|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 06:48 pm]
|Are we talking about the history of new jazz, new histories of jazz (re-visions/corrections of accepted conventions in the jazz narrative) and/or new histories (history" in a new way) that happen to be about jazz?
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:07 pm]
|From a purely selfish perspective, I'd like to talk about the history of new jazz and new histories of jazz, because I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done in both areas. It's like fighting a war on two fronts: first you've got to expose the larger public (outside the current jazz public, but that's a whole other thing) to the work being made by living musicians, and second you've got to correct some of the cant and b.s. that's hardened into orthodoxy with regard to dead musicians, or musicians who are already pretty much fixed in the canon.
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 07:11 pm]
|Phil: How would you propose to do that? Unless you attack what you term "cant" and "bs" from some basis of better information, don't you just harden the existing beliefs?
|A. from David R. Adler [Dec 13 - 07:13 pm]
|To my mind, the first ("the history of new jazz") seems the most pressing. So much new music is being made, and so few people are hearing it. Many kinds of historical work are necessary, but most of all, we need new and detailed accounts of the music of today.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:17 pm]
I don't know if it's truly possible. I mean, how does anybody go about correcting the errors in Jazz (to pick an obvious example)? I don't think anybody's up to it, and frankly, the audience anybody doing it would want to reach has probably already wandered on to the next shiny thing, for the most part.
I agree that it's more important to concentrate on new music for the time being. Revisionism may be best left to academics.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 07:24 pm]
|I'm principally interested in bringing the methodology of new approaches to history into jazz. That doesn't rule out either the coverage of new jazz - and I've only dipped a toe in the water of that field in my book - nor of revisiopnist approaches to other aspects of jazz. But I think it is vitally important to take a view of jazz history that takes a sceptical view about (a) the canon; (b) the geographical orthodoxy about where and when jazz spread, and (c) the reliance on previously published sources. If all these things are tested rigorously, and new and significant sources of information are constantly searched out, then the quality of our discussion in all these fields will be raised.
|A. from Stephanie Crease in NYC [Dec 13 - 07:29 pm]
I think all these facets are worth addressing--and we can even look deeper into the question: if we consider that we need to be addressing jazz history in a "new" way, what is itabout some of the "old" ways that have needed improving, or a different perspective.
For instance, in my book about Gil Evans, I sought to dispel some myths about Gil, that were common in existing literature, such as he didn't play piano in public until the 1950's. That was easy to unravel, after delving more into his early life than anyone had really done to date (or that I'd read about, anyway).
I think there is also a tendency now to go beyond oral history as such a wholly believable source. Many of us may have had the experience of being told what seems to be a significant story by a musician, then read it elsewhere as told to someone else--I think it's important to try to probe musician's stock stories to journalists--you often get a new twist, or a wholly different take. OR come up with corroboration.
|A. from O Keepnews in San Francisco [Dec 13 - 07:38 pm]
|It might be more feasible just to write what you consider to be accurate, without taking the time and energy to contend that past writers were full of bs.
|A. from howard in nearby [Dec 13 - 07:38 pm]
|The classic oral mis-torical work being Mr. Jelly Lord, by F. la Menthe himself, secondarily reported by Alan Lomax.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:40 pm]
>It might be more feasible just to write what you consider to be accurate, without taking the time and energy to contend that past writers were full of bs.
Yeah, but from a crass publicity standpoint, you can get more attention for your own work if you stomp around shouting about how everybody but you is wrong, if not outright conspiring to conceal the truth...
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 07:42 pm]
|Stephanie's point about probing stock stories is a vital one. I think it's all to do with the level and purpose of an oral history. Preparing book length ones, such as the lives of Doc Cheatham or Sammy Price or many of the others I've published, I've always tried to cover the same territory with the interviewee several times. Also most interviewees who get the chance to read back their words get taken over by an editorial imperative and want to improve their work when it comes into print. Buck Clayton, for example, was a meticulous reviser of his autobiography, as was Danny Barker. But that level of diligence doesn't apply to interviews in magazines or on the radio. Most of us wearing a jornalistic hat just get the occasional single shot at talking to our subjects, so when we come back to reconsider that material as authors, we necessarily must bear in mind the process that produced it. There's a good passage in Gene Lees' Will To Swing about Oscar Peterson's 1940s Carnegie Hall Debut, and how the story mutated in the telling. By the time I got to ask Oscar about it for the BBC, it had become cast in stone, but Gene suggests that the way it's usually told is not necessarily accurate, but it suits all the participants in its "authorized version".
|A. from O Keepnews in San Francisco [Dec 13 - 07:47 pm]
|In my experience, reliance on the musician as source runs into two huge problems. One is simply the kindly tendency to give you the version the interviewee thinks you want. The other is that no one remembers everything with full accuracy -- ask me to identify events from a specific record session out of so damn many and I won't vouch for my getting it right.
|A. from Stephanie in NYC [Dec 13 - 07:54 pm]
|Re: oral histories. In the process of reading oral histories, for research purposes, or "as told to's," or conducting interviews, it has occurred to me--particularly with some musicians, that the fact they are performers enhances their storytelling, they are great raconteurs--these stories have often become jazz history. Which is fine, and often makes for great reading! But I believe there is a need --in certian kinds of writing "history" for documentation of other kinds, and of exploring sources that are extra-musical to fill in cultural contexts, personal portraits, etc.
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:57 pm]
|In my opinion, If you want to write new histories you have to know about more American music - country music, blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, minstrelsy, etc etc.And come on, boys and girls, there's nothing wrong with carping about other people's histories. So much crazy stuff has been written about this music that it's human nature to want to debate other versions of history. In my case, with That Devilin Tune, I was simply trying to incude so much of what makes jazz such a fascinating and mass music, the musicians who are the foot soldiers of the music. I also include hillbilly blues and Western Swing because I think they have common points of inspiration.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 08:03 pm]
|Stephanie's point about performers as storytellers is extremely well-made. The balance between oral history and folklore is close - take Danny Barker's Buddy Bolden and The Last Days of Storyville. According to Don Marquis, most of Danny's account is BS. But how come so many musicians, separated by time and geography, clung to the barbershop / scandal sheet legend? I doubt Bud Scott talked to Jelly Roll Morton about it before they each gave their separate accounts on opposite coasts in the late 1930s. So there has to be a valid place in the literature for the folkloric material - just so long as we treat its veracity with caution.
|A. from O Keepnews in San Francisco [Dec 13 - 08:05 pm]
|Very true, Allen Lowe, on several levels. Most jazz writers don't object to inaccuracy because they would be dead in the water without it. The history of this form of jazz writing is littered with books and articles generated for publicity purposes, or at best written by people who just plain don't know or very much care how to tell the relative accuracy of a source.
|A. from pres in out there [Dec 13 - 08:16 pm]
|Folklore, post-modern a-musical analysis, musical analysis with or without agenda, inescapably/correctibly sloppy history on the run, biased or incomplete earlier histories - it's amazing there's anything credible about this at all. I propose the 100 year old Pragmatists' solution: read all the histories, do all the listening, publish what you can't write, research on the web, produce, produce: YES! New history aborn!
|A. from pres in still here [Dec 13 - 08:24 pm]
Hillbilly jazz, yeah, and that slide guitar has *something* in common with jazz-fusion (keyboards' glissing, young-white-pop crossover). Why aren't our Austin representatives here, to talk about the southwestern swing and how it's been overlooked/ignored/negated by even up to now jazz histories? New Orleans remains a fount of American music, Chicago is hot, I know there's music in SF, Boston, Philly, Cleveland, (Columbia, MO), yet is reported nationally as a tourist than, if at all. (When you're done here, check out the Jazzhouse displa of the Smithsonian's "Lost Jazz Shrines" sub-site).
Hey Phil, what's metal contributed/contributing to jazz? Is it ok to call Tortoise's Standards jazz, or . . .?
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 08:34 pm]
I don't know if Tortoise are playing "jazz" as much as they're playing "lounge music," in any case their stuff quite often puts me to sleep. I pondered doing a piece on them (and the Chicago Underground) in Jazziz for the express purpose of "debunking" their whole thing...a cover story in The Wire really kinda ticked me off, but the mood passed.
Anyhow, there are quite a few extreme metal bands stealing from jazz. A particularly great example is the Dillinger Escape Plan, who play what seems on first listen like a totally punishing 1000mph brand of thrash, but is in fact quite intricate and, live, incorporates a surprising amount of improvisation. (They're actually rumored to be working on death-metal-inflected interpretations of some Mahavishnu stuff, but I always thought Mahavishnu skirted metal territory anyhow.) At the same time, a record like Nels Cline and Gregg Bendian's take on Interstellar Space, I think, could be considered jazz, or metal, depending on which "side" you approach it from—that is, which genre forms the majority of your listening. (I recently heard a band called Orthrelm, who are an instrumental guitar-drums duo who sound kinda like that Cline/Bendian thing, if Cline was replaced by Buckethead.)
|A. from O Keepnews in S F [Dec 13 - 08:38 pm]
|Well, looky here. It took 17 posts (only about 3 of them by me) before the original poster and the blasphemously named "pres" kicked us into some heavy metal cyberspace area. If this studd doesn't come with instant translation, I'm going to have to leave the building.
|A. from O Keepnews in S F [Dec 13 - 08:39 pm]
|My first typos -- that word should have been "stuff," not "studd," which sounds vaguely obscene.
|A. from blasphemous one in in the ring [Dec 13 - 08:56 pm]
Orrin, don't be blue! I believe the reason metalheads can get to jazz is because of Monk, Emperor of Dissonance!
But of course, with much more subtlety and grace than I can bear, uh, hear, from much of the gang who's been able to cross over thanks to a few cult rocker's allegiances. If Bendian and Cline can reach metalheads, great; of course Mahavishnu did more than skirt metal, the Orchestra invented it (before your time, Phil, but glad you've got the records). I heard Gregg and his Mahavishnu project too, explosive, hot, hard, not the Mahavishnu, but hey. . .
Now tell me anyone has the historical perspective to address the crests and dismal vales of '70s fusion. Scott? Is that next in your series? Alyn, would your next edition have an update on suburban jazz?
|A. from stephanie in back here [Dec 13 - 09:20 pm]
a prickly slant--I'm not sure we can really write a history of new music, whatever kind of music it is, jazz, add-to-music, metallic, hip-hop. We can observe, record, grab information, listen, talk to people. It that the new history/history in a new way?
And hear/here's to prez to dig and reflect. I think the other lack in older jazz histories is often a kind of myopia about how much jazz has always been hip-hop in a way, a borrowing, mixing up--it has often, unfortunately, been critics (over several decades) who have inisted on grouping musicians, stratifying styles, calling people's work anti-jazz. It is a wild and murky history--here's to the synthesizers
|A. from David Adler in NYC [Dec 13 - 09:37 pm]
|I like Stephanie's point about jazz being hip-hop in a way. Last night on BET I saw a double-interview with Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. Ray went off on this anti-sampling diatribe, saying that sampling was anti-creative. You could see Quincy squirming, but he didn't object because he didn't want to disrespect Ray. Neither do I. But sampling and other electronic techniques are playing a bigger and bigger role in creative music today -- go to Tonic any night of the week and you'll probably hear some sampling. I think Ray's remarks are symptomatic of a cultural clash on a titanic scale, and this clash is arguably the most important musical issue of our day.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 09:46 pm]
|I agree that the point Ray Charles raises does kinda point to a cultural division, but I don't think his opinion matters all that much. He's kind of a non-factor, as far as cultural innovation is concerned. It's more worrisome to me to hear stuff like that from young musicians, who are currently making their primary contributions. "Young fogeys" are much more dangerous than crabby old dudes.
|A. from David Adler in NYC [Dec 13 - 09:55 pm]
|"Young fogeys" is a superb description. What I'm saying is that Ray Charles gave voice to a certain strain of opinion, a strain that is shared among "fogeys" young and old. That's the cultural clash, and it's going to be playing itself out well after Ray is gone.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 09:59 pm]
|Oh, on that we totally agree. Jazz (and music in general) has a big conservative streak that's great when you want to be able to delve into historical forms; there'll always be somebody still playing in that style. But it can be a big problem when they start shouting that the old ways are not just the best ways, but the One True Path. I think that's an eternal conflict, though, destined to go forever unresolved.
|A. from David Adler in NYC [Dec 13 - 10:03 pm]
|I think what's needed is writing that looks closely at the aesthetics of new electronic music, and specifically debunks the notion that it's not creative. Address the creativity issue head-on. That's the heart of the matter.
|A. from Gracie (as in, "Say G'night?) in Mansion [Dec 13 - 10:17 pm]
In the case of new sounds, new history requires new vocabulary. We're in the same place now that we were as wordsmiths and social commentators about the time of the release of On the Corner: without command of language that describes what we're hearing, without understanding of the technology that makes it possible and the practices used to create it, the individual's creative drives that fuel it, where it fits into the larger social fabric -- all the dimensions that are only available upon the accumulation of time, in hindsight -- those things that can hardly be speculated about while the thing itself is happening.
Know what I mean? Think it's getting late, folks. Closing up at 10:30, unless y'all (anyone's still raring to go) --
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 06:49 pm]
|Authors: Do you/did you use new tools to write your new jazz histories? New processes?
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:33 pm]
The new tools, for me, are the same as the old tools - the recordings. Recordings and more recordings. Never stop listening and never take anyone else's historical judgement as gospel -
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 07:37 pm]
|The new tools that one uses is the knowledge that we've picked up through the years, the (hopefully) fresh perspectives and the things that we have seen and heard. With new recordings and reissues coming out every day, there is never any shortage of subject matter to write about.
|A. from pres in fireside [Dec 13 - 07:59 pm]
|Scott, and others -- what are some of specific processes for researching the past? Are there reference works we all commonly draw on? I'm still looking for an alternative to Russelll Sanjek's incredible American Popular Music Business in the 20th Century. It's a multi-volume, dry as dust every biz move recorded tome, reduced to a single volume by the author's son after his death (yes, evidently, the son's). But it is the only book I've found that really covers the business on this mundane level that really does effect the development of the music, along with possibly less businesscentric social-historical influences. Uh,trends.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 08:16 pm]
|OK Howard, you ask about processes. First - trawls through the press in hard copy in microform, on CD ROM or in hard caopy in a well-equipped library. (Shame the Bodleian's run of the New Yorker here in Oxford has a bit of a gap in 1943-4 - something to do with a submarine). Second, really dogged research into antiquarian literature, firstly music books of course, but also looking for the sources that are not necessarily primarily musical, or primarily jazz based, but which are likely to have some jazz content. You then (pace Orrin) have to take a judgement about how accurate / informed the writer is. Third - oral histories. Fourth, reference books of all types (b.t.w. are you aware of Pekka Gronow and Ilpo Saunio's International History of the Recording Industry? That's a good example of a recent industry-focussed book that has some useful music-biz stuff - although a fair chunk of received opinion as well). Fifth, foreign language sources. There's a mass of highly accurate, interesting stuff in French, and (although my command of these languages is limited) in Dutch and German. No serious researcher of the early jazz and swing era can really afford to ignore the Bulletin du Hot Cluib de France, for example.
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 08:58 pm]
|New tools, processes: anything that can offer new, legitimate perspectives on the same old stuff -- interviews with well-informed musicians from other genres; interviews with NON-informed music-loving folk; trade mags covering the music from the industry side; witnesses of various events with little or no spcial interest in jazz (and therefore, agenda) . . . not that it all should be used, but talk about getting in something fresh. Sometimes it works.
|A. from stephanie in still here [Dec 13 - 09:29 pm]
The tools for me were also the old tools, trying to uncover what was overlooked. In the case of writing about GIl Evans, it was amazing to me how little had really been unearthed about Gil's early life, and there are still mysteries lurking.
It was also extremely useful to talk to people other than musicians: one of my conversations with an abstract painter (who was very helpful to Gil Evans in lean times) had some very different things to say about creative process --it was very helpful.
But the tools, no matter what the technique, internet, dusty old boxes of papers, memorabilia lying in someone's basement, until the right person asked--these are the artifacts that help fill in the blanks of a person's life or a musical development.
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 06:51 pm]
|What were the first histories you ever read? Which did you like, which hate? What jazz histories, biographies, narratives were you most aware of in writing your own books? What music did you listen to?
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 07:09 pm]
The first book about jazz I think I ever read was "Blues People" by LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka), which I remember dusting off from my father's extensive bookshelf when I was very young, for the first time. I remember being struck by his descriptions of the history of the music and it's connections with it's African past, written in fiery, poetic prose; he had me instantly hooked on the music long before I really discovered who Charlie Parker actually was. (As a sidenote, it was heartening to later be able to meet the man himself, and I've actually since become a frequent member of Amiri's group as pianist).
When I started exploring jazz more seriously as a jazz student at the Manhattan School of Music in the late 80's, Francis Davis's book "In the Moment - Jazz in the 80's", about the typically under-appreciated generation of musicians who emerged in the 80's and evolved their styles mostly in the loft jazz scene in NY of the 70's, really opened my ears to a whole new musical world. Whether fueled subliminally or directly by this book or not, it really, I think, led me to many players with whom I eventually worked with regularly, including Billy Bang and David Murray, and others whom I've merely become admirers of such as Henry Threadgill. The combination of this book and my studies with Don Pullen also reinforced in me the need to dive into the musicians from this period, which was really counter to the prevailing neo-traditional, Wynton-Marsalis-led young lion movement that was fashionable starting around this time. So in a way I owe a lot to Francis' book for affirming the importance of these often overlooked heroes from this period.
|A. from the pres in you know where [Dec 13 - 07:11 pm]
|ok, I'll start it off -- first myths, *then* a few biographies of Kit Carson, Wild Bill Hickock, and eventually, like age 10, a series of novelizations of famous historic events (mostly battles). I read a bio of Thomas Paine and also Citizen Hearst. Had (still have) an anthology titled 100 years of Great Reporting. First jazz histories: The Story of Jazz by Marshall Stearns, then Nat Hentoff & Nat Shapiro's great editing job on Hear Me Talkin' To Ya, and Jazzmen (Chas. Edward Smith and Bill Russell, eds), and Hodier, Amiri Baraka (at the time, Leroi Jones). . .
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 07:21 pm]
|I read a lot of jazz books in university, after years of hearing the music casually, and like D.D. the Jones book affected me, as did Four Lives In The Bebop Business. So did Bird Lives, but unfortunately, what *grabs* your attention isn't always the best history. On Stanley Crouch's recommendation a number of years ago, I picked up Chilton's The Song Of The Hawk, which is agonizingly detailed... good history, not great *reading* though.
|A. from Francis Davis in Philadelphia [Dec 13 - 07:38 pm]
|The first jazz histories I ever read were Marshall Stearns's THE STORY OF JAZZ and Martin Williams's THE JAZZ TRADITION, and these are still the books I most often refer to, dated though they might be. In terms of my own writing, though, my major influence was Pauline Kael. I occasionally hear her voice whispering in my sentences.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:44 pm]
|I've read Francis Davis, Gene Santoro, Gary Giddins, Whitney Balliett, John Litweiler's book on Ornette, Howard's book, Amiri Baraka's books, Frank Kofsky, and a few others I can't remember, plus of course the Miles autobiography (which should really be packaged with Klaus Kinski's for a two-for-one sale). I don't know if any of them really informed my own writing, definitely not as far as prose style. Being from a largely rock background, it was much more difficult to excise Lester Bangs from my early stuff.
|A. from pres in ol' office [Dec 13 - 07:45 pm]
|I like Robert Palmer's Deep Blues, as a history, and some of Peter Guralnick's work. Whitney Balliet's portraiture works as history, I think, too. But I'm drawn to the story of it, which is something that works so well in Blues People, and also in the oral histories of Hear Me Talkin' to You, and in A.B. Spellman's Four Lives (four more!). The story persuades me. That's dangerous: in Gunther Schuller's Swing Era, the argument and authority of the analysis convinces; in Lewis Porter's John Coltrane, the credibility of historical fact. I applaud Shipton's approach though -- quite broad, Alyn, in this new book.
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 07:48 pm]
|When I first discovered jazz around 1970, the three writers who initially impressed me the most were Leonard Feather (who seemed to be everywhere), Nat Hentoff and Ralph Gleason. Feather's Encyclopedia Of Jazz seemed to be the definitive history of jazz, Hentoff's The Jazz Life has remarkable chapters on Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Ornette Coleman, and Gleason had the ability to be both a cheerleader for jazz and an educator. Shortly after that, Stanley Dance greatly impressed me with his four "World Of" books (Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Earl Hines, Swing) which are full of priceless interviews with veteran swing greats who would soon no longer be around. Since then, I have found flaws in the bodies of each of these writers' works, but I am still impressed by their accomplishments. I don't think any of them have influenced the way I write, except that I try not to duplicate some of Leonard Feather's faults (such as dismissing an entire style of music just because it seems to complex or forbidding to me). As far as music goes, I was lucky because I started out with dixieland, explored 1920s jazz, moved up to swing and, once I learned to appreciate Charlie Parker, the doors were open. By starting at the beginning, I can still go back to trad (which I still love) and 1920s jazz while still enjoying the most modern improvisations. I know that it is difficult for many who came to jazz through fusion to appreciate the earliest jazz due to the low fidelity, so I'm grateful that that's how I started out.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:54 pm]
|Scott: do you think it's that important to "start at the beginning"? I'm curious, because my own self-education in jazz has been extremely scattershot, and I find things that I like in all eras, but don't feel at all deprived for having not graduated "Armstrong Ellington U." if you see what I mean. I have recently begun to think that perhaps a linear historical perspective is in fact irrelevant, particularly in the digital era when everything (or anyway, lots of stuff) from every period in jazz history exists simultaneously. I mean, isn't some of this kind of rooted in a jazz snobbery? The same attitude is not leveled at rock fans—you aren't expected to go listen to Elvis in order to appreciate or "understand" Pearl Jam, for example, but there's as clear a progression there as there is from Armstrong to, say, Roy Campbell. I think it's definitely possible, and may in fact be beneficial, to pick and choose CDs not out of some need to learn things on a historical timeline, but because the music hits you in the gut.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 07:55 pm]
|Interesting where we all started our reading in the great continuum of things... I began with Rudi Blesh and Hugues Panassie, and the curious works of an English optician called Rex Harris, whose basic view was that the classic New Orleans line-up was the be-all and end-all of jazz, and that Coleman Hawkins made a serious career mistake in opting for the tenor rather than the clarinet. It took me years to shake off these opinions, which I read in childhood, and therefore believed implicitly, and even longer to rid myself of the fogeyism of Philip Larkin - which just goes to show that however much you admire someone's poetry, it doesn't necesasarily make them a great jazz critic. I'm still licking the wounds from his tirades against modernism! But a new generation of histories started with Collier's Making Of Jazz (a book which I published in the UK, and which I still rate highly as a balanced and well-written history). John Chilton, by the way, produced an excellent short history of jazz for the UK Teach Yorself imprint, which is a rather good book. I think after that, the more interesting perspectives (thanks for the kind words, Howard) tend to appear in more specialist period or regional works, such as Gioia's West Coast Jazz.
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 08:01 pm]
|MArtin Williams, Martin Williams, Martin Williams, Martin Williams and more Martin Williams. And than liner notes - Dan Morgenstern, Dan Morgenstern, and more Dan Morgenstern -if Dan's name was on the record, I bought it -
|A. from prez in there [Dec 13 - 08:06 pm]
Allen -- you said at your signing you'd tried to make sure there was one new idea in each chapter. You begin by re-examining slavery, relations with the West Indies; blues, jazz, and theater musics influencing each other . . later on you spend significant time on the AACM and BAG, midwestern modernist movements -- what are a couple other the others, in a nutshell?
And Ted apologized for not being here tonight, he's in the air (real space) and arriving late somewhere --
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 08:24 pm]
Actually, Howard, I think you mean Alyn not Allen.
Well, a couple of others might be the idea that territory bands were not a side show, but a precursor of a lot of what became absorbed into big band jazz - a training ground for the East Coast. And the exploration of the birth of bebop using the idea that this was not just a new way of thinking about harmony and rhythm, but a genuine shift in cognitive processes among musicians playing the music. I'm no cognitive psychologist, but I think I understand the literature well enough to throw out some possible new ways of thinking about this period.
Others - early internationalism of jazz. (I tend not to think of it as quite so much an American music as some panellists obviously do, and from early in its history too.) The idea of Ascension being a pivotal point in Coltrane's music, leading to a part of his work at least as influential as anything that had gone before, rather than the Burns-ish view that it was some rather horrid sounds that have nothing to do with the greatness of his earlier work...
|A. from pres in inquiry window [Dec 13 - 08:37 pm]
Quite so -- Alyn, right. I had just read an answer of Allen's. These ideas I find all to be logical outgrowths of a stretch of fine jazz and blues histories that preceded our work - but now we've come a bit further, it seems and see farther, more.
Interestingly, as Allen was talking about "taking issue" with other people's histories, you (and I think all of us, 70 yrs after) have cut through all the Pannisse and Larkin inconsistencies, mistakes, irrelevancies, assertions of simple bias, hoping to assert a longer/wider scale, broader perspective. Can one mix the incisive overview with the over-wrought of those earlier "historians" and yet get by?
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:40 pm]
|All I can say Phil is that it worked for me! Sure, some listeners may get into jazz through Jaco Pastorius and be able to appreciate Steve Brown's bass playing with Jean Goldkette during 1926-27 and how far ahead of its time it was. But I tend to think most listeners who come into jazz through recent styles will find it difficult to go back to the 1920s and 30s, or be able to appreciate the classic jazz movement of today. I hope I'm wrong but when I see how little coverage trad jazz gets in the so-called major jazz publications (one former editor had never heard of Ralph Sutton before), it makes me wonder why so many jazz journalists are not interested in investigating the whole story.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 08:44 pm]
|Better by far that we mix the new inciseveness of which you speak, Oh Pres, with the over-wrought enthusiasm of old, than that we be overtaken by the dread hand of Derrida and Kristeva...
|A. from O Keepnews in SF [Dec 13 - 09:04 pm]
I don't know that all the early writing was THAT overwrought or the current so rational. There was some dreadful partisanship in the good old days, I'll admit: let us never forget Rudi Blesh, who firmly believed the devil took over after Adam and Eve were thrown out of New Orleans. And one of my early joys was "Jazz: A People"s Music," which Sidney Finkelstein wrote from a straight Marxist point of view. Worst of all, I guess, was having to not only read but edit the work of Charles Edward Smith --one of the most brilliant and awkward and ornate writers I have ever encountered.
But no one -- not even Pannassier -- was more didactic than Baraka or more aggravating than Kofsky.
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 06:52 pm]
|Is the internet affecting the way you research/write? or the way you use libraries?
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 07:18 pm]
|Yes, the Internet has a huge influence, not only on how I write reviews and articles but in how I seek out new music and musicians. The Web puts so much information at one's fingertips -- it greatly speeds fact-checking, for one thing.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 07:24 pm]
|I would never have thought just a few years ago that my days when in town would largely be occupied by sitting in front of a keyboard staring at a screen, but (for better or for worse) the internet has irreversibly changed how musicians, and I'm sure writers, operate. Just as a promotional tool and vehicle for researching and booking gigs it is indispensible. And having access to such mp3 sites as Morpheus for quick musical research has also become an indispensible tool to me (ethical issues and all) :-)...
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:35 pm]
The internet is incredible - quick answers to reference questions as the tip of my fingers; amazing research done by crazy (I mean that in a nice way) people -
|A. from pres in here [Dec 13 - 07:47 pm]
|I'm surprised that it's used so universally for fact checking, though, as so many mid-web sources are unverifiable. Would you accept interviews with a subject for a book over the internet?
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 07:50 pm]
|Actually it has affected my writing much less than expected. Occasionally I'll look up some information (particularly birth and death dates) on the Internet, but most of the time I'll look at my own library of reference books. I just don't trust the information that is online all that much; so much of it is inaccurate. And as far as online magazines go, I never really read them. But then again, I am six months behind in reading Cadence!
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 08:01 pm]
|Yes pres, there's a lot of junk info on the web. One has to be wary. I'm not talking about the big facts, just the little ones that can be easily verified on reliable sites.
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 07:00 pm]
|What is the value of oral history? What is the value of musical analysis? What is the value of social contextualization? How do they work together -- must they?
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 07:18 pm]
|All three of the areas you have listed have value - but primarily - it seems to me - in the context of conventional documentary-based research. Oral history (and I should know - I've published over 20 of them from Barney Bigard to Buddy Collette) is of huge value in terms of the perspective of participants in making history, and of recording reactions and observations from those who have been both inside and outside the mainstream of jazz development. As a publisher, I have always sought narratives from those who reinforce areas of knowledge by pairing their work with that of others - thus Danny Barker and Doc Cheatham's books work alongside each other to give a complementary view of the Calloway band to that in Cab, Dizzy and Milt Hinton's own books. Barney and Rex Stewart's books illuminate Ellington and so on. Musical analysis (especially at the level of Schuller, Owens or DeVeaux) enhances our understanding still further by pinpointing moments at which certain trends - harmonic, thematic, rhythmic - can be demonstrated to be in use, and the dating of this often suggests things were going on in a marginally different time-frame from the oral history accounts. Social contextualization is also helpful - and it was so often absent from earlier histories, hence the old canard about Fats Waller's inexplicable absence (apart from a handful of dates) from the record studio after 1929 until 1934 used never to be linked to the Depression! So, in my view all these three areas are vital ingredients in understanding jazz history more thoroughly - and it is imperative that they are seen together rather than studied in isolation.
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:38 pm]
I agree with Mr. Shipton, but I'm a little dismayed by how social contextualization has begun to substitute for musical analysis and understanding in academic histories. I deal with this a bit in my own history; I see more and more academic works that have no real rason for being, I'm sorry to say -
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 07:54 pm]
|All three areas of course have their place. Oral history is invaluable because it gives the musicians an opportunity to speak for themselves, and so many of their stories (which show listeners the human side of the music) would be permanently lost if they weren't taped and written down. Musical analysis has its place although it is most appreciated by musicians rather than jazz fans. Social contextualization can sometimes cast new light on different topics, but amateur psychological studies are to be avoided.
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 07:00 pm]
Does jazz journalism serve as "history in a hurry"?
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 07:08 pm]
|Sometimes you have to worry about the validity of "history in a hurry." In jazz, it seems we have enough problems with history that shouldn't be in a hurry. A case in point is the controversy over the new Pablo box set of Coltrane's European concerts. When those who are employed to get the facts right can't, it perpetuates the spread of misinformation. It seems that we haven't done a very thorough job in jazz of documenting fact. It seems that there are too many personal agendas, whether it's Ken Burns or Eric Miller, who produced this Trane set. We seem much more hesitant to share information than documentarians in other fields.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:12 pm]
|I wish it did, but too often that's far too dignified a description. Jazz journalism, a lot of the time these days (and I'm as guilty of it as anybody else, when I take assignments rather than writing pieces I've pitched to editors based on personal interest), is an adjunct of the record label publicity department. Profiles of artists are often tossed into print with little or no discussion of context, other than perhaps a little bit of name-dropping as a kind of descriptive shorthand ("So-and-so's piano technique is Taylor-esque, but with hints of Mehldau's almost cataleptic restraint"). I think that's a pitfall of all journalism, since it's so time-based. Nobody's got six months to carefully craft a piece, and why bother if, as happened to me in a well-known mag I don't, and won't—by mutual decision—write for anymore, the editor's gonna chop it by 2/3 to make room for an ad anyway? So I'd say that too often, the "hurry" part is more accurate than the "history" part.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:14 pm]
|What's the problem with the Pablo set? I'm not allowed to open my copy till Monday (it's a birthday present from my wife).
|A. from James in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 07:16 pm]
|As David Wild and others have pointed out (see Wild's Web site for the details) Eric Miller got many of the dates and locations wrong. One of the shows is from Birdland, not Europe. What's labelled as the Stuttgart show (long coveted by Trane devotees as one his best concerts ever) isn't.
|A. from the pres in jja white house [Dec 13 - 07:20 pm]
I believe (at very least, still hope) it is possible to get it right, put it down as it is, and say what you want to, but one must learn to do that, what it involves and how it's done, over application of craft. You can't expect anyone other than yourself in jazz/music/cultural journalism, not in my experience, to do the work to make it so. You have to learn to work with editors, and the realities of space and words and photos.
I was surprised to find that book editing did not seem more rigorous. I'm sure there are fact checking mavens in some publisher's houses, as there are at the top-rank mags (such as the New Yorker). I don't find that the history in the New Yorker (the recent Bill Evans trio article, in which Orrin Keepnews was quoted), was overall a more compelling piece for the facts being well checked. That can't affect the point of view the writer as listener as historian brings to the piece. But having facts checked never HURT any writing, ever.
I think maybe this is talking about journalism, NOT history. Is there a difference then. Phil, you think there is a WAY THINGS ARE? and we'd better get it right, right now?
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:28 pm]
|If there is a Way Things Are right now, it's only because of the relatively small number of jazz mags, and the people who are in charge of them. And it's not limited to jazz journalism, by any means. I freelance for rock mags as well, more so than for jazz mags, and the stuff I do there is absolutely attached to whoever's got an album out that month. It's nearly impossible to get a profile of an artist placed strictly on the merits of that artist's work.
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 07:30 pm]
"Cataleptic." What a great word.
"History in a hurry" connotes sloppiness, for sure, but it's up to journalists to write stuff that isn't disposable. We can look for ways to inject depth into even a short piece. We can also look at "history" in a philosophical sense -- history can be what happened yesterday or last week. A snippet of history, such as a concert review, doesn't need to be exhaustive to be relevant. The best reviews can serve not as "hurried" history but as pithy and informative readings that will retain their value over time.
|A. from James in JJA North [Dec 13 - 07:32 pm]
Maybe I'm just lucky, but I've never had an editor - not at Down Beat, Coda, The Jazz Report or my newspaper - tell me what to write about or alter my work to fit the publication's agenda. I know that DB will skew reviews to fit the ads they're getting in, but by the same token they have allowed me to review CDs by very small indies that will not advertise.
I'm sure it happens, Phil; in fact, I know it does, but you have to find those vehicles that have some scruples about what they do.
|A. from James in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 07:35 pm]
|I agree completely with David's last comment. It's up to *us* to ensure that hurried doesn't mean wrong. You can build context into a 50-word capsule review. And you can get your facts straight when you're writing a concert review to an 11 p.m. deadline. It's all about being professional.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:38 pm]
I've found over the past couple of years that if you want your copy to go in the way you intended it, with a minimum of editorial interference, the best way is to write things for places that don't usually cover that type of music. For example, I reviewed a concert John Zorn gave (with Fred Frith, Bill Laswell and Dave Lombardo) for Metal Hammer, and consequently I was able to say exactly what I wanted, because the editor was in no position to call me on anything...she just didn't have the base of knowledge. (The hook was, obviously, that Lombardo used to drum for Slayer, but I don't think she'd ever heard of any of the other three players.)
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:44 pm]
The best jazz writing has come from journalists - Francis Davis, Gary Giddins, Dick Sudhalter, Bob Blumenthal, that guy who used to write for the New Republic in the 1930s (can't think of his name right now). Even Gunther Schuller began his jazz writing as a journalist - The Jazz Review. Thank god for the journalists, they've saved jazz from he academics -
|A. from Francis Davis in Philadelphia [Dec 13 - 07:51 pm]
|Unfortunately, Phil Freeman's point about record companies calling the tune for most of us is all too true -- especially in the music magazines. It may be too easy for me to say, and I know we all have to make a living, but my advice to my fellow writers is not to write about somebody or something unless you feel you have something compelling to say--something that might otherwise go unsaid.
|A. from Francis Davis in Philadelphia [Dec 13 - 07:57 pm]
|The guy from The New Republic whose name Allen couldn't remember was Otis Ferguson. I would also add Richard O. Boyer, who wrote terrific pieces on Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie for The New Yorker in the 1940s, and Nat Hentoff, whose early stuff (the pieces in The Jazz Life, for example) represented a new way of writing about jazz musicians. And Whitney Balliett, for all his tics.
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:00 pm]
|To answer Howard's question, No. Most worthwhile jazz journalists can write quite fast, and the end result does not look rushed. As far as the larger jazz magazines having features on musicians and singers who are on labels that take out ads, obviously that happens all of the time. That's one reason that I think highly of Cadence.
|A. from O Keepnews [Dec 13 - 09:16 pm]
|Maybe one part of the answer is that journalism -- writing short and FAST -- is excellent training for "real" writing. But maybe it is that there are a hell of a lot more bad writers than good in any genre. And editors and advertising managers are the enemies of all men of good will.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 09:28 pm]
|Journalism teaches you speed, and with that a certain degree of glibness and wit. But I don't know whether those are applicable lessons, or obstacles, to "real" (that is, long-form) writing. I know I'm having a hell of a time starting a novel, because the idea of multiple hundreds of pages on one story is just mind-boggling to me after years of 500-1500 word blasts.
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 09:30 pm]
|My feeling is that the we can learn most from the past. If "hurry" does indeed carry a negative connotation, then what is it that we value most from jazz journalism of the past. In this light -- John Tynan's anti-jazz rants against Coltrane and Dolphy were as valuable as Hentoff's explanations of Ayler's music in his liners. They both might be called being "in a hurry" but they were both informed and honest, and reflected a certain attitude and context. I believe that's what we should expect when we read, and reach for when writing, about today's music. As Orrin implies elsewhere -- it's the ad writers and editors serving industry agendas that distort history.
|A. from pres in later [Dec 13 - 09:42 pm]
Scott: << ... the larger jazz magazines having features on musicians and singers who are on labels that take out ads, obviously that happens all of the time .. . >>>
as pres of the JJA, I'd like to point out this practice is common across the arts magazines, including noticably the entertainment pages of the august New York Times -- how is it the featured movie of the Friday weekend section always has a double-truck four color ad? It's part of the historical context of the art form, as apart from the esthetic achievement, which plays a huge part in today's society with effecting what music survives, is widely heard and remembered -- although I think the music itself is the truth teller. (consider, for instance, the treatment given Stan Kenton in Alyn's book, or Allen's, or Stephanie's for that matter -- a musician of extraordinary print fame during his career, all but unlistened to today. Yet he had influence didn't he in his day, say on the commercial context if not the music of Gil Evans, right Stephanie? Alyn gives this four full pages -- Allen one provocative reference and one incisive, damning one. Not that *I* would hang my hat on Stan Kenton -- I didn't mention him once in Future Jazz, for all the desperation of his prophecy.
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 07:01 pm]
|Tell us about your books and why you write them.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 07:21 pm]
|I wrote my book (New York Is Now) for a couple of reasons. First of all, I felt that the musicians I was writing about deserved documentation. Secondly, I felt that they deserved to reach a different audience (punks and metalheads), and I deliberately aimed for that audience with the book (prose style, marketing, everything). Thirdly, I wanted to have a book out before I turned thirty.
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:46 pm]
|I write 'em largely because I don't like most of what's out there - bad writing, poor musical understanding, narrow viewpoint.
|A. from Howard in all around [Dec 13 - 07:53 pm]
|Allen, what kind of reaction have you had to That Devlin' Tune? I think your point-of-view is one of the most challenging of convention -- but I think you'd be best to summarize what's original in your interpretation, what you bring to it. Please?
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:05 pm]
|Thus far I have mostly written books because I've been asked to write them! With the All Music Guide To Jazz, I saw an opportunity to improve what was largely a mess; the first edition should never have come out. I got onboard fulltime after that and I'm reasonably happy with the 3rd edition though I wish I was given authority to fix its online equivalent. Swing, Bebop, Afro-Cuban Jazz and the upcoming Classic Jazz cover specific styles and were quite fun to write. My favorite one of my books is Trumpet Kings because it covers 479 trumpeters and its biographical format allowed me to put more humor in it than in the other books. The biggest frustration is that none of these books (other than the All Music Guide several years late) has been reviewed in Jazz Times (guess the mag isn't large enough), Jazziz or Downbeat. Do I have to take out an ad?
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 08:08 pm]
|Hey Scott, at least you didn't have to buy an ad to get reviewed in JazzNotes.
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 08:11 pm]
|What makes my book different, I think, is 1)it's as all inclusive as humanly possible; 2)it covers too much stuff (redundant, I know, but I mean that I even consider hillbilly music and its relationship to jazz, the blues, and ragtime) 3)I have a bit more musical knowledge than the average jazz critic; 4) I have a broader perspective than the average jazz critic , I think. I really know American music pretty well, from country to minstrelsy, ragtime to rock and roll. I've spent a great deal of time with American vernacular forms of performance, and I consider them to be as legitimate as jazz, and to have common sources. I believe jazz to be essentially derivative of African American musical practices, but I also think it is a truly mutli-racial music. The biggest problem with Sudhalter's book, for example, which I think redresses some important grievances, is that he essentially thinks jazz derived as much from white cultural practices as black cutural practices. This is nonsense, and one can only counter it by knowing the Southern roots of all of American pop.
|A. from O Keepnews [Dec 13 - 09:22 pm]
|I'm in here under false premises -- one of my books is a picture book, almost 50 years old, and the other a paste-up. But on the other hand I have had a contract (I'm sure the publisher doesn't still remember and the editor is retired) for over 20 years -- I still plan to write the story of my life in jazz, but I'm getting to suspect that I am too much of an editor at heart to allow me to actually write at length.
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 09:40 pm]
|KIND OF BLUE came out of a NY Times piece written for the 40th anniversary of the release of Miles's LP; the book was an attempt to approach a subject that had developed such an aura of mystery and reverence that it was almost sacrilege to approach it. The challenge was to find a way that did not pin it down (the album, the music and the genius behind it) but allowed the analysis/celebration to breathe as naturally as the music (and the enjoyment thereof.) I also saw it as a great way of approaching the "world in a grain of sand" idea: finding bits and pieces of everything -- jazz tradition, America in the '50s, the record biz, Miles's personality -- flowing thru one musical statement. I'm attempting much the same with that other, career-defining classic of modern jazz -- A LOVE SUPREME. After that . . . who knows. But if I get to FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE, someone shoot me.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 09:41 pm]
|Forget A Love Supreme; you should stick with Miles. Do On The Corner. And no, I'm not totally joking. That album deserves its own book.
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 09:42 pm]
|Ashley: I corresponded a while back with a guy who was writing a script based on your book. We're out of touch now. Where does that sit? Maybe you can encourage the rest of us wretches that there's big Hollywood money at the end of the jazz history-writing tunnel.
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 09:46 pm]
|Based on the stories of On The Corner I've heard from Dave Liebman, no one would believe it.
|A. from stephanie in almost gone [Dec 13 - 09:46 pm]
Several reasons--one was a huge attraction to Gil Evans's music, dating from my older brother bringing home Miles Ahead, Porgy and Sketches (I was crazy about a variety of orchestral music early on). Another was the fact that a comprehensive book about Evans had never been done (Lauren Cugny's book about Gil is more musicological, less historical); I really wanted to work on the musical/cultural ties, by sheer virtue of the fact that Gil grew up in an era of firsts (radio, early jazz, early phono, different styles of music), but his music often surges forward--because he was a great mixer--a synthesist, and he lived along time. I knew there would be a lot of material to draw from -- in several ways, musically, culturally and personally.
Thirdly, I did want to probe some of the mystery about Evans's collaborations, not just with Miles Davis, but with others--because that was a key to his work, it fed his process. The murky, messy, formative part of music-making is something I find compelling.
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 09:55 pm]
James: Is that the guy from Vancouver? Or Toronto? In LA they have that saying "everyone's got a great idea. Put up or shut up . . ." Hey what do I know from the movie biz? All I've been able to see is that it's a parallel universe (well perpendicular since it does intersect with jazz -- but rarely) with VERY different perspective and values from what we're discussing here. What's the last jazz-focused (non-doc) film you enjoyed and respected? Bird? Mo' Better? Benny Goodman Story? And canya imagine any jazz movie that didn't have someone shooting up?
Phil: YOU do On the Corner big guy. Pitch it to MOJO, tell 'em I sentcha . . .
|A. from pres in on top [Dec 13 - 09:56 pm]
|Orrin's pointed up photos as history, off-handedly -- wish there was more history such as represented in the photos of Bill Gottlieb, or Bob Parent, or Lona Foote, or Ray Ross, among other jazz photographers. Could that we'd ever move our musics' histories into the multi-media (DVD? -- anybody watch Bruce Ricker's revised Last of the Blue Devils?) form that would befit it.
|Q. from hman in office [Dec 13 - 07:03 pm]
|And to musician panelists -- is the musicians' view of history same as/different than the writer's? What is "history" compared to "in the moment?"
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 07:20 pm]
I think as active, performing jazz musicians, we walk a fine line between having the requisite respect for and awareness of what has come before, and the need to constantly forge ahead with "our own thing". I know that I personally prefer to view what I do as part of a constantly evolving jazz continuum, stretching from jazz's distant past to the present and beyond, and to avoid the tendency to systematize the music too much, to group it into carefully defined stylistic periods which are unbending.
Speaking with my teacher Jaki Byard, for ex. (who himself was truly a walking encyclopedia of the history of themusic), I became aware of just how in flux a language such as bebop actually was as it was being developed - in a way, it wasn't so much a finite language as an ever-evolving series of solutions to musical problems, expressed by different artists each in their own way. So as a performer I tend to avoid the frequent tendency, particularly among some jazz educators, to conveniently group the music's past into rigid stylistic periods, or, worse, to view what I currently do according to some rigid code or set of rules ("free jazz" or "latin jazz" or "Don Pullenesque"). The bottom line, I've found, is to respect what came before, to be aware of it, but to have the open-mindedness and desire for self-expression to reach beyond the past, and to try and come up with something fresh and new. Categories tend to just get in the way.
|A. from the pres in wh, nyc [Dec 13 - 07:29 pm]
|D.D., I like your answer, you're talking about how we might apply history rather than how its contrive of documentation and study . . .Does any earlier era exist outside of history, when we look at it? I suppose a performer can consider only internally musical issues of a piece he or she is going to interpret, if it comes from a different era than the artist's own. Have you had any experience researching music of an earlier era for performance?
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 07:32 pm]
|I agree with D. D. about the constant search for answers to musical problems, and I think this informs not just the bebop era, but almost every area of jazz history. Look at fake books, for example. Wouldn't it be dull if we all agreed on the right chords for everything? - but we can all pick and choose the chords that seem right to us for each piece we tackle. I think that the serious investigation of musicians' oral histories, coupled with interviewers and journalists asking musically literate questions in any press piece can radically improve our persective on history by more fully incorporating the musicians' experience. It was certainly true that the early generation of jazz players felt their experience had been hijacked by the Panassies and Leonard Feathers of this world who picked and chose their information to reinforcve a particular argument. Danny Barker was very forthright about this in his preface to our book A Life In Jazz, and believed that only by representing musicians more fully would we avoid "falsehoods, lies and cooked-up stories."
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 07:39 pm]
I've certainly played or recorded in situations where a greater-than-usual adherence to specific ways in which things were musically done in the past was demanded of the situation. But almost by definition, I find it almost impossible as a true jazz musician to attempt to approach a project, no matter how specific the demanded historical context, in a truly specific historical style. I tend to feel that so much about what made McCoy Tyner's modal, 4th's-based approach vibrant had to do with the era he emerged out of and was operating in, so when doing David Murray's "Octet Plays Trane" album, it seemed silly to try and imitate what he did directly (though I certainly could have). Jazz, to me, by definition, is distinctive precisely because it is a vibrant, living, breathing, ever-evolving art form and so I feel almost an obligation to at the least place a certain stylistic approach in a context which takes into account my own personal expression, and the influences I've personally been exposed to.
This also brings to mind what to me was an interesting contrast between Don Byron's Bug Music project (featuring older Duke Ellington and other big band arrangements he was fond of) and most of Wynton Marsalis's note-for-note "resurrection" of what Duke did. Wynton seems to find it enough to re-vive almost verbatim the past, while I found Don's versions of similar pieces to be somehow more joyful, vibrant, and lovingly ironic; looking back fondly instead of trying to put the music up on a stuffy museum pedestal.
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 07:39 pm]
|This is a good question, and one that writers can't help but confront. D.D. Jackson says that "categories get in the way," and most musicians agree. Yet most writers continue to think in categories, no matter how loudly musicians protest. I think there's truth in both perspectives. For musicians, it is vital to think beyond categories. Writers should be encouraged to think beyond them too, but in the business of prose, categories can be useful and honest descriptions.
|A. from Allen Lowe in Maine [Dec 13 - 07:48 pm]
|In my case I'm both a writer and musician. I play and I write because I have a great intellectual thirst for not just jazz but all of American music. My writing has brought me closer to the music, my music has brought me closer to an intellectual/historical understanding of the music.
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 07:57 pm]
|Ditto, Mr. Lowe -- I'm a guitarist as well as a writer. My activities nourish one another and I often find I have dual (or dueling) perspectives on these issues.
|A. from Francis Davis in Philadelphia [Dec 13 - 08:06 pm]
|Regarding Allyn's comments on the importance of oral history and his quote from Danny Barker. Sure, it's wise to go right to the source, and there is information that can be gotten only from the people who were directly involved in the making of a particular music (this was one of many problems with the Ken Burns series; why did we need to hear from Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman about Coltrane, when McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones were available?). But let's remember that musicians themselves have been responsible for plenty of what Barker called "falsehoods, lies, and cooked-up stories."
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:34 pm]
|Francis, ...and particularly, why did we need to hear Branford's characterization of Cecil Taylor and, by association, the whole free jazz movement, as "a bunch of fucking bullshit"? :-)
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:45 pm]
|D.D., Branford's comment fit into Burns' assertion that jazz lost its way in the late 1960s and died in 1975. That's why there was no mention of Pablo or Concord Records, the swing movement of Scott Hamilton & Warren Vache, Weather Report or Chick Corea, the New York loft scene of the 1970s, etc. Instead, the 1970s were portrayed as a wasteland (Satch dies, Duke dies, jazz dies), fitting into the story of how Wynton saved jazz.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:47 pm]
|ah, so THAT'S what happened...:-)
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 08:51 pm]
|DD -- re: Branford's comment -- I believe that speaks more to Burns' bad job of editing than anything else. Marsalis was speaking of a specific comment Cecil made (re: the audience needing to prepare to listen to jazz) but in the context that it appeared in JAZZ, it certainly seemed that Branford was dissing an entire scene, generation and lineage . . . True to his medium, Burns was not one to let such considerations get in the way of a controversy-raising quote.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 08:56 pm]
|The problem I had with the whole Branford thing was that even if the quote had been presented as a reaction to that idea of Cecil's about audience preparation, it'd still be a bogus attitude. If you walk straight in off the street, you're gonna look at a Pollock painting and say "Aw, my four-year-old could do that!" and you're gonna hear Cecil and say "Ah, that's just a buncha noise!" It is important that people have some understanding of what Cecil Taylor is about before they sit down in the Vanguard or wherever and, beer in hand, say "Okay, piano guy, entertain me now." And for Branford to say that's not important...well, it explains why he worked with Sting and Jay Leno, doesn't it?
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:59 pm]
|ooooo...let's not group Sting with Leno (and to Branford's credit, he had the sense to leave his Tonight Show gig before his 5-year run expired, to take the money and run, I suppose :-))...
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 09:15 pm]
|Phil: I won't begrudge nor judge Branford by the company he chose to keep . . . bully for him and his career. Nice to see any jazzman in those arenas. And though I might not agree with his take on Cecil, I defend his right to express it -- and woulda liked to have heard his reasoning, then of course heard Cecil's -- or someone's response. But that wasn't what Burns was offering (one more reason JAZZ was such a failure): instead of dialog, we got polemics . . .
|Q. from Nate Aune in New York City [Dec 13 - 07:41 pm]
|Critics of the Ken Burn's documentary argued that it focused too much on jazz as an "American art form" and neglected to mention many important European musicians. As jazz is not confined to a geographical region, but draws on influences from all cultures (African, Indian, Latin American, etc.), can you please give your thoughts on the evolution of jazz as a global art form and how this is or is not reflected in the jazz history books?
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 07:52 pm]
|I think this complaint would fall under the more general one about how Burns gave short shrift to contemporary music. There's great new jazz coming out of Europe, of course, but I can't really fault Burns for focusing on America in the earlier years. As for influences from Africa, India, etc., same thing -- no surprise that Burns didn't deal with it. He didn't even deal with new American music.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 07:55 pm]
|Ken Burn's documentary left out a pretty ridiculous number of American master musicians also but we could have a whole seperate forum on that I am sure...:-) As far as jazz from beyond U.S. borders, I think certainly as a performer we are really in the midst of a true "shift of power" from American musicians to abroad. It was interesting to me the almost violent reaction that people had to an article which appeared in I believe it was the Sunday NYTimes, suggesting that the European scene was now where all of the interesting developments were taking place, and that American musicians hadn't produced one memorable album in the last 20 years, etc., etc. Of course the article was in many ways grossly overstated, but it did underscore a very real trend towards European's focus on their own. I personally think that this is a very natural and healthy development, and a sign that jazz is continuing to grow and mature, and I feel that writers certainly have a responsibility to reflect these changes in their histories, to see jazz as not merely "America's Classical Music" (a term I've always despised) but as a true world music with many regional delicacies.
|A. from James in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 07:57 pm]
|Part of it, of course, is New York-centricity. It's unavoidable. As writers, we don't take enough time to understand what shaped musicians *before* they arrived in NYC. My hometown buddy, D.D., is a case in point. His background is extremely diverse, but not many who have profiled him have looked at those elements in determining what makes him the musician he is today (living in Brooklyn). I think it has a lot to do with America's prevailing melting pot attitude, too. Once you're in New York, where you come from isn't supposed to matter anymore. That was certainly the way my great-grandparents wanted it when they arrived there from the hell-hole of Sheffield, UK.
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:10 pm]
|I taped Ken Burns, I watched Ken Burns, I quickly erased Ken Burns! What a waste of $19 million. He bragged about not knowing anything about jazz when he started the project, and unfortunately apparently never learned anything about it along the way. In general the jazz history books focus on jazz from the U.S., largely overlooking the music from other countries (even Canada). This is one of many areas that need to be corrected in future books. Also, the New York writers really need to look beyond the Big Apple and notice the music that is taking place not only in Europe and South America, but in the rest of the U.S.
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 08:16 pm]
|D.D., you mentioned the famous NYTimes piece on Euro jazz -- I was one of the angry letter writers. Let me just say I agree with you that we need to reject territoriality, and be open to innovations from everywhere. However, I think the article was more than simply "overstated," as you say. Bugge Wesseltoft was the one who said that no interesting music had come out of America in 20 years -- and when he said it he brought us deeper into global ignorance than global outreach. It's a devastating dismissal of the creative American musicians who struggle to make themselves heard.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:19 pm]
That's a very valid point, and one I've often thought about; particularly the differences between Canada and the U.S.'s attitude about cultural assimilation. The melting pot mentality that seems to prevail in the U.S. in Canada has always been replaced to me by a greater respect for cultural diversity, almost as a matter of government policy. It's somehow "assumed" your Canadian, but then you are somehow also encouraged to preserve your own cultural heritage, your own way of thinking, without questions.
One might argue that this way of thinking actually helped me once I got to New York to sidestep the whole neo-traditionalist young lion movement thing in favor of musical styles that were more meaningful to me at the time (namely, the veterans of the 70's loft jazz scene, combined with my own classical background and hints of Oscar Peterson :-)).
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:24 pm]
|David, You're right, that "no great jazz recordings in the last 20 years", etc. was a pretty ridiculous comment. I just felt that a lot of the complaints directed against the article, though, had as much to do with just the whole idea of Europe as being where many of the interesting innovations were coming from, and I guess my point is that if the largely European programming at European jazzfests these days is any indication, there is a great deal of evidence that the scene really is contributing a lot in it's own right, or at least that Europeans no longer feel the need to automatically import from the U.S. for ideas, and this to me is a natural and good development; a sign of jazz's continued growth and maturity...
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 08:37 pm]
|I'm not really up on European jazz (didn't read the article under discussion, either) aside from the FMP/Incus/Leo crowd (Brötzmann, Parker, Bailey, Schlippenbach, etc.). And how much of that is even "jazz" has been up for discussion for years. What have I been missing out on?
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 08:38 pm]
|D.D. that's a good point, and I agree that Europe is generating great stuff quite independent of the U.S. Whenever I get a CD in the mail from Europe I put it on quickly, so sure am I that it will be good. (Italy is hot!)
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 08:41 pm]
|Phil... that's your job as a critic/historian. You have to be aware what's going on outside of NYC, let alone just free music. It's not enough to say "I'm not up on it." Get up on it! What you're missing could be an entire separate forum.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 08:44 pm]
|I have no doubt. Every time I look through the latest Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD, it depresses me how many names are just totally unfamiliar.
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 08:45 pm]
|Yeah, it's our job to be up on things, but we can't be up on everything at every minute. It's not humanly possible. Gotta cut folks some slack.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 08:48 pm]
|Isn't a certain degree of specialization better, anyhow? Find something you like, and write about it. I mean, I don't claim to know a whole lot about anything, but I know more about free jazz and death metal than any other genres of music, and that's probably the way it's gonna stay, just because those are the sounds that get my blood going more than any others. I listen to everything I come across, but at some point taste rather than homework becomes the deciding factor...
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:49 pm]
|It is up to us as jazz journalists to be familiar with as many musicians and singers as possible. Whether we can really be "experts" on everyone's life history is debatable, but we should never lose the joy of discovering new talents. Every era of jazz is valid and there is an infinite number of artists waiting for us to write about.
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 08:56 pm]
|To Phil's last point... The danger there is that you start to tread that fine line between writing as a "fan" rather than maintaining your objectivity. That's fine for fanzines, but how does that type of writing benefit the creation of a well-documented body of music criticism/history. That's the danger Orrin Keepnews was referring to in an earlier post. I don't think there's anything wrong with specializing, but understanding the context is critical. To go to an earlier point you made, it *isn't* essential for a fan to like Pearl Jam without knowing how Elvis ended up at Sun Records, but it sure helps to understand and appreciate contemporary music (in any genre) if you know where it came from.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 08:57 pm]
|Picking up Scott's point, I rather hope that I have addressed the question of internationalism of the music in my New History of jazz. As well as a survey of prewar jazz in most areas of the world, I've gone into considerable detail on Europe, the former Soviet Union, Southern Africa, India, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Latin America in the last 20 years. Not definitive by any means but a start. And as a frequent visitor ton the US I'm genuinely amazed by the myriad local developments there. The comments on one of the other strands on Chicago (Tortoise / Underground Trio) reflect an incredibly rich scene - from the Hot House / Vandermark, NRG to the continued AACM world, but there are equally interesting scenes in dozens of other US cities, which to my ear at least have discernable local characteristics. A good example might be the Asian American scene in SF, with Anthony Brown's Orchestra and John Jeng. So there's a lot to be covered in the US away from the NY area, all of which feeds into the music as a whole.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 09:04 pm]
|James, I know certainly as a composer I like to know as much about a new musical area as I can before I feel I can confidently and legitimately depart from it and offer my own two-cents on the proceedings, so I can see the parallel you're making with the necessity of understanding context rather than merely just being a "fan" or dabbler as a jazz writer...
|Q. from hman in nyc [Dec 13 - 07:53 pm]
|You know, panelists -- you can ask questions, too --
|Q. from KB in NYC [Dec 13 - 08:18 pm]
|Talking with a student this morning, we enumerated examples throughout music history (as known) where a music's theory (rules, grammar, prescriptions) postdated its most creative period---and were usually a result thereof. Do you feel that the rise of formalized teaching of jazz (theory, harmony, history and repertoire) has had an impact on jazz as a music, its history or your perception of that history?
|A. from David R. Adler in New York, NY [Dec 13 - 08:29 pm]
|The formalized teaching of jazz has had a huge impact, not only musically but sociologically, in terms of how musicians network and interact and move about in their careers. To stick to your question about music theory, the impact is not yet entirely clear, although in general I'd say that there's been some incredibly complex (and incredibly beautiful) music written by people with formal training -- Kurt Rosenwinkel, to name just one. I'd venture that some of this music couldn't have been written without formal training. Also, I'd strongly question whether jazz has seen "its most creative period" come and go.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:32 pm]
|I think it's had a profound impact, and alot of it damaging. It's very convenient to systematize in a language that which we can easily transcribe and describe to others; a Charlie Parker solo, for example. But how often are David Murray solo transcriptions readily available to university jazz students? How often is his conceptual contribution to the music discussed? Jazz is a music of numerous conceptual approaches, of which bebop is just one, albeit an important one. Somehow there needs, I feel, to be a way for the contributions of other diverse conceptualists whose work is not as easily catagorizable or graspible to fit into what is typically taught in schools, so that students can start seeing jazz as not merely a language of styles and licks, but as a way of thinking, of being personally self-expressive, of being individual.
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 08:38 pm]
|The formalized teaching of jazz has certainly produced some of the dullest musicians I've ever heard. The bebop to Trane orthodoxy of many colleges can produce students who simply sound exactlty the same as one another. Thank heaven for places like Cal Arts with its free improv programme, for iconoclasts like Bob Brookmeyer at New England Conservatory, for visiting professors like Joe Lovano at Berklee, and for the incredible breadth of instruction at somewhere like the New School for trying to avoid these traps. (Not sure I'd include the new Juilliard program on this list - the jury's still out on Mr Goines and co, but I have my suspicions a LCJO cloning program may be under way there.) But when you consider that Derek Bailey's written an improvisation text, as has the Anglo-Australian Roger Dean, it does show that formalized teaching can have a creative and constructive place even in the area of Eureopan free jazz, and there doesn't seem to be too much danger of the world being taken over by Derek Bailey clones just yet!
|Q. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 08:18 pm]
|Orrin Keepnews (but others, too)... In your book, you devoted a chapter to a very critical examination of jazz criticism ("A Bad Idea, Poorly Executed"). Have you seen any improvement in the 14 years since you wrote that? Are we getting any better at documenting the music? Does the system have some fatal errors we just can't fix?
|A. from O Keepnews [Dec 13 - 09:45 pm]
|Thank you, James Hale, for ending the suspense. I have been waiting all evening to be identified as The Enemy! But the question is a good one and the answer happens to be ambivalent. I still find a lot of bad writing (particularly in the sense of being superficial, ignorant, or self-serving), but I think that in the dozen or more years since I wrote that diatribe, time has produced two interesting variations. One is that there are several writers who have actually matured; the other is that there seem to me to be a great many more would-be jazz writers, so that without the percentages necessarily getting better, there are physically just plain MORE acceptable writers. I applaud what seems to be a great deal more attention to documentation -- to writing history rather than just low level "criticism." I still think the existence of (perhaps even the need for) quickie reviews will always be a negative factor. But when I wrote that piece, there were no writers around of the caliber of (to take but a single example) Lewis Porter, and Francis Davis was more than a decade younger and perhaps more callow.
|A. from pres in home [Dec 13 - 09:51 pm]
|Phil, where are you on this one. In the five years you've been writing, has jazz criticism gotten better or worse?
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 09:56 pm]
|I don't think it's gotten better or worse...I think the subjects chosen have gotten worse, though. I don't think the current cover models adorning jazz mags deserve the coverage they're getting, in many instances (and this goes for guys, as well as the two women many probably assume I might be referring to). I also think jazz journalism has gotten kinda self-referential, and doesn't really look outside itself very often. Part of this may be a kind of sense of superiority (why bother with those grubby folks in the outside world, they don't get Bird and they never will), which I think is ill-founded. I think jazz journalism is preaching to the converted way too much of the time, and this includes not only jazz magazines but writers who may not try to pitch jazz coverage to non-jazz venues.
|A. from pres in pulpit [Dec 13 - 10:11 pm]
|Heck, getting the jazz mags to run jazz-jazz coverage has become hard enough (as per yr comment about models on the cover) -- I remember the days Peter Watrous was reviewing jazz records for Elle! When the Voice covered jazz at least once a week besides 0 Giddins. When Chip Defaa and Lee Jeske and Gene Santoro and Martin Johnson and Gene Seymour were writing regularly in New York City papers. When jazz was covered by Whitney Balliet in the New Yorker and Ralph Gleason in Rolling Stone. There was new music extreme improvisation/jazz/world/electric/odd/ultra pop/minimalism everything in Ear. Gone are the days, buddy. That's why we get fanzines and fan books now, I'm afraid, that add little except enthusiasm (at best) to the historical record.
|Q. from Nate Aune in NYC [Dec 13 - 08:38 pm]
|New York has been traditionally thought of as the jazz mecca of the world. Much of the great jazz music was created here and New York continues to attract top jazz musicians from around the world. However, from my experience, many jazz musicians live in New York, but actually find most of their paid work overseas. Do you see this as a continuing trend? With ever-expanding globalization and advances in technology (Internet, email, RocketNetwork, etc), is it becoming less important to move to NY to "pay your dues", or will a New York presence continue to be essential for any emerging jazz artist? How can NY foster a climate that provides jazz musicians with more opportunities to play and get paid?
|A. from pres in about [Dec 13 - 08:46 pm]
key word is "emerging." as long as New York is the hub of the jazz-related record/publishing/touring business, it will be important for jazz musicians to have some at least occasional presence here. Not that music can't emerge from anywhere -- but this is where the publications are based, too, and the advertisers. A different way of organizing this structure for musical career development via dig. technology is possible, and remains speculative at present. If jazz is in the moment you gotta be there, really there, to make it happen. But you can't just emerge in NYC, because there aren't enough gigs here, so you have go global, fest-wise too.
Same for writers. Carry the history you'd tell far and wide, brothers and sisters.
|A. from Phil Freeman in Elizabeth, NJ [Dec 13 - 08:51 pm]
|It's important to be around other musicians, so you can find co-workers, and then go overseas or wherever else with them. Right now, that means NYC, I guess. And that's not gonna change even if every jazz musician in the world gets a Palm Pilot.
|A. from Scott Yanow in Burbank [Dec 13 - 08:51 pm]
|You mean there's jazz in New York, too?
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 08:52 pm]
|Yeah Scott, and a Knitting Factory too.
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 08:57 pm]
|I still find, biasedly-so, that the best musicians in the world are in New York, at least for the broad-ranging styles of music I know I enjoy being involved in, and I've certainly recommended to many peers to come here, to give it a go, if only for a short period, if they can at all swing it (violinist Christian Howes, who appeared on my last CD "Anthem", is the most recent colleague to "dare make the journey" :-)).... But yes, it is ironic that for the majority of us, our work takes us largely outside the city, and, in fact, mostly abroad (though in my case also to Canada). But still, as a meeting of the minds kind of environment, I find there is no parallel, and can't see this changing any time soon (Christian just got back from several weeks in Madrid where he was a star, but somehow it just doesn't resonate as much as it would here in New York...):-)
|A. from Ashley in New Jersey [Dec 13 - 09:03 pm]
Coleman Hawkins used to say that (I'm paraphrasing) one would get their stuff together in their hometowns, then bring it to the Apple . . . from my persepective working as tour manager with various jazz groups (Threadgill, Jazz Passengers, Osby, etc.) NYC seems to have become the woodshedding capital. Everything's here: cheap (relatively) rehearsal spaces, instrument rental places, repair shops, music libraries, copious studios, etc etc etc -- and of course a community overflowing with like-minded and -spirited musicians. Whatever it is a musician is into or needs (in the most positive, creative sense) it's gonna be found here.
Then you get yourself on the road and make the bucks . . .
|A. from D.D. Jackson in New York City [Dec 13 - 09:05 pm]
|Ashley, Everything...except perhaps affordable housing :-)...
|A. from Alyn Shipton in Oxford UK [Dec 13 - 09:08 pm]
|It's never been entirely necessary to view NY as the centre of the jazz world, and some world class players have studiously ignored it - Kenny Wheeler springs to mind. And I can think of good examples from earlier periods of jazz - talk to Teddy Edwards and he'll tell you in five minutes how he's glad to have made his worldwide reputation in LA. Perhaps one of the reasons everyone got so hot under the collar about Stuart Nicholson's NYT piece about European jazz is that it seems like heresy to deny NY's importance. I still find NYC one of the most stimulating places in the world for jazz, and - to a large extent, still producing some of the world's best music. But it is not alone - there are other centres from Vienna to Capetown where there's a different sort of creativity going on that can exist quite happily independently of the Apple.
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 09:13 pm]
|Kenny Wheeler is an excellent example. He once told me that he's only been in NYC a couple of times. BUT, at what price? He told me in the same interview that promoters are reluctant to book him unless he's bringing someone like Jack DeJohnette or Dave Holland along with him. Even outside New York there are people who believe that if you don't have a presence there you are somehow diminished.
|A. from David Adler in NYC [Dec 13 - 09:19 pm]
One way Kenny Wheeler has found around this is to play on other people's gigs. Abercrombie featured him at the Jazz Standard a year ago or so, and a couple of months ago Andrew Rathbun had him at Cornelia Street. (You couldn't get in the door.)
Anyway, it does seem that young, unestablished players still find it very necessary to come here to join the fray. The Bay Area "2nd generation M-Base" scene -- players like Vijay Iyer, Rudy Mahanthappa, Libery Ellman -- the whole scene pretty much up and left CA and came to NYC in 1998.
|Q. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 09:33 pm]
Looking over the comments posted over the past 2-1/2 hours I see a lot of what's wrong with jazz history... bad writing, bad editors, etc.
We have a number of very experienced people here, so let's take all that for truth. So, why have writers and publishers done such a poor job of documenting this music? Why are there no well-researched biographies on dozens of influential musicians? Why have we fallen into the same "great man" trap we all/most accuse Burns of tumbling into?
How are we going to turn this around in this century, while most of us are still young enough to create a half-dozen books or so? (Phil: maybe you've got a dozen left).
|A. from pres in outer banks [Dec 13 - 09:49 pm]
This is about the struggle to get jazz taken seriously -- the hasty, underfinanced work we're doing will of course result in flaws (I shudder at JJA member Ben Sandmel's dictum: "You pay peanuts, you get monkeys." We're turned into monkeys by the conditions of our labor (pace, Sydney Finkelstein!) Low expectations of publishers is part of the problem. Our haste to document our favorites, quick as possible, without really being able to assimilate all they have to say, ourselves. Of course, again, it's the limits of our own ambitions, if not our talents, too. I read a bio of Damon Runyon by Jimmy Breslin the other week, and was quite impressed. I doubt I'll read one that big and close to the topic of Ornette, Cecil, Miles (though Jack Chambers has done a great job).
I think, in fact, we should recognize the great work that *has* been done in our midst. Recommendations, please.
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 09:56 pm]
|Recommendations? Someone, maybe you?, mentioned Palmer's Deep Blues. That's high on my list. Lewis Porter's Trane book, which combines evocative writing, great research and musical analysis. Essays by Balliett, Williams and Francis Davis. David Hajdu's bio of Strays grabbed me, too. I could go on....
|A. from Orrin Keepnews [Dec 13 - 09:57 pm]
Well, jazz doesn't get taken very seriously in our culture, and neither does good writing about virtually any culture-related subject. A pretty hard combination to beat, right. So you beat it only in the way the artist (and take heart -- a really good jazz writer can be called an Artist, even possibly by me) ever has. By not giving a damn about the bottom line.
I am a graduate of a pretty good school: I am one of those jazz fans who in the 1950s (some even in the 40s) turned themselves into independent jazz record companies. Somehow, none of us believed you could make any money that way, but we were young and dumb and stupid and so we stayed at it. Some (some of the others) got rich. Others at least survived. And we all contributed pretty importantly to the development of the music. Any writer who wants to feel the same spirit of dumb dedication really ought to try it.
|A. from Orrin Keepnews [Dec 13 - 10:03 pm]
Well, I could have used a good editor in a couple of spots of that last post -- dumb AND stupid (try "dumb and stubborn" Keepnews; that sounds like you). But on rereading, I'll let that stand as my closing statement for tonight.
Good luck, ladies and gentlemen. This has been educational and amusing. Ask me again, Howard.
|Q. from Nate Aune in NYC [Dec 13 - 10:14 pm]
|How do you see the role of ezines and web-based article postings in the realm of jazz journalism? How does this medium change the way writers reach an audience? Is it feasible to "cut out the middleman" , self-publish and distribute one's work as an 'ebook'? Any advice for an aspiring jazz writer?
|A. from James Hale in Ottawa [Dec 13 - 10:23 pm]
Well, we're here in the electronic medium, so it's clear there is some future to it.
Seriously, there are a number of electronic alternatives - from the subversive, like Bird Lives, to the mainstream, but (like the non-jazz dot-coms) it's difficult to make a business case. That translates into little or no money for professional writers, so it tends to perpetuate the fanzine/poor writing problem. As with other online things, too, attracting an audience is the problem. How do you let people know that you're out there?
Advice for aspiring writers? Read and listen. Find some writers you admire and figure out why you like them. Find some you don't and discover the shortcomings. Listen to as much music as you can. Talk to the musicians, understand how they create their art. Find some local writing outlets and get as much practice as you can. Listen to the feedback. There's no magic formula. Good luck with it.
|A. from pres in clinic [Dec 13 - 10:23 pm]
|Personally, I welcome e-zines and web-based articles, but my anti-tech tendencies make me doubt this is the principle way *I* want to reach my audience. Unfortunately, the .com market has been unstable, for one thing, and pieces that I've labored over seem to disappear. I can't control the circulation, or get paid appropriately (or I'm afraid I can't, haven't found a way to, assuredly, yet). It ought to be feasible to do multi-media reviews/features/reports, as I wrote elsewhere, but that hasn't happened yet. If you cut out the middleman, self-publish and self-distribute, you face the problems not only of writing but of wholesaling, too. It can be done with a small, determined staff, perhaps. The middleman is not *so* successful. Self-publishing can result in a great calling card publication, anyway, and might lead to greater, more lucrative things. Advise for an aspiring jazz writer: Write, write, write, ask if you don't know or even if you think you do, and listen/listen/listen, hard and again and again.