Eric Dolphy [auto-music] was a true original with his own distinctive styles on alto, flute, and bass clarinet. His music fell into the "avant-garde" category yet he did not discard chordal improvisation altogether (although the relationship of his notes to the chords was often pretty abstract). While most of the other "free jazz" players sounded very serious in their playing, Dolphy's solos often came across as ecstatic and exuberant. His improvisations utilized very wide intervals, a variety of nonmusical speechlike sounds, and its own logic. Although the alto was his main axe, Dolphy was the first flutist to move beyond bop (influencing James Newton) and he largely introduced the bass clarinet to jazz as a solo instrument. He was also one of the first (after Coleman Hawkins) to record unaccompanied horn solos, preceding Anthony Braxton by five years. - AllMusic (previously: 1, 2)
No musician of Bud Powell’s era had such capacity for improvisatory excellence and was so ready to unleash it, instantly, in such concentrated form onstage. [more inside]
"Art Tatum was [one of the two] dominant piano players of the 1930s, astounding everyone with his technique, most especially other piano players, who were convinced he was playing the impossible" -- Chick Corea, hosting a segment on the largely overlooked Arthur "Art" Tatum, Jr. If that display of skill and improvisation has you interested, here are a few documentaries about the mostly blind piano man who made other pianists question their instrument choice, yet often left the public at large overwhelmed (or unimpressed): Toledo Stories: The Tatum Legacy (YouTube, 28 minutes) :: Art Tatum - The Art Of Jazz Piano (YT, 52 min.) :: Art Tatum: A Talent Never to Be Duplicated (NPR, audio only, 11 min.) :: Art Tatum, 'The Musician's Musician' (NPR audio, 54 min.) [more inside]
Step Across the Border (previously, link now broken) "as long as I was playing in a band I didn't have to actually go out there and talk to girls and dance, I could just be on stage and watch everybody else doing it". The critically acclaimed music documentary on Fred Frith, written and directed by Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel (amazon link). It is also available in 8 parts, on youtube. [more inside]
It is simultaneously unlike, and above, every other record. ... Because perhaps it tells us what a trivial pursuit music really is, and at the same time how indispensable to a meaningful existence it in fact is. ... No one, least of all Carla Bley, has subsequently come even within an orbit’s distance of its achievements. ... It is, in the most literal of senses, untouchable. - Marcello Carlin
Pushing the envelope and changing the frame within which improvisational jazz has evolved for years is the focus of many contemporary jazz musicians. As far as the guitar is concerned, merging Hendrix's legacy with be-bop and the rhythms of popular music has been a primary objective. This can be traced back to the guitar of Pete Cosey in Miles Davis's groups of the 70'S. Jean-Paul Bourelly has been directly influenced by him, and Dave Fiuczynski's group, The Headless Torsos, pays its dues to Miles here. The rhythm concept behind such a shift is explained by wayne Krantz at the outset of this documentary. One can hear how close it is of Kevin Eubanks solo playing. Other guitarists of interest : Mitch Stein, Oz Noy, Charlie Hunter.
"If the truth was really known about the origins of Jazz, it would certainly never be mentioned in polite society." The expression arose sometime during the later nineteenth century in the better brothels of New Orleans, which provided music and dancing as well as sex. Jazz has been around for more than a hundred years now. It is not the result of choosing a tune, but an ideal that is created first in the mind, and willed in the music, inspired by A Passion for Jazz.