend who had a free-jazz ensemble some time back. They were very good, but they were forced to play at coffee shops for years, while the people who could play 'real songs' got all the best gigs. That's how conservative the last twenty years have been. At the very least, witness Wynton Marsalis' and position of influence: conservatism is going strong, buddy.
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 PM on February 16, 2007


Y'know, I love Chris Speed, Hamid Drake, William Parker, Ken Vandermark, etc. as much as the next guy, but pretending that jazz conservatism doesn't mark the vast, vast, vast majority of purchased and discussed output is silly

Sorry, should have made explicit that I was referring to conservatism in general, not specifically conservatism in jazz (which I know v. little about.)
posted by docgonzo at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2007


OK, total derail, but this is a jazz thread, and I have to share this: Jazz Dispute, wherein one guy renders a musical debate between Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Amazing. And fun.
posted by languagehat at 3:02 PM on February 16, 2007


"I remember back in high school I stumbled across a copy of ECM's Music with 58 Musicans sampler album in a used vinyl store. That plus a love of Miles Davis and a borrowed copy of Heavy Weather is what I think sparked my interest."

Oh, that looks sweet.

"It's such a walled garden, such an edifice. So much stuff you have to consume and think about and have an opinion about before you can drop a needle on a record and just enjoy it (obvs you can't ever drop a laser on a CD and whatever lossless compression you evangelize doesn't allow one to drop anything on it, so forget that). So where should I begin? I got stuck in the 1960s in Coltrane and I've never really moved forward because things seem fractured past that."

Oh, I understand that, sure. I think that things can get too cerebral and too far away from a sort of earthy grounding that I enjoy. I've had my moments where I'm like, damn, I'm not sure I can take this [Ayler] or whatever, it's too abstract and weird. And jazz did fracture after Coltrane and Davis. Hell, Davis fractured on his own. It hit a similar point to where rock is at now— the interesting, experimental stuff ends up too far away from common touchstones.
But I don't think Shipp is inherently too hard to listen to, and I admit that I don't have a huge grounding in the theory behind what he's doing. I just like the sound, man (Christ, I don't want to be jazz's jonmc).

"The vast quantity of really incredibly great material there-- from the luminous recordings of New Orleans transplants like Sidney Bechet in the early '20s to the fabulous rise of the great stride pianists in New York-- is enough to make your heart cry that it doesn't get heard."

I have a much easier time getting into this than I do with most bop and cool jazz. But even then, I'll admit to not digging very far back, because the standards that I keep hearing just don't interest me. And maybe I'm a bad jazz fan, but 99% of vocal jazz gives me the white hot loathes.

"Sorry, should have made explicit that I was referring to conservatism in general, not specifically conservatism in jazz (which I know v. little about.)"

Um. Ok. Don't mean to get all cliqueish on you, but maybe when you don't know much about something, it's not a good time to declare that you're not reading it because anyone who's been paying attention knows that it's wrong.
posted by klangklangston at 4:06 PM on February 16, 2007


I think Shipp has a whole lot of blues in him, and is much more approachable than some might think.
posted by Wolof at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2007


Yeah, Shipp isn't at all cerebral. Give him another listen. And the rest of these guys too (includes listening guide).
posted by languagehat at 5:37 PM on February 16, 2007


I will do that. Thanks. Any other recommendations gladly accepted. If I had to boil down my requirements for jazz artists into one rule, it would be the same one I have about dogs: "Be interesting".
posted by yerfatma at 7:48 AM on February 17, 2007


klang: first let me say thanks for posting this--and for acknowledging that you cribbed it from my open browser (heh).

koeselitz: I love me some Can, adn Kraan, and all sorts of varieties of 70s-80s prog rock & if you want to start a Behearer type discussion abt that, I'm there, but Can just doesn't quite fit in this discussion.

languagehat: that post from 2004 was a good'n. Something that I would have commented on at that time--and now--is that in Trane's arc, I find it hard to place ALS as part of late-period Trane as many people seem to try to do. I used to have problems with Ascension, and haven't tried in a while, but lately I have been grooving on the Cecil Taylor/Michael Mantler/JCOA "Communications" from 1968. Ooooeeeee.

I read the Greenleaf piece (Douglas) in connection with a discussion on a music board that I host elsewhere. One of the parts of Douglas's article that struck me was the Branford Marsalis quote about how jazz just sort of faded (damn, I'm having a hell of a time finding the quote--it was from the Burns Jazz docudrama). It struck me because in other places, Branford talks about the tremendous influence Jarrett had on him. Seemed incongruous to me.

Much of my favorite music of the 70s remains out-of-print, and much of it was on small, independent labels. Here are a few names to check out--much of it was on Strata-East.

Brother Ahh (Robert Northern); JuJu (later became a funk/jazz/r&b band led by James Plunnky Branch called Oneness of Juju); Marzette Watts Ensemble; Clifford Jordan--In the World; Clifford Jordan--Glass Bead Games; Cedar Walton--Live at Boomers; Charles Tolliver/Music Incorporated--Live at Historic Slugs; Human Arts Ensemble--Whisper of Dharma; Human Arts Ensemble--A Lover's Desire, oh, and about at least a thousand mainstream entries from that time that in a sense "maintained the tradition" but certainly didn't roll over and die, either: Woody Shaw--Rosewood; Bobbie Hutcherson/Harold Land--San Francisco; Rahsaan Roland Kirk--Bright Moments or Prepare Thyself to Deal with a Miracle. O god don't get me started. Village of the Pharoahs. Elevation. Wisdom Through Music; Muhal Richard Abrams; Cecil Taylor. I'm rambling now. Wish I could blame it on posting drunk.
posted by beelzbubba at 7:54 PM on February 21, 2007


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