The decline of Jazz?
March 9, 2003 9:19 PM   Subscribe

What's up with Wynton Marsalis? And what's up with jazz? 20 years ago he was the genre's Boy Wonder, driving force behind a new Classical Jazz movement; today he's label-less and has gone years since his last new CD. Then, Jazz clubs across NYC and across the US still played bebop, now their numbers are dwindling. Is jazz doomed, permanently embalmed by those who tried to save it? (Has it been doomed since 1945?) Will it rise from its ashes nu jazz? Will it be subsumed into world music and lose its identity? How are any musicians and listeners out there finding the current scene?
posted by Tlogmer (47 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I have to admit to being a jazz fan who doesn't know much about it - certainly not contempory jazz. I like Miles Davis. I like John Coltrane. And they still sound fresh. But really, that still puts me about 40 years behind the times, doesn't it? Mainly because so much jazz has drifted into retrospective trad-jazz cover bands, or annoyingly bland and wanky jazz-fusion.

Occasionally, however, I have come across jazz that's modern, driving and hot. I wandered into a pub in my town about 6 months ago, and found a jazz band playing in the beer garden. Three young blokes, aged about 20 - drums, bass and sax/clarinet. And they were just playing hot, dirty, improvised jazz. It was a breath of fresh air! No funeral-suited old men playing "jazz standards" in a 50+ cabaret bar. No frizzy-headed guitar virtuoso who can play in every mode and scale imaginable but still can't hold a tune. This was real. They called themselves Buttschool but I haven't been able to find them since.
posted by Jimbob at 9:29 PM on March 9, 2003

Why does the Atlantic article discuss the Marsalis family as if all its members were one, with all sharing Wynton's musical and cultural ideololgy (or beliefs or what have you)? It's ain't so.
posted by raysmj at 9:31 PM on March 9, 2003

Perhaps it's just like any other musical genre - increasing innovation dilutes the label of jazz until people aren't sure what they want to hear or what they want to play. People are often confused when I talk about my jazz favorites, because they just don't understand what jazz is as a consequence - it's a bit more complicated than saying 'I like boy bands'. So I adore Duke Ellington, but I need to tap into some Brad Mehldau before too much time passes. Hopefully it's just a transition moment, and jazz will indeed reemerge, different, further subdivided, and forever unique. Oh, and without Richard Gere tap dancing.
posted by hank_14 at 9:53 PM on March 9, 2003

Why does the Atlantic article discuss the Marsalis family as if all its members were one

Eh? It doesn't (at least, not the print version; I haven't read through it online); it goes into some detail about the disagreements between Wynton and Branford, for example.
posted by Tlogmer at 10:01 PM on March 9, 2003

Just to let you know, Wynton Marsalis is headlining and playing next weekend in Columbia, Missouri. He may not be cool enough for NYC, but we'll take him any day here in the Midwest. Tonight I just saw Dave Brubeck in a packed house, and the man's still got lightning-fast fingers at 82.
posted by zsazsa at 10:03 PM on March 9, 2003 [1 favorite]

posted by luckyclone at 10:13 PM on March 9, 2003 [1 favorite]

Tlogmer: OK, way down in the piece. Those damned endless Atlantic articles! Sorry. (Earlier, the "Marsalises" are referred to as no longer being considered important. I'm not sure if the person speaking meant the family, or the Wynton acolytes or some people belonging to some vague movement. But it could've come off either way.)
posted by raysmj at 10:29 PM on March 9, 2003

Will it rise from its ashes nu jazz?

D'oh! That should have been, "Will it rise from its ashes as nu jazz?" I like nu jazz a lot, personally (though it's usually misfiled in the Dance section, at least in the US); I encourage everyone to check out the groups that I so cleverly linked in the word Rise.
posted by Tlogmer at 10:33 PM on March 9, 2003

There are a couple interesting comments over at the Atlantic's Post and Riposte.

There are lots of great musicians out there who are borrowing from and working with tradition, but who are also creating new sounds. Maybe it's unrecognizable to the museum set, but let's face it, did you think Columbia or Lincoln Center would be the ones to bring you the newest and most original music?

Sorry to post so many times; I keep finding stuff.
posted by Tlogmer at 10:38 PM on March 9, 2003

Jazz is going to be around as a reasonably distinct form as long as there are musicians. It's way too much fun and challenging to play for it to disappear. Not to mention all the long, self-indulgent soloing it allows for.
posted by boltman at 10:39 PM on March 9, 2003

There's all kinds of great new jazz out there if you just look around a bit. The Cinematic Orchestra, Eliane Elias and The Brand New Heavies (more acid jazz) are just a few.
posted by biscotti at 11:35 PM on March 9, 2003

This talk on the state of jazz reminds me of the famous Frank Zappa quote: 'Jazz isn't dead, it just smells funny.'

Seriously though, muscians like Dave Douglas are moving the form forward.
posted by bravada at 11:51 PM on March 9, 2003

Tlogmer: Maybe being misfiled as dance is exactly what jazz needs--bring some much needed youthful energy in, and don't worry so much about genre boundaries? Remember, back in Duke Ellington's day--and Jimmie Smith's--jazz *was* dance music.

There seems to be a bit of overlap between jazz (at least in an abstract sense, of being improvisation-based music that uses pop tunes & forms to its own ends) and jam band music, as well. Or at least John Scofield thinks so.

One observation about the "nu jazz"/"acid jazz" scene, though: a lot of the music those artists use as touchstones--late '70s Donald Byrd & Roy Ayers, On The Corner/Pangaea-era Miles, '60s soul jazz--seems to be reviled by the hard-bop mafia. Which seems a little odd to me, surely Herbie Hancock using James Brown-style beats or hip hop scratching isn't that far of a leap, conceptually, from an earlier generation of jazz greats using Broadway or Tin Pan Alley melodies as a basis for their music.
posted by arto at 12:03 AM on March 10, 2003

Oh yeah, obligatory song lyric:

Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find the Abstract listening to hip hop
My pops used to tell me it reminded him of bebop

- A Tribe Called Quest, Excursions
posted by arto at 12:09 AM on March 10, 2003

Marsalis released a new CD a few months back: All Rise, described in the amazon reviews as the first great musical triumph of the new century - I don't know about that, but I'm listening to it now & it sounds just fine to me.
posted by misteraitch at 12:30 AM on March 10, 2003

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
posted by password at 12:52 AM on March 10, 2003

A note about Wynton: his stuff from the mid-to-late eighties, when he was playing in a quintet strongly influenced by mid-sixties Miles is amazing, and much more modern-sounding that some of the newer stuff he's more famous for. (This album in particular is really great.) Still not cutting-edge or anything, but definitely worth a listen if you associate him solely with Duke Ellington-type music
posted by boltman at 1:03 AM on March 10, 2003

If you're anywhere near Chicago: The Green Mill, any Saturday night after midnight.

Jazz lives. And it does smell funny.
posted by *burp* at 5:38 AM on March 10, 2003

The Bad Plus - they're here to save Jazz.
posted by DragonBoy at 6:13 AM on March 10, 2003

If you are in Chicago, check out the Empty Bottle, on certain nights it features great jazz...

Other Jazz contemporary jazz groups/musicians that are worth looking for:

Chicago Underground Jazz Duo (and Trio)
Ken Vandermark (in various different groups)
Evan Parker
Yusef Lateef
Surfing Jazz Quintet
Steve Lacy
David Murray
Peter Brotzmann

Other jazz inspired music (trip hop, acid jazz, post-rock):

The Future Sound of Jazz series (I believe they are on the Compost Label)
A forest mighty Black (also on Compost)
Mondo Grosso
Isotope 217
Ninja Tunes label

jazz keeps evolving, try and keep up.

posted by sic at 6:14 AM on March 10, 2003

Jazz isn't doomed, but I do feel we're waiting for a new Miles, Parker, Armstrong or Coltrane, someone to really shake things up. There are many wonderful performers around today, but IMO there hasn't been anyone you could add to the above list for the past thirty years.

Or is there anyone any MeFis consider worthy of joining that list?
posted by ciderwoman at 6:21 AM on March 10, 2003

This is a fascinating thread, and one of the few that I've noticed doesn't have the extremes of debate regarding jazz, which is a tremendous relief.

It has always troubled me that the mainstream has too often measured jazz with Wynton Marsalis as the scale indicator (this is not directed towards MeFi, but rather - the mainstream as a whole, from the dedicated Dave Matthews listener to the dedicated Shostakovich transcriber).

Though I've known (and worked) with some of the Marsalis family for over 30 years (more specifically Wynton, Branford, Jason and Delfeayo) I wouldn't call him (or them) innovators by any stretch. What Wynton and many of his family have contributed to jazz is education, and an education much needed to an ever increasing reduction of jazz visibility (or rather - "aurability") and knowledge to assuage a needed thirst.

In those regards, likely one of the most influential jazz artists of recent years was the late Betty Carter, who exposed more young artists to jazz than anyone of recent times. Betty single handedly brought on many of the "young lions" of the time that have become standard in many of the clubs and labels to this day. Some made it, some did not, but there's no questioning the roster of those who attended the "Betty Carter University."

Bear in mind, I'm separating influential and innovation in this writing, i.e. Dizzy Gillespie could be considered the most influential with Charlie Parker as most innovative. Yet that remains a matter of opinion as well. There's no "official" poll in this matter. One person's influence is another's innovation.

Wynton's contract was not renewed as a result of financial terms with Sony and does not measure his influence nor innovation in jazz as a whole.

Dave Hajdu's article is a well balanced and very good read (Dave also authored "Lush Life" not long ago, considered one of the greatest jazz biographies on our standards).

No, jazz isn't doomed. I and my family have made a living in jazz for over 60 years. There is simply more music and further and expanded interests that cause jazz to blow louder to create needed attention.

There are so many great quotes within this thread by virtually everyone, I only wish some of the more jazz specific discussions on the net had the same reactions. Jazz is likely not as qualified a topic at MetaFilter as other matters, yet has come across with more intelligence than most of what the "Jazz Police" spew out elsewhere, and for that I'm grateful.
posted by bluedaniel at 7:10 AM on March 10, 2003 [1 favorite]

Well said, bluedaniel. I always considered Wynton the most boring famous musician around, pushed relentlessly by the Columbia publicity machine as 'The Chosen One' to the detriment of other fine young musicians who also deserved recognition. He played perfect renditions of a music already long perfected by others like Miles Davis, who by contrast famously refused to remain in the past, but kept pushing forward to see what came next.

I much preferred the more pop-jazz oriented Al Hirt -- who along with organist Jimmy Smith was the first performer I bought multiple LPs by -- another New Orleans trumpeter who legend says gave Wynton his first horn. Hirt was seen in his later years as kind of a large, jolly clown (as was Louis Armstrong, singing Hello Dolly), but he also was a wonderful classical musician in the mid-1960s.

[from the link] No one denies his importance as a global ambassador of jazz. "He has never moved me as a trumpet player," Whitney Balliett, a well-known jazz critic, says. "But God—watching him in the Burns thing [Ken Burns's 2001 PBS documentary about jazz], it's phenomenal! All he has to do is open his mouth, and out it comes."

Recently, though, I saw the first episode of Jazz on video, and like Whitney Balliett I was completely captivated by Wynton. He must be a marvelous educator, if that show is any indication. Definitely not an innovator, though. Or even very interesting as a musician.

If I had to pick a Marsalis I prefer Branford, who had the real jazz spirit when he said (paraphrased from memory) that Wynton as a boy was an all-around achiever, but "I was just an adolescent knucklehead." As for jazz, the music will never die. It just keeps transforming, like the dinosaurs evolved into birds.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:26 AM on March 10, 2003

Thanks for the kudos lelilo. Your response compounds my very last paragraph, and as such, am taking this to the board for possible broadcast discussion. In an "inter-world" of incredibly inaccurate and arrogant jazz discussions, the irony that an intelligent one at MeFi - a forum not known for it's jazz influence, has this much integrity in the short thread it is (as opposed to most jazz focused sites), is incredible.

We interviewed Matt (Haughey) only last year for broadcast at our WNYC station, where the focus of the interview was on Matt's application and influence on the internet as a whole, and not enough of the intelligence of MeFi's content nor members.

Because of the subject of this particular thread, it's obvious MeFi has no limits to its qualification in virtually any social topic (I suppose I needn't tell you that, heh heh heh)

For what it's worth, the reason for any outspoken comments on my part is that we produce both Wynton (jazz@lincolncenter) and formerly Branford (JazzSet, now hosted by Dee Dee Bridgewater). We also were co-producers of Burns' Jazz for PBS.

More info about this is available at our home site, npr jazz.

(No, this is not an intentional self-link. I've tried to be as aware as possible of the standards and etiquette of posting and commenting, and have not built these sites. Apologies in advance if I'm in incorrect).

Should programming decide to make a public interest story of this, I'd like to contact a few of you for possible interviews, should any of you be willing to participate.
posted by bluedaniel at 11:36 AM on March 10, 2003

If you're anywhere near Chicago: The Green Mill, any Saturday night after midnight.

Or a wednesday night for that matter. When I was based in Chicago, many a night with many a cold one was spent on all the sets as Herr Elling took to stage.

I love that place (Green Mill). Was a site ever developed for it?

If you see Kurt, tell him Dan sends his best.

posted by bluedaniel at 11:41 AM on March 10, 2003

I'm also very impressed by the control of this thread - I clicked with anticipation of the usual ridiculous frenzy around Marsalis. I can undertand the concerns about his "conservatism", but listen to him live and tell me he doesn't rock.

For the best of Marsalis I would strongly recommend the sharply priced Live at Village Vanguard 8 CD box set. Blinding.
posted by Raindog at 11:55 AM on March 10, 2003

jazz, as we commonly think of it, IS dead.

that's why Juilliard started a jazz program last year.
posted by gsalad at 11:58 AM on March 10, 2003

I worry sometimes about this whole "jazz must innovate or die" mentality. True innovation in music must occur gradually because the listening public has to have time to learn to really hear it in order to truly enjoy it. Heck, Schoenberg was composing 12-tone music in the late 19th century and the vast majority of even classical listeners still don't really know how to listen to it. "Traditional jazz" (by which I mean jazz that is not a cross with some other genre and still more or less tonal) hasn't even come remotely close to exhausting its musical possibilities. And since very few people can stomach the abstraction and post-tonal ideas of the true avant garde, "innovation" is, in most cases, just crossing jazz with some other genre of music. That's all well and good, but it's also nice to see people out there remain fully committed to the jazz idiom too. No, I suppose Wynton or even someone like Dave Holland is not "innovating" in the way Miles or Cecil Taylor or Anthony Braxton have, but they are putting out album after album of mighty fine music that, while not pushing the envelope of jazz, is amazing and important in its own right simply because its really good.
posted by boltman at 12:00 PM on March 10, 2003

This is indeed a good and admirably noncontentious thread. The bane of jazz discussion is people standing in their corners and hollering "What I like is real jazz; what you like is crap!" (Or, as Louis A. said of bebop, "Chinese music.") What we need is open ears.

I love the opening of the article; the Vanguard is one of the best things about NYC, and going there never fails to make me feel good about life and jazz. I skipped over a lot of the Marsalis stuff (I don't really care about the carpeting in his apartment) and held my nose at the quote from the egregious Stanley Crouch (who once upon a time had real ideas and wrote liner notes for David Murray, almost unimaginable now that he's become the Marsalis propaganda/hatchet man), but as always enjoyed Hajdu's writing and respected his evenhanded point of view. But the idea that "the music may not survive in the form we now know" is lazy boilerplate. My god, World Music is invading—run for your life! World Music has been invading jazz from the beginning, starting with the Italian opera all the musicians in turn-of-the-last-century New Orleans played and continuing with the "Spanish tinge" Jelly Roll Morton said was an indispensible element and the African elements black musicians have been re-importing for decades. It's all good fertilizer for the further development of jazz.

Jazz isn't dying out just because record labels are in one of their periods of frightened withdrawal; there's more of it than ever, and (allowing for Sturgeon's Law) more good jazz than ever... but because of the very fact that it's spread in so many directions and thrown up so many new names, there's nobody who stands out like a Bird or a Miles. Plenty of great musicians, though; in addition to the ones listed by the very hip sic above, check out David S. Ware, today's Coltrane equivalent, and his brilliant collaborators Matthew Shipp (pianist) and William Parker (bassist). And don't dismiss the guys who have been around for decades and are still evolving, like the great (and still underappreciated) Cecil Taylor (if you've heard him and couldn't stand him, give him another chance... he takes getting used to) and Anthony Braxton (I don't happen to like the direction he's gone in for the last few years, but I'm glad he keeps changing; check out the great quartet recordings from the mid-'80s) and... well, too many to name. Just keep your ears open and go to clubs—the musicians need your support!

On preview: boltman is right about the people who just keep making good music (I'd add Charles Lloyd and Keith Jarrett), and Raindog is right that the Vanguard set is prime Wynton... but unless you're a huge Wynton fan, you can probably settle for the single-disc best-of, as I did. (Yeah, the eight-disc set is cheap, but it's eight discs! Who has the time?) Also, some of the Standard Time albums are very good.
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on March 10, 2003 [1 favorite]

Just my two cents on Al Hirt: he performed a song called Java that anyone who remembers the Muppet Show will recognize immediately on first hearing...

(Dammit, and now I've gone and gotten it lodged in my head again.)
posted by wanderingmind at 1:33 PM on March 10, 2003

I always go bug my friend Armando whenever I want recommendations or information about jazz.
posted by jennyb at 2:09 PM on March 10, 2003

thanks for the tip on David Ware, languagehat. I keep seeing the name pop up but never looked into him at all. Sounds like my kind of stuff. Any particular albums you would recommend?

Steve Coleman is another sax player that, while a bit inconsistent, tends to put out a lot of exciting music. And he gives a lot of it away free on his website.
posted by boltman at 2:25 PM on March 10, 2003

David S. Ware is definately his own person, as well as a majority of the list you're all providing.

You know, I've been reading MeFi daily for 2 years now (contributing only recently mind you), and have never seen as appropriate a discussion as this in this manner, where the hell have you folks been hiding out?

Virtually every public radio station involved with npr is aware of this thread now (2 metro stations have mentioned it on air already, and more is expected within the next day).

You have single handedly in thirty some odd threads proven that the voice of jazz does not require membership to the Marsalis family, nor to the jazz police*, but is as loud as the ear that heard the scream.

Dizzy himself said, "If you can hear it, you can have it."

Yea, there will likely be an arts interest story produced on this thread (considering the source of the MeFi and it's well known history). Those interested in contributing possible feedback can email me at work or home.

Details can be worked out as this all comes to fruition.

(*jazz police: those that like to phone radio stations at all hours preaching useless and often unqualified information in the name of "true" jazz).

(also, languagehat (a local listener!) - you may enjoy a Jazzography I assembled at my personal site. 'Can't self link, mind you. Email me for the url bro.)
posted by bluedaniel at 3:30 PM on March 10, 2003

Jazz is dead? That's news to me. While there is no singularly popular jazz artist in the world, there are plenty of young and innovative artists selling out venues of different sizes....

Some of my recommendations include:
-Versatile sax player James Carter, who just signed a new contract with Columbia/Sony (and is playing this week here in NYC at Iridium.)

David Binney (alto sax). I saw him at a packed 55 Bar last fall with a great band, which included Chris Potter (tenor sax), Brian Blade (drums), Craig Taborn (Rhodes), Adam Rogers (guitar) and Scott Colley (bass). This was a wonderful show with a very enthusiastic audience. The line stretched down the corner to get into this sold-out show...

Chris Potter is another younger sax player, who's work I'm not too familiar with, but what I've heard is rather good.

I'm digging the new The Bad Plus album.

Christian McBride is a great bass player. Besides his more straightahead work, along with Uri Caine and The Roots' drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, he recorded the The Philadelphia Experiment, one of the best funky jazz albums in a while.

These are some people who are moving jazz ahead. When I have more time to think about it, I can come up with some more...

Also in the funky jazz vein, some groups are putting out some fun work, such as Medeski, Martin and Wood, Soulive and Modern Groove Syndicate.

And while I'm not entirely sure how to classify them, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones are making some very interesting genre-bending music, that is highly improvisitory and draws heavily on jazz. (Flecktones saxman Jeff Coffin has some good solo work, too.)
posted by andrewraff at 4:12 PM on March 10, 2003

(addendum to my previous post - an arts interest story that might reference this thread, not about this thread. sorry if that caused any confusion folks. just off the phone with the boss, all is green at this point).

(andrew, good call. and bad plus is making a huge impression across the board, we have it heavy rotation now).
posted by bluedaniel at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2003

Well I know one thing, I'm going to have a hell of a good time checking out some of the many artists listed above. Good work guys. And the wife is really going to thank you all for making me spend more of my money on CDs.
posted by ciderwoman at 5:07 PM on March 10, 2003

As someone who cut his jazz teeth on the Return to Forever crowd, I have thoroughly enjoyed all the twists, turns, and evolution of jazz music in the past three decades.

Some of my recent favorites include the smoooothe saxophonist Boney James, the contemporary Bensonesque guitar of Jeff Golub, and the syrupy soulful voice and 88s of recent Grammy winner for Live in Paris, Diana Krall.
posted by netbros at 5:47 PM on March 10, 2003

Sure, bluedaniel, I'll drop you a line. But you can self-link in the comments, you know; it's just front-page posts that are a no-no.

boltman: They're all good, but I'd start with Godspelized or Go See the World (the latter being his Columbia debut, one of the gutsiest major-label signings ever and despite all fears not in the least a "sellout" album).

While I'm thinking of it, anyone seriously interested in jazz should acquire the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, by far the most inclusive and thoughtful book of its kind. Nowhere else will you find significant coverage of the Europeans who are some of the most vital jazzmen of recent years, including some favorites of mine—Franz Koglmann, Krzysztof Komeda, Komeda's former collaborator Tomasz Stanko—I might never have heard of without it. The sixth edition has recently come out in Britain and should be available here shortly. They rank records from one to four stars and occasionally provide a "crown" for especially significant recordings; the latest version of this controversial but enjoyable list can be found here. (Sure, it's silly to rank jazz, but it's harmless fun for those of us who love lists!)
posted by languagehat at 7:46 PM on March 10, 2003

This banjo player I once interviewed on my radio show (which lasted 154 episodes from 1998--2001, until the station was sold) has been after me to volunteer at the county jail 20 miles away. By coincidence, I went there last Tuesday for the first time, with him, armed with only the 5-CD set from the Ken Burns series, since I'd decided to talk about 'jazz,' and play whoever showed up some music.

One thing about jazz, though, is "What the heck is it?" Herbie Hancock playing Rockit? Or him, almost 20 years earlier, playing E.S.P. with Miles? Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit, about lynchings in the South? Ella Fitzgerald singing A-Tisket A Tasket? Louis Armstrong singing in 1926 that he's got the Heebie Jeebies, like some kind of other-worldly precursor to rap? All of which I played in the prison, to an audience of five young women inmates who I'm sure wondered what planet I had dropped in from.

The one point I was trying to make them understand was that it seems crazy to me to say, flat out, "I can't stand jazz." It's like saying "I don't like food," or maybe Picasso. There's such a variation that you have to like something, whether it's Monk playing Epistrophy, or Grover Washington playing Mister Magic, or Duke Ellington's Take the A Train. Probably no one went through bigger changes than Louis Armstrong, the hero of Burns's series, over a 40-year run from the Hot Five to Hello Dolly. Was it all jazz? Was some of it? To quote Louis again, "All music is folk music. I ain't never heard no horse sing no song." (Obviously he never met Mr. Ed.)

The thing that amazes me, after listening for over 35 years now, is that young people, who know that it's not going to get them fame, glory, money, (much of anything, in fact), keep chasing the jazz dream. I just caught up with this CD Starfish, recorded last summer by a friend of mine's brother-in-law with a quartet that includes Keith Jarrett's son Noah on bass. It's beautifully done, but who's ever going to write about it, play it on the radio, pay much attention to it at all? This enduring passion to be 'unpopular' really impresses me.

Another album I really liked from a few years ago (again, is it jazz?) is All Kooked Out, by Stanton Moore, a young New Orleans drummer I interviewed for print. (He's better known as a member of the funk jam band Galactic.)

p.s. One nice thing about this thread is that it opened my eyes to bluedaniel's Jazzographies, at his own web site. (Just start clicking away, you'll find them soon enough.) Mixing photos, music, interviews; really a fine use of the Internet. Although -- having seen all three in concert-- I'm a much bigger fan of Cannonball or Paul Desmond on the alto than Phil Woods.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:41 PM on March 10, 2003

Great discussion so far folks.

Another great resource for jazz coverage from Europe is the European Free Improvisation Pages. Lots of bio info and some audio samples, too.

Jazz, like rock music, has different styles from which we all get to chose - from Wynton to Brotzmann. I particularly like how other styles of music have taken jazz into wonderful new places.

One of the finer recent adventures in jazz for my ears has been the Radical Jewish series from John Zorn's Tzadik label. (The Masada songbook is a delight!)

There's also the Thirsty Ear Blue Series, with its recent mix of hip-hop and jazz (of which the aforementioned Matthew Shipp is curator). Not a new concept, but well performed throughout the series.
posted by armando at 9:06 PM on March 10, 2003

Thanks, all of you, for all the great recommendations. I don't really know much about jazz, but I do enjoy it. Lately, I quite like Don Byron (though right now I happen to be listening to Dave Brubeck's "Jazz Goes to College" album, inspired by zsazsa's mention of him above.)

I've been lucky enough to have seen a lot of great concerts, but one of the very best was seeing Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Miles Griffith, Jon Hendricks, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra perform Marsalis' oratorio "Blood on the Fields" at London's Barbican Hall in 1997. Simply incredible.
posted by Vidiot at 9:38 PM on March 10, 2003

languagehat reminded me of a particularly great--although a bit wacky--English keyboardist: Django Bates. Like Life is particularly good.
posted by boltman at 9:42 PM on March 10, 2003

Concerts: I remember with great pleasure seeing the Arkestra, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sonny Rollins, David Murray at the Vanguard, and many other great live shows, but I'd have to say the single greatest was this incredible evening at Columbia, when the David S. Ware quartet (alas, newly without the amazing Susie Ibarra on drums) blew the roof off the sky and then Cecil Taylor and Max Roach filled the campus with unstoppable music for well over an hour—by the end I was desperate to go home, I had to go to work the next day, I kept walking to the gate of the campus and looking longingly towards the IRT subway entrance... but the music kept drawing me back, and I stayed till the end. What an experience.

Armando: Yes to both Masada and Thirsty Ear!
posted by languagehat at 7:48 AM on March 11, 2003

languagehat, I had the pleasure of seeing William Parker do a solo performance in the basement of the Tokyo Rose in Charlottesville, Virginia. To this day, I've never enjoyed a show more. Time stopped while he played; during drawn-out pauses between notes you could hear him breathe. I enjoy what I've heard of the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, but the man alone is an amazing force.

At the same venue, another night, I saw dj olive spin records to accompany William Hooker on the drums... the (ill/am)bient/free jazz mixture they performed didn't really develop as I hoped it would. I found a description of their collaboration here, if anybody is interested.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:23 AM on March 12, 2003

Thanks for reminding me, eddydamascene—I saw Parker do a solo performance too, and it was amazing. At one point he picked up that huge double bass and played it like a fiddle. Big guy, great musician.

By the way, the new Voice has a piece on jazz and activism, and the dubious effect of the Lincoln Center crowd on the situation; for an example of why Stanley Crouch is such an asshole, check out this quote (emphasis mine):
If they [Jazz at Lincoln Center] came to us and invited us to perform in those positive, healthy terms," says free-jazz pianist Matthew Shipp, dismissed by Crouch as an inferior, irrelevant musician, "we'd surely have a discussion."
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on March 12, 2003

Recently, I have enjoyed seeing Dave Holland, the 'world-music jazz' of Rabi Abu Khalil, the northern european jazz sounds of Wild Silk and hearing the re-issued offerings on the JazzPuu label.
Not to mention Heckmondwike Grammar School Big Band, who are taught jazz at a British state school.
Hope for the future.
posted by asok at 9:05 AM on March 12, 2003

Dave Holland is one of my favorites too, and today's NY Times has an excellent article about him by Fred Kaplan, describing his various ensembles and remarkable stylistic breadth. (Not that anyone is still reading this thread...)
posted by languagehat at 8:52 PM on March 23, 2003

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