Post-War Jazz: An Arbitrary Road Map
June 11, 2002 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Post-War Jazz: An Arbitrary Road Map In this two-part Village Voice piece, Gary Giddins presents a personal road map to post-war jazz, introducing 57 of his most cherished tracks from 1945 to 2001. Any glaring ommissions? I'd add Witchitai-To by Jim Pepper. In addition to being one of the first jazz-rock fusion proponents, Pepper, a Native American, also blended the music of his people into his compositions.
posted by martk (12 comments total)
How about Jim Pepper's fabulous circa 1967 jazz-rock fusion ensemble The Free Spirits, which also included Larry Coryell. This was the jazz-rock group of your dreams, kids, not the wretched post-Al Kooper Blood, Sweat, etc., or Chicago. Coryell contributed 13 absolutely super jazz-saturated pop-rock original songs to the group's only album, "Out of Sight and Sound." Pepper's sax winds around these tunes an abandon that can only be called merry. Psychedelia doesn't get any cheerier and more energetic, or musically satisfying. The only downside? Coryell's singing voice is not up to the standards of the rest of the group, although no worse than many who followed. (The Free Spirits are briefly mentioned in the above Pepper link, but I just thought I'd take this chance to emphasize the greatness of one of my all-time favorite albums.)
posted by Faze at 9:14 AM on June 11, 2002

By the way, if you don't know anything about jazz, Giddens' taste is as good a guide as you're ever going to get. He wrote a fabulous biography of Bing Crosby's early life. I hope he's working on part two.
posted by Faze at 9:19 AM on June 11, 2002

Faze: he also wrote a biography of Louis Armstrong, which I haven't read but heard wonders about. The only book I've read of his is Visions of Jazz(1998) - seven hundred pages of superb, impassioned jazz criticism.

I love his open-minded attitude. In the the interview I linked to in the post below - I think it was given as part of Ken Burns's Jazz documentaries - it's worth reading what he has to say about as Frank Sinatra. Who's quite rightly considered a great innovator.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:35 AM on June 11, 2002

Unfortunate omission: Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."
posted by Pinwheel at 10:20 AM on June 11, 2002

Eenie meenie...

Unfortunate omission: Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."

At least he name-checks it in '64 (although it's from '62) along with "Song for My Father" and "The Sidewinder." But I dunno, seems that at least one year in any post-war jazz map should be devoted to the soul-jazz thing. How about "The Sermon" for '58 instead of Sun Ra? Or a Grant Green record somewhere?

And Shorter's fine, but Giddens picked him for the wrong year; '64 belongs to the Eric Dolphy/Andrew Hill/Bobby Hutcherson/Freddie Hubbard/Tony Williams crowd, busy expanding "jazz" beyond anyone else at the time. Either Hill's "Flight 19" from Point of Departure or Dolphy's "Out to Lunch" would work.

And '60 is Mingus' year, for "Folk Forms" or "All the things you could be by now if Sigmund Freud's wife was your mother."

And another thing...

Great link. It reminded me how little I know about post-1970 jazz, beyond a few Frank Lowe and Art Ensemble records.
posted by mediareport at 11:29 AM on June 11, 2002

Pinwheel, Incredible coincidence: I listened to "Watermelon Man" last night for the first time in decades. Nice tune!
posted by Faze at 11:36 AM on June 11, 2002

Interesting list - he includes a lot of the expected artists, but not always the most obvious tracks. Seems like there should be room in there for works as influential as "Giant Steps" or "A Love Supreme", but his rules preclude multiple tracks by the same artist. And based on his post-60's picks, he's not much into fusion. I think Weather Report is an omission.

I think it's a very good list. He explains his choices well without getting longwinded about it. Some artists and tracks I'm not very familiar with that I'd like to check out.
posted by groundhog at 1:22 PM on June 11, 2002

What an excellent link! I am still very much stumbling aimlessly through the world of jazz, discovering lots of wonderful music as I go, and this article has given me several new directions to explore, cheers.

I'm probably showing my ignorance here, but I was surprised there was no Oscar Peterson included.
posted by Gamecat at 4:20 PM on June 11, 2002

based on his post-60's picks, he's not much into fusion.

Well, he does give 1969 to one of the best fusion records ever.

Gamecat: Giddins' list is neat, but if you're looking for something less idiosyncratic (i.e., not limited by the one-song, one-artist approach), try the list of 5-star jazz records from the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD. When you see something like the "complete Riverside recordings of Thelonious Monk," just start with any of the individual albums, which can all be found for ~$11 each at any good store.

There's also the All Music Guide to Jazz, a hard copy of the Web site's jazz reviews. Keeping that book in my bathroom for six months is how I discovered the "terse, imaginative, and utterly funky" Horace Silver and two of my absolute favorite jazz records.
posted by mediareport at 5:27 PM on June 11, 2002

i would have liked to see more young players represented, although i'm glad he included james carter (i definitely would not have picked that particular track though--it's just 8 minutes of tedious showboating). steve coleman and casandra wilson jump to mind, although i suppose one could argue that neither are particularly young anymore.

also, what's up with the absence of any guitarists? am i wrong in thinking that the emergence of the electric guitar as a jazz instrument has been one of the single most important developments in jazz over the last thirty years? either wes montgomery, jim hall, joe pass or pat metheny should have been included. i also would have thrown in bill frisell just because i love the guy's music to death. (this album, although arguably not jazz, is one of my favorite albums of all time--the guitar work is sparse but more expressive than i ever thought possible for a guitar).

still, generally good list with lots of intriguing stuff to check out.
posted by boltman at 10:35 PM on June 11, 2002

also, how about greater representation of latin jazz. gozalo rubalcaba anyone?
posted by boltman at 10:39 PM on June 11, 2002

mediareport: Thanks for the additional links, I have just ordered a copy of the Penguin Guide. And by a bizarre coincidence I already have the Monk/Riverside set (love it to bits), so I have at least been been heading in the right direction sometimes :)
posted by Gamecat at 2:10 AM on June 12, 2002

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