Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I might be in the wrong shop altogether but I'll take my chances, here goes.

What Aba came up with last week re. jazz and reaching new audiences had been on my mind also for quite some time, I'd had the same thoughts but as I said in the comments, I would approach it quite differently.
I find it very difficult to express my thoughts on this topic, there's a conflict between the idea that jazz is grounded in free expression and improvisation and has evolved through artists going in new directions and in some cases the directions they go in. The former I can accept and you'll find examples of it in my playlist but jazz reached a point in the 60's-70's where a small group of musicians took it in a direction that I and many others couldn't accept, that was about when we started hearing discussions about "what defines jazz?", somewhat similar to what we were hearing here last week, "what is pop?" A lot of people, myself included, chose to ignore jazz if that was what it had become, I found solace with 60's pop and reggae and didn't participate in the then current jazz to any degree, all of my jazz record buying involved music of prior era's.
The idea of 'Free Jazz' doesn't bother me, I choose not to listen to it but I do resent it's adherents aquisition of the concept of 'jazz'; jazz is a black music based in the blues that for decades has expressed the turmoil and suppression in that community, I can't accept any group that thinks that they can apply the name of jazz to the cacophonous sounds that they're creating. Jazz is a beautiful and exciting music, it's performed by artists who are usually supreme on their instruments, it's intended to be enjoyed both physically, intellectually and emotionally, 'free jazz' fulfills none of those, it's the sound of a sick society in conflict with itself. If those are the sounds that they choose to make, let them find another name for it, their sad efforts have nothing in common with jazz.

Obviously we're dealing with a subjective topic, everyone has a different tastes and different values but there's something that's been obvious to me since before I joined this group; from what little discussion there is on this topic it seems as though there's a feeling amongst some, but not all re. jazz; it's that it's something that evolved in the mid '60's as a result of a small group of musicians, the names I hear most often are Miles, Coltrane, Bill Evans and Ornette. It's such a limited perspective, there's so much more.
I would like to present a variety of jazz musicians that date back to the beginnings of jazz, musicians that laid the groundwork for these and all contemporary artists.
I don't know if the name Ralph J. Gleason rings any bells, he was the co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine and a very popular music critic, I found a quote in his liner notes on the Ray Charles album that seems relevant;
"Jazz's new listeners, no matter at what point they entered the jazz world, have an overriding tendency to be swept up in the continuum of jazz recordings. They seldom stop and go back to something ten years old. He wrote that in 1970, I think it's still appropriate today except I would expand the ten years.

OK, with that out of the way let's play some records. Here's a baker's dozen, what I've selected all fall under the classification of "These are a Few of My Favorite Things", they're all vinyl transfers selected at random. I didn't go out of my way to restrict the choices to pre 60's music, it just happened that way, I could have as easily created a post 60's list. The only parameter that I set was that I'd approximately match Aba's list in terms of time, approx 50 mins. I started at the beginning of my records and went through saying 'Oh, must include that...and this', and suddenly I found I'd exceeded 50 mins. Start over or edit? I edited and accepted that I must leave out dozens, hundreds of choices! The perceptive amongst you might notice that I didn't get beyond the 'H's' but I scrambled them for playback and couldn't resist including a 'V'.

1. Ray Charles - Outskirts of Town. 1961. Ray as a jazz musician, The trumpet intro is by Clark Terry with another later by Phillip Guilbeau, Ray at the keyboard and a great orchestral arrangement by Quincy Jones.
2. Duke Ellington - Take the 'A' Train. This is a 1951 version from the Ellington Uptown album, three for the price of one: a great Ellington piano solo, a post bebop vocal by Betty Roché and a great tenor solo by Paul Gonsalves, check all the changes here, not to mention the great backing from the band.
3. Ry Cooder as a jazz musicologist - The Dream. He produced an album that investigated the roots of jazz, this cut is listed as 'a piece of whorehouse music'. It's approx 1900, before jazz even existed and it's typical of what might have been played in New Orleans brothels at that period reflecting Spanish, African and Carribbean influences. From Ry's album 'Jazz'.
4. Stan Kenton Orch. Intermission Riff. This piece is from about 1947, Kenton had a popular all white band, June Christie was his singer, he loved brass, usually he had 5 trumpets and 5 trombones, three of each was typical. Vido Musso takes the tenor solo. He was based at the Avalon Ballroom in Southern Cal.
5. Sarah Vaughn. Cherokee. Wonderful alto solo by Cannonball Adderley, it's from the 'In the land of Hi-Fi' album, remember Hi-Fi? I forgot to mention, don't adjust your sets, many of these cuts are in 'mono', produced long before stereo existed.
6. Charlie Parker. Parker's Mood. This is the original Savoy 1947 version, it includes a false start, Bird begins his second chorus after the John Lewis piano break and he hits a bad note so he deliberately hits another and then whistles a stop, they resume with a perfect take that's became one of the great Bird solos.
I included the false start just to show how it was done before Pro-Tools.
7. Coleman Hawkins. Body and Soul. From 1939, considered by many to be the greatest tenor solo ever. 'Bean' [Coleman] brushes it off as 'just a routine piece that he made up on the spot.'
8. Duke Ellington. Creole Love Call, 1927. Possibly one of my all-time favorite pieces of music.
What intrigues me is the fact that jazz was less than a decade old and here was Duke doing things like this, triple clarinet leads with the original 'scat' vocal, or at least a very creative use of a voice in jazz; it's Adelaid Hall and Bubber Miley does the trumpet solo.
9. Duke Ellington. Black & Tan Fantasie, 1927. Couldn't decide which one to use, couldn't delete either so I include them both. Another great piece by Duke with another trumpet solo by Bubber. Just consider that only a few years earlier jazz was basically confined to N.O. and was a genre that consisted of 5-6 musicians playing totally in unison! And there were no means of communication, no media, no phones etc, apart from very early primitive records there was no way of knowing what others were doing, and yet....
10. Louis Armstrong. West End Blues. 1928. Often quoted as Louis's greatest ever solo, it's from his Hot 7. Also his first scat vocal, similar thing to what Duke was doing a couple of thousand miles away, another example of the enormous changes to the music in a very few years.
11. Ben Webster & Coleman Hawkins. Shine on Harvest Moon. 1957. Considered to be the two godfathers of the tenor, Hawkins was the originator and the teacher, he was playing in Europe before I was born. Ben has the nicest tone in jazz. Listen carefully and you'll hear two tenors each with distinctive tones and styles duetting.
12. Johnny Hodges. Warm Valley, 1940 with the Ellington orch. The greatest alto player ever, he joined Duke in the late 20's and was with him for about 40 years, Duke wrote many pieces just for him, as he did for all the soloists in the band. No one has a tone like Hodges and he does 'impossible' things on his horn, like glissandi on an instrument with push buttons!
13. Count Basie Orch. with vocalist Jimmy Rushing. 1938.
Sent for you yesterday.
A classic swinging Basie big band blues. Basie on piano with Herschel Evans doing the tenor solo, Sweets Edison on trumpet and JR on the vocal, the all time classic Basie era.


tincanman said...

Most excellent! This is what I need - suggestions and education from someone who knows their stuff
If they were on dropbox as well it would help because its tough to find listening time at my PC. I usually need to get them to the iPod.
But i too am a roots jazz and blues fan; just only know a bit about it. I know it makes me an intellectual dwarf to say so, but free jazz is not something I have ever connected to.

ejaydee said...

I would disagree with the idea that "free jazz" has nothing in common with jazz. To put it as briefly as I can, I think it focuses on one of the many aspects of jazz, improvisation, and goes further with it. I'm not a huge fan of "free j*zz", but I can see why it falls under that jazz header, within reason of course. I think genre labels can cause too many headaches anyway.

Also, I disagree with Gleason, when I started listening to this kind of music, I went backward and forward, but very seldom do I listen to jazz post 1980. I have a few names I mean to get into like Erik Trufaz and Tomasz Stanko, but still haven't.

Oh, and thanks for posting West End Blues, which is possibly my favourite intro on any record ever made.

ejaydee said...

Didn't mean to hit post there. I was going to add that my tastes don't necessarily follow jazz history, I like early jazz, New Orleans, and swing, etc, but don't really dig be-bop, but I like stuff from the late-50s onwards, and then drop off again when fusion or Coltrane get a bit too noodly.

Abahachi said...

Rag. Bull. To a. Red. In fact I came on here this morning to post my latest musings on jazz, which includes a couple of tracks that I think you might like, but I'll postpone that for a bit.

Of course it's all a matter of personal preference; I love most of this stuff, even if it's not what I choose to listen to most of the time (Ellington, Parker and Vaughan excepted), and I wouldn't for a moment try to insist that you or anyone else should have to listen to or enjoy some of the other music I like.

However, here you seem to be going beyond the position of "I don't like free jazz", with which I have no problem, to "this stuff is sad, it is not jazz, it completely lacks all the positive attributes of jazz, and is a repudiation of everything great about jazz and its history, and is merely the sound of a sick society in conflict with itself". There's certainly a case to be made that free jazz was a response to the state of society, but otherwise I disagree completely; free jazz was just as rooted in the tradition as every earlier musical revolution.

You're clearly happy to accept the Swing Revolution and the Bebop Revolution as part of a seamless continuity - which is not how they were seen at the time. I still maintain that a key element in jazz is the love of experiment, of exploring the boundaries of what is currently accepted musical practice, whether the role of the soloist and the art of improvisation (Armstrong, Hawkins, Parker), the parameters of rhythm and harmony (Ellington, Parker), the relation of jazz to other music (Ellington). What I can't see is how what Coltrane, Davis, Coleman et al were doing in the early 1960s is any different from that; of course it sounds different, and there's a different sense of what sounds beautiful, but that's exactly the issue that confronted Parker and the beboppers - to an ear brought up on swing, it sounded like noise.

I don't remotely believe that jazz in any sense started in the mid 1960s (interesting that you didn't say late 1950s, which would seem the more obvious turning point). More importantly, neither did any of those musicians. On the contrary, as nilpferd has said and as I plan to talk about some time in the future, one of the most striking features of jazz, including free jazz, is its awareness of and concern with its own past. Ornette Coleman, to take an obvious example, didn't claim to be rejecting the whole of past jazz; on the contrary, he wanted to rediscover some of its origins, looking back to the collective improvisation of pre-Armstrong New Orleans jazz. You may not like the result, but you can't present this as something utterly alien to jazz as you know and love it.

In brief, unless you're going to define jazz solely in terms of what you happen to like, I can't see a definition that excludes these musicians on anything other than completely subjective grounds. I find much free jazz beautiful and exciting, I enjoy it intellectually and emotionally; I can accept that you don't, and that you don't want to listen to it. But the implication of denying that this is jazz is, among other things, that jazz then becomes a music of the past, a museum piece, denied the possibility of change or development but only the repetition of stylistic parameters laid down fifty years ago.

For me, jazz is a living music; it has a fabulous heritage, and there is undoubtedly a risk that one might end up with an impoverished view if one neglects older records because they sound old-fashioned - but jazz is more than that heritage. It is the continued exploration of that heritage and its possibilities - including the rejection or refashioning of some of the accepted parameters.

Further: it's regrettable, but the fact is that within the early 21st century cultural context, most jazz does sound old-fashioned, completely associated with the past. That's a definite risk for its survival. Yes, some people will hear this music and think, ooh, that's nice, must hear more of that, whether because they can hear past the cultural associations or because they actually want to embrace the nostalgia thing, but plenty will hear it and conclude that it's clearly not for them. More modern jazz, including stuff right out at the fringes (and hence in some cases closer to more familiar and modern styles of music), may be more engaging, allowing the listener to relate to it on the basis of what s/he already knows (rather than needing an already-existing grasp of jazz history to understand what makes Armstrong or Parker so special) - and that may persuade them that this music is worth investigating further. Call it the Freebonky effect; I thought that was the weakest of the five tracks I posted, the one that I'm least sure about as a piece of art rather than a bit of fun - and yet that's the one that lots of people responded to. If that inclines them to listen to some of the other jazz I'll post in future, on the basis that it has some sort of link to Freebonky, then that's a success in my book; if they liked it, but you tell them that it's not proper jazz, why should they have any interest in your 'proper' jazz?

And I've taken so long to write this essay that ejaydee has already said what I was trying to say, much more succinctly, but I'll post this anyway...

ejaydee said...

By the way, I read once that Duke Ellington once played the electric piano, does anybody know on what album?

Chris said...

I’m coming to the conclusion that music taste (and hence what an individual defines as being a good example of ‘pop’, ‘jazz’, ‘indie’, ‘rock’, etc) is defined by these filters:

Sound palette (SP). From a mono ‘live’ recording of a piano, bass, drum & horn ensemble to digitally-modified and -modulated synthesisers. This is almost a chronological scale, too, determined by technological change since the first recordings were made.

Score definition (SD). At one end of this scale is the meticulous scoring and arrangement of, say, a perfect pop song which always sounds the same. At the other end is free jazz, where every performance is potentially radically different from any other.

Musicians’ attitude (MA). At one end is the ‘real muso’ whose only aim is to create art; at the other is the person – performer - who sees music as a means to an end, such as ‘being famous’.

I think that, for a lot of people (who don’t have a nostalgic attachment either), music at the least-sophisticated end of the SP scale is off-putting simply because it doesn’t sound very good. It’s easier to listen to a piece that has a sophisticated production than a lo-fi recording done in one take. (I think this has a bearing on gf’s perception that some think jazz before Miles etc doesn’t really exist. Kind Of Blue is just on the border of SP acceptability, IMO.)

Music at the ‘free’ end of the SD scale is also quite off-putting to a lot of people. Gf’s opinion is an extreme expression of this. But a little further along can still be an uncomfortable place: the ‘classic’ jazz format of ‘state theme/improvise around theme/re-state theme’ doesn’t work for some if the improvisation gets too far away from the known starting point. (I have played some Grateful Dead to my older brother who quite likes a lot of the songs, even when they follow the jazz format. But when I played him one of their more expansive ditties - an 18-minute version of The Other One - he said: ‘they’re just making it up as they go along’. A positive observation from my perspective; a negative one from his.)

There is some artistic kudos attached to liking music at the ‘real muso’ end of the MA scale and that is something some people crave. However, stage shows, for example, don’t really exist at that end of the scale. At the other end, groups such as Girls Aloud, Take That etc are projecting more of a lifestyle on the back of their music. I suspect that modern ‘dance music’ is right at this end, too, as its prime function is a social one.

This may be incomprehensible, incomplete and unhelpful but it chimes with me more than all the music-genre debates. If we assign numbers (1-10) to these scales, my taste range is:

Sound palette (SP): 3-8
Score definition (SD): 1-9
Musicians’ attitude (MA): 1-6

What’s yours?

Oh, and maybe if we placed individual pieces of music on these scales, we could end up with a means of deciding what we may or may not like a little more reliably than using the old worn-out genre labels.

ejaydee said...

Interesting Chris, if I understood correctly, mine would be:
SP: 1-9
SD: 1-7
MA: 2-9

Chris said...

Yeah, Ed, your scores don't seem inconsistent with what I've perceived so far about your taste. The scales go up to 10: did you deliberately miss that extreme off?

I think there is at least one other scale at play that has something to do with words and mood. A Personal Involvement (PI) scale? At one end things are musically austere and at the other is Edith Piaf. My PI range is probably 3-8, again...

ejaydee said...

Going up to 10, I would only change SP, and crank it up to 10, but MA would stay at 9, I feel that 9 would be someone who didn't enjoy himself while making his soulless manufactured crap, and that doesn't sound like fun listening.

I'll have to think about MI.

ejaydee said...

Make that PI

Abahachi said...

I like it - although I suspect I'm going to be able to think of lots of ways in which it's problematic... Now, if I've understood correctly, on SP I merrily aim for 1-10 (Robert Johnson to Kraftwerk); on SD, 1-10 again but with a definite preference for the upper end of the scale.

Not sure about PI, mostly because of your use of Edith Piaf as an example; do you mean the musician's personal involvement, all songs are painfully autobiographical, Richie Edwards FOR REAL syndrome? Or is this about subject matter?

Also not sure about MA, if only because you seem to be weighting the scales by contrasting Real Art with Cynical Pop Idol Stuff - on that basis, no one is ever likely to go for the upper end - I'm amazed that ejaydee admits to a 9. If you put this in terms of 'music as art' versus 'music as throwaway fun', you can still have Girls Aloud at 10 without automatically disparaging anyone who likes them. In which case I end up at 1-10 again...

ejaydee said...

Well it sounds better, when you present it as "'music as art' versus 'music as throwaway fun'", and that's how I chose to interpret it. I can enjoy the odd Justin Timberlake song you know, Aba. Of course we understand that just because we can go up to 10, doesn't mean a song that falls under that description is an automatic success to our ears.

ejaydee said...

Threadjack 2!
Did you see this, DarceysDad:

Chris said...

OK, I'll accept the MA definition of 'music as art' versus 'music as throwaway fun' but I'm not sure the latter term encompasses the cynical aspect I had in mind, contrasting with the art-for-art's-sake attitude at the other end.

Maybe Edith Piaf was confusing shorthand in the PI definition. What I meant was the way in which the words of a song and the way it is sung affects one emotionally. The power ballad singalong with lighters held aloft kinda thing as well as the tale of personal tragedy.

So, Aba, if you're OK with the full range of my initial scales, what is the scale that identifies what you don't like? I'm not trying to define what can be tolerated but what is liked. I can tolerate glossily-produced pop but I don't particularly like it, on the whole: hence my upper SP limit of 8.

goneforeign said...

Tincan: Glad you liked them, I wasn't aware of that aspect of Dropbox, I'll put 'em in.
Ejay: I realise the improvisation bit with free jazz but I perceive randomly generated noise, not improvisation. I would never apply Gleason's comments to you, he was speaking generally as I was also. And like you I find lots of contemporary jazz worthwhile and am specifically interested in how it's adapted into 'foreign' musical cultures.
Aba: And from a red. And please don't hesitate to post, there's obviously room for two jazz posts at the same time, I always enjoy what you have to offer plus it would be a good comparison. Plus I've got another ready when this one expires.
And a trivial detail; You're familiar with Eric Hobsbawm I'm sure, when he was in California Ralph Gleason took him under his wing and exposed him to lots of jazz hereabouts. There's several pages devoted to it in Hobsbawm's book Interesting Times.
Anyhow, onwards;
quote; "free jazz was just as rooted in the tradition as every earlier musical revolution."
Easily said and I'm sure they'd like to believe it but musically I hear no evidence of that, I hear in many cases what sounds like random attacks on an instrument's keys, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler, Sam Rivers, all cases in point, I don't claim lack of technical proficiency on their parts but the music certainly suggests it.

quote: "I still maintain that a key element in jazz is the love of experiment, of exploring the boundaries of what is currently accepted musical practice .... What I can't see is how what Coltrane, Davis, Coleman et al were doing in the early 1960s is any different from that;"
No argument at all, I made a point of stating that very specifically right at the start, my reference to Davis et al was that they were perceived by many as being the be-all and end-all of jazz. I have lots of Coltrane, I like most of what he did, mostly prior to his final period. I didn't intend to associate that group with free jazz
quote: "In brief, unless you're going to define jazz solely in terms of what you happen to like, I can't see a definition that excludes these musicians on anything other than completely subjective grounds."
OK, I stated right at the start that it was subjective, but so is your pov, I exclude them because I don't think what they do is jazz. Is the music that Terry Riley and Steve Reich create jazz? If not, why not? Is Ella singing classics with a studio orch. jazz?, after all she's a known jazz artist. Does it count as jazz when Joni Mitchell surrounds herself with jazz musicians and performs her songs? And iTunes classifies Astor Piazzolla as jazz?
And re. defining jazz, I define it as an ongoing musical form, based in the blues and in improvisation that began early in the 20th century and still continues to evolve.
Perhaps in part the reason some jazz sounds 'old fashioned' is related to technology, the state of the recording studios equipment many years ago. I'd love to hear Creole Love Call recorded by Duke in a contemporary studio, I'll bet it would sound fabulous and not in the least bit dated. But it has also evolved stylistically and therefore does sound different, I say vive la difference. If it's true as you say that 'that's a risk for it's survival', that unfortunately says more about our society than the value of the music. And finally I was not critical of Freebonky as a piece of music, I found it interesting, what I queried was why it was so popular in a jazz post at the expense of the other pieces.

Ejay again: Never heard of Duke with an electric piano though you never know, Gil Scott always used one.

Chris: I can't deal with your rating system for musical taste just now, it makes my head hurt.

goneforeign said...

They're in the box, hope they're accessible.

Shoey said...

Great post from Aba in defense of free jazz. Beautifully written piece from Chris, too (although his rating system is bollocks).

Chris said...

That good, eh, Shoey?

Shoey said...

Sorry mate, but c'mon, really?

goneforeign said...

Chris: As a Deadhead you might like this, I mentioned it before but I think it was before you were a Spiller.
I had ankle surgery, the surgeon was an old jewish bloke, rated as in the top three nationally in ankle surgery, he's a Deadhead. I gave him a 3CD set of the GD for Christmas, we spent a lovely half hour gossiping. He told me about all the Dead memorabilia he's collected over the years, his house is full of it. I'd love to visit him at home and talk music.

tincanman said...

@ goneforeign
got em. thanks

Abahachi said...

We're ending up in very much the same place re definition as in the Tasks of Toffeeboy, which I suppose is entirely predictable. I take the same approach as I do with defining pop; it's not a matter of identifying attributes a, b and c, such that a track has to possess all of them to count as jazz and otherwise is something else, but rather identifying attributes a to f, such that a track with a sufficient number of them (ace, acf, bdf etc.) counts as jazz, one which possesses almost all of them is very jazz, and one which has only a couple is at best 'jazzish'. The aim of this series is to think about what those attributes might be: variety, rhythm and (coming up in future instalments) things like improvisation, blues, tradition. Maybe we could consider attribute x, such that any track with that characteristic is automatically excluded from being jazz, but I prefer to be inclusive.

On that basis, to take your test cases: Reich and Riley, no (I don't think their approach to rhythm qualifies, ditto approach to improvisation) but some overlap with some avant-garde jazz; Ella with an orchestra I think I would count though it's marginal - it's more like a mash-up, jazz struggles for dominance with easy listening; Joni Mitchell (or, heaven help us, Sting) with jazz musicians, also marginal, really depends on actual performance, degree of freedom and level of swing, rather than being inherently one way or the other. Never heard of Astor Piazzola.

I find the technology question very interesting, because part of me - quite irrationally - has an instinctive reaction against the idea of jazz performance being manipulated in the studio and turned into something else. Yes, despite my love of electronica I can be a complete Luddite: give me the unedited first take or give me death! Very ambivalent about records like Bitches Brew as a result, for all that I can see the logic of regarding the studio as just another instrument and so admiring improvisation using tapes and samples as much as 'live' improvisation. I assume that for Chris a key aspect of an 18-minute Dead track is that they're actually playing for 18 minutes, rather than it all being put together afterwards.

ejaydee said...

If you're asking for what I like rather than what I can tolerate, then the ratings would be slightly narrower, but not that much.

Chris said...

Shoey: I did say 'This may be incomprehensible, incomplete and unhelpful', so I'm OK with the 'bollocks' description. But both the Jazz series and TB's on Pop confirm to me how unhelpful the labels we commonly use are. 'Jazz' obviously means slightly different things to Aba, gf and Ed, for example. If we could come up with attributes of a piece of music that an individual listener could relate to (which is what I was attempting, but failing, to do), that listener might find it easier assess whether or not the music would be to their taste.

Chris said...

gf: nope, I missed that story first time round. You do find Deadheads everywhere: there should have been one as US President in 2000 and the current Chairman of the UK Government's Joint Intelligence Committee even maintains his own Grateful Dead website (
Never been one for the memorabilia myself. I carry my most treasured memory in my RR blogname.

Chris said...

Aba: the first Grateful Dead record I heard, Anthem Of The Sun, was assembled from studio and live recordings into an album with only two breaks in it (gf will relate a similar tale of Quicksilver Messenger Service's Happy Trails). I have since heard some of the concerts from which the live stuff was taken and I am quite happy that they are different beasts. The album was created to replicate the experience of a live Dead performance but in a 40-minute timeframe. Inevitably in a concert recording, things are rarely perfect (vocals particularly) and so it makes sense to try to improve on that for a piece of music intended to be played repeatedly. However, the unmodified concert is interesting and enjoyable because it contains the great playing and also the mistakes, blind alleys, conflicts and struggles that took place on stage during the creative process.
And Garcia and Lesh always maintained that they 'performed' the mix for Anthem, as the melding process required real-time physical manipulation back in 1968.

nilpferd said...

Very fine tracks there GF. I've got a lot of post-80's jazz and I think there's been a lot of worthwhile stuff recorded in the last 30 yrs, the ECM label alone has produced a number of masterpieces.
I'll take a fencepost on free jazz, like some of it, don't like some of it.
I'm not really so concerned about the "definition of jazz" question, assigning attributes or establishing categories, but I think Abahachi's initial idea of presenting stuff for people to try out based on a few arbitrary categories was a good one.
I'm a bit bemused by your ratings system, Chris, I suppose I fall into the shoey category on that one..

goneforeign said...

Aba: I don't really think we need to define jazz, you just listen to it, you'll either get it or you won't: I don't think we disagree on anything except some subjective tastes, I like Joni Mitchell with or without a jazz backing, you don't, that's fine. Ditto free jazz.
A couple of comments of general interest, I don't consider Steve Reich to be a jazz musician, I included him because I think he's almost undefinable but I love a lot of what he does that includes amazing rhythms and even improvisation in a similar way that Duke's band did it. If you haven't heard it try 'Music for 18 musicians', an hour long piece that's amazing in it's simplicity and complexity. Similarly Astor Piazzolla, an Argentinean musician who's brought Tango to new levels, it's also unclassifiable, perhaps it's classical but it also somehow fits into the thoughts expressed for jazz. He's recorded with Mulligan and another with Gary Burton, neither are personal favorites but he's recorded dozens of albums. I just went scouring Amazon checking their files and found a recent BBC 3 hour DVD documentary on him, rave reviews so I ordered it.

ToffeeBoy said...

I think this is the point in the Fast Show where that character would come back from the bar and say, "Were you just talking about jazz? I love jazz! That Kenny Ball, he's amazing!!!"

I'll get me coat...

nilpferd said...

Funny coincidence- Sandra just asked me to put on some Piazolla, because she heard a busker playing some of his music this afternoon..

steenbeck said...

Thanks for the post,Goneforeign--every tune delightful, and I've enjoyed the discussion that it spawned.

I have a suspicion about free jazz. Firstly, I'm completely ignorant about it, so...
But when I hear something that I think is free jazz, I have to admit that I don't really enjoy it, but I believe if I understood it better I would. When I was in college we studied free verse, and a lot of the students began with the expectation that there were no rules. What we learned however, was that it would be hard to create GOOD free verse if you didn't completely understand the rules. Even in traditional poetry, the really exciting moments (for me) come when somebody who is in complete control of language and meter, and who obviously understands what he or she is SUPPOSED to be doing, does something unexpected, something that doesn't fit into the pattern. That's where the emotion lies. And in free verse, the really exhilarating thing, for me, has been to discover the pattern, to realize where they're breaking their own rules, where they're playing with ancient patterns in poetry. It can be almost euphoric to discover some pocket of meaning. And I feel like good free jazz must be like that too. It sounds totally random to my untrained ear, but surely it's played by people who know the rules and are deciding where to break them for a specific reason--to achieve a certain meaning or arrive at a certain emotional impact. I suspect there are inside jokes, plays on traditional songs and methods, which I don't understand, but if I took the time to listen and learn, I might.

nilpferd said...

What you describe is perhaps applicable to some of the more abstract recordings of the late sixties which were also described as "free" or at least nearly free- but I think the main strand of free playing is almost the opposite- to disassociate from any cultural preconditions, and produce something "purely" spontaneous through conscious rejection of anything recognisable or predetermined- the "scorched earth" approach. Perhaps comparable to abstract expressionism in art- the intention is to lay the creative impulse bare, without any of the surrounding conventions which normally guide artists. So in a sense, the very opposite of an intellectual pursuit- this kind of music is meant to be felt intuitively, to be savoured without reference to any other frame.

goneforeign said...

Well I definitely feel it intuitively and my intuition tells me to reach for the off switch. I play music for enjoyment, for pleasure, this stuff isn't pleasant, it's just the opposite and I wonder why they choose to do something that's so aggravating.

treefrogdemon said...

Talking of poetry, steenbeck, here's a revolution for ya - we have a new poet laureate and she's a woman! First one...