[JPL] Phat Band/Bruce Hornsby

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 28 11:37:35 EDT 2006


Rick, musicians rarely jump out here for various reasons. Usually there's little or no response as you can see and this is why I said in my earlier post that I try to avoid coming in with musical content. It's encouraging when they do so thank you for chiming in. Your post is thoughtful and your opinions are certainly valid and interesting and there are more areas where I agree and a few where I don't........so I'll comment.......I will also say that while I'm mainly responding to you others are certainly welcomed to jump in.  
   
  I remember playing with Chico Freeman long ago in DC. We played a few days together playing his music - which he was very good at presenting. The hit was so out though that it took me a couple of weeks afterward to hear relative pitch and feel 4/4 swinging time again. On one of the nights someone asked him to play a standard. I can't remember which one it was. He reluctantly agreed to play the standard and needless to say it was strange. My analogy would be someone having a 10 chapter book but only reading the first two then jumping to eight and nine. You think you understand the story so it's not necessary to go through the middle chapters. Something was missing and it was due to the fact that he never really dealt with certain fundamentals years before. Someone said it was always easier to play out because in doing so it's harder to prove you don't know what you're doing. Now my point....
   
   I would never get tired of Thad Jones for the simple reason by studying greatness at that level makes anything else I want to do better. His body of "ideas" is everlasting. He mastered fundamentals in many categories. So even if he played "out" the many substantive musical characters in his arsenal would produce a meaningful and lasting body of work.....because his history was based on organized musical principles - which again, makes everything you do after that considerably more significant. This is the problem I have with someone like Braxton. 
   
  I've never heard him swing. I've never heard him put together lines with melodic continuity over II V's. This is inception information that gives the trees roots if you will. I've never "felt" him deal with blues. All of this said I do respect the fact that he at least does it his way. Thad's music is so logical and I zeroed in on him because in dealing with my aforementioned criteria he represents the best of everything I listed plus you brought him up - mainly implying that what he did is now old hat. You're in your 30's and I'm 50 and I've listened to his music a lot longer than you and even at this point I will say there is still something to tap into and learn from. Don't turn your back on that. 
   
  Time......Hmmm.....this is something that I've thought about much over the past few years. One of the downsides of being a radio programmer is besides hearing the good I get to hear the bad and the ugly as well and two of the most troubling areas with the younger musicians coming out and recording jazz...are in the time and dynamics areas. Unfortunately this is not just a young problem. There is a serious lack of objectivity with many younger musicians today. 
   
  Now lets connect time to pulse. The pulse has a push and pull quality as you know. More and more younger bass players are playing their lines more vertical - void of the push and pull feel you get when you do focus on pulse - not to mention truly dealing with their tone...sound. That's for perhaps another post. As I'm sure you know you get this "feel" when you gently accent your two and four beat in your walking bass line. Now look at drummers.... More and more are playing jazz with a matched grip (because it's easier to teach). This technique unfortunately reduces their ability to capture the nuances of the "jazz" touch and to play with the ever important triplet feel in the strokes and accenting capabilities - consequently straightening out the eighth note. 
   
  The time starts with you and me and if someone else isn't playing with us the band is not in time as a unit. Another word attached here is elasticity because we're dealing with jazz. So time, pulse and elasticity produce the feel of the band. Everyone has tempo fluxuations but it's when that person doesn't know it....that can make or break the composition. When everyone is in time..... hence good "cohesiveness"......This is where I have problems with the most recent Mingus Band recordings. The "band" rarely feels in good time to me and the pulse in the groove is thin - unlike when Mingus and Danny played - but that was Mingus and Danny. However, the issue here is not just centered around the rhythm section. The horns have a huge responsibilty to play in time as well.  
   
  It's connected. If sections aren't in time unison you don't have rhythmic organization. Now lets say you do......then you need a level of harmonic and melodic sophistication to compliment and create even "textures." After all it is 2006. This is where I have a problem with Gerald Wilson. I get the feeling he's repeating history and not to mention that on his last recording I felt the band poorly rehearsed. I don't feel the music moving forward. It swings but the material and direction are "predictable" from my perspective and lacks "inventiveness." As a solo mind he's one of the greats but when he writes for HIS unit there needs to be wider vision and more time spent "living" with the music from my point of view before going to tape.  
   
  Intonation. Your word choice is interesting...."different." Funny. Come on Rick...you either play in tune or you don't. You know it and I know it. We're not in Asia or India. Our cultural tuning system is based on A-440 period - mainly because of the piano. Why do so many play out of tune? A lack of fundamentals. Plain and simple. I'm reminded of Max Roach........ When you listen to him with Clifford just about every time he played a four or eight bar break or better yet...a solo.... the tempo picked up - at times dramatically. But when the band came back in he brought the tempo back to where they started. His purpose for this was effectual - and intentional for emotional impact. Same with intonation. If you want to play sharp or flat and stretch tonalities do so as an "effect" and not have that as the means. You're right in that there are "off" moments but don't have one on recording day. It follows you the rest of your life.    
   
  Compositional and improvisational balance......lets look at Dave Holland. I love him. I dream of playing with him. He's one of the most perfectly packaged bass players of our time and talk about fundamentals....... His compositions are interesting, challenging and forward moving. The improvisational level of the band is incredible mainly because of the energy and inventiveness of Billy Kilson - the harmonic and technical brilliance of Chris Potter and the soulfulness of Steve Nelson. That said, his arrangements don't match the level of his compositions or improvisation. When I listen to his big band I don't feel like I'm listening to a seasoned arranger. He's not bad but I liken this to a programmer being a true radio person vs someone that does good radio. There is a difference. The argument could be well he does it his way which would true and subjective but it's not the arranging that is carrying that band. My opinion. 
   
  Closing....level of composition. Here's where I go back to Thad. Not only was he an innovative arranger but he was a great composer. Each one of his compostions and arrangements is a study. Ask Jim McNeely. To this day. Same with Mingus. Duke. Vince Mendoza. Maria Schneider. Rob McConnell. Bob Florence. Bob Brookmeyer. Mike Abene. Frank Foster and others. Their impact help reshape the modern jazz orchestra. And the common thread with all of them is that they dealt with fundamentals at their inception and knew/know who to bring into their organizations to best represent their concepts at the highest musical levels. When I hear a "big band" or "group" playing with out of tune sections, bad time, a lack of cohesiveness, flat improvisation, etc......I look first at the leader because what does that really tell you about them?  
   
  Jae Sinnett
  WHRV FM
  Norfolk Va
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
Rick McLaughlin <rick at rickmclaughlin.com> wrote:
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I second Ed on this one, but for me, my involvement will need to be
relegated to something more or less hypothetical, something that cites
history/tradition, rather than chiming in on the specific groups mentioned
(I play in one of them). Having said that, I really think that a discussion
of criteria would be worthwhile, and would be very interested to hear y'all
weigh in on how those things relate to some of the groups mentioned, and
hey, what about our forefathers (and foremothers? Foreparents?)?

Jae, also man, I really like the fact that you start so many thought
provoking conversations - way to go.

Ok, but for the criteria you have listed, I wonder:

- intonation - I'm sure I can mention at least 10 incredible musicians who
we all know and love whose intonation was, um, different. Whether
specifically utilizing an intonation system other than equal temperament,
using equal temperament but basing it upon a note other than A=440, or for
all intents and purposes being oblivious to this difference, there were (and
continue to be) a large number of musicians whose approach to intonation is
not equal temperament on A=440. I like many of these musicians as much as
you do, and even get a bit of a thrill from hearing something different
sounding. In a big band, this can be somewhat tricky business and I totally
buy how one person's opinion about intonation may differ from another
person's. On the other hand, I don't think that this criterion by itself is
enough to bring down the whole operation. Even the great bands had "off"
days. And what does one do if the whole point of the performance is to
explore the notes between the cracks? Can that possibly make the music bad?
I argue no, but I grant that intent is a very important thing in this area.

- cohesiveness - this is another tough one to go for. Compositionally?
Improvisationally? Both at the same time? Are you talking about the way a
band plays together, the way they play an arrangement, the way they play
behind soloists? I hear Sun Ra's Heliocentric Worlds records as cohesive
(compositionally, improvisationally, etc.), and don't feel that, purely on
the level of cohesiveness, it is fundamentally any different from say Black,
Brown & Beige, but man, wow, what a world of difference in the approach to
music making.

- textures - it's a bit tough for this to be a criterion, from my point of
view. One man's garbage is another's treasure, you know? Will Daybreak
Express be the standard by which everything is measured? Nelson Riddle
arrangements for Frank Sinatra? Thad Jones records? Anthony Braxton's
Creative Orchestra Music 1979?

- improvisational/compositional balance - now, here's something. Fantastic
topic. Reminiscing in Tempo has no improvisation, or does it? Heliocentric
Worlds has no composition, or does it? I love this topic because for me, I
prefer the sound of narrative, the sound of a story unfolding, the sound of
"ok, this is the head, no wait a minute that was a solo, no it was the
head." That mystery that comes from masters playing a piece of music in a
masterful way, well it's huge for me. Like watching a film or reading a
book, but much much cooler. With all due respect to the Thad Jones/Mel
Lewis world and aesthetic, I personally am ok with not hearing much more of
that kind of writing, you know the sound that all us young upstarts (ok, I'm
in my 30s so I probably don't qualify very much here) learned in school.
What about George Russell's Living Time Orchestra or Brookmeyer's big band -
both unbelievable examples of narrative-oriented composers who can compose
something that leaves you guessing. Fan-freaking-tastic.

- time - Jae, I'm a bass player, so this one - like you - is huge to me.
But wow man, time, it's a pretty funny thing isn't it? We can both come up
with small group examples of records we love that rush like crazy. And I
can think of several that I love that drag. Time is that funny measurement,
you know like on a ruler - is it an inch, or is it 8/8 or is it 16/16 or is
it 32/32, and so on. We can get so wrapped up in the minutia of time that
we forget about groove. And even there, well, Basie's band played time and
groove totally differently from Duke's, and Thad's was completely different,
and on and on. But the character that emerged as a result of the
differences, now that was something. So for me, yes time is unbelievably
important, but if they rush and the band is grooving, or whatever, and it
sounds interesting - maybe a little anxious or something - then I could be
totally into it. Oddly, when I play, this is not an option. I strive
towards the same measure that you do here, burning, unmovable time -
delicious. 

- level of writing and arranging and improvisation - I need a little help
here. Are you saying something about, like, Arranging 101 or something? I
love the early Sun Ra records which were pretty darn simplistic in terms of
their arrangements. Nothing impressionistic, no serialism, just a bunch of
guys who played great together. Same with the Basie records in the 1930s,
not exactly brain surgery, what with the charts being so head-chart
oriented. But incredible, nonetheless. On the other hand, I also love the
George Russell big band records. Having played a lot of his music, I can
tell you that it is at times unbelievably difficult to play, even though
when it's played right it sounds totally natural.

- dynamic ranges - very big deal. I'm in on this one. Nothing kills the
drama like FFF ad infinitum.

- predictability - a bad thing, right? One hopes. On the other hand,
there is something charming in a tightly arranged, mainstream-style (don't
ask me to define it, but you know what I'm talking about) chart. A couple
of those every now and then sure hit the spot.

- inventiveness - totally. Julius Hemphill's big band record. Braxton's
Creative Orchestra Music. Lacy's big band records on Soul Note. Maybe
that's not quite what you had in mind, but I totally buy the inventiveness
thing hook line and sinker. Why write yet another sax soli using plaining
(see Wright's "Inside the Score" for a definition)? By now, there have
certainly been enough of those. 

I think that criteria are a very very useful thing, but man, it seems like
they are really a personal set, not a universal one. I can imagine a wide
range of arguments stemming from my comments above, all of them valid. One
of my former teachers said that when you right for saxes, you have to use
plaining or else a knock will come at your door and it will be the police,
ready to haul you to jail. I asked, well, what about Julius Hemphill's
record? He said, "Yeah, you could write that way, but why would you want
to?"

You dig? Everyone has a different thing, I guess.


Thanks again for an interesting topic Jae. I'm looking forward to the
responses.

Rick McLaughlin
Bassist in one of the bands mentioned below


-----Original Message-----
From: jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com
[mailto:jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com] On Behalf Of Jae Sinnett
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 10:35 PM
To: Jazz Programmers Mailing List
Subject: Re: [JPL] Phat Band/Bruce Hornsby

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Tom, GIz.....we could name several indeed. However, the only band that both
of you mentioned that I would put in the top ten would be the WDR Band.
Actually I would put them in my top five and boot someone to six. I forgot
about them but the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The Finnish Aftro Cuban Jazz
Orchestra, and The NW Prevailing Winds as well as a few others but I focused
on MY favorite five at the moment. My opinion again and my decision with
this is based solely on a plethora of musical criteria .....things such as
intonation (a couple of the ones you listed have serious problems in this
area), cohesiveness (Ditto), textures, improvisational/compositional
balance, time, level of writing and arranging and improvisation, dynamic
ranges, predictability, inventiveness, etc.....not names or hype. I would
probably raise your eyebrows as to why I wouldn't have those groups you
mentioned in my top five but that would fall deeply into a musical
discussion and I try to avoid that on
the list. 

Jae Sinnett


Giz Bowe wrote:
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At 09:33 PM 7/26/2006 -0400, you wrote:
>and how about the Dave Holland Big Band, Either/Orchestra, Mingus Big 
>Band, LCJO, the LC Afro-Jazz Orchestra, the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and 
>the WDR Big Band?

or even 16/NYC?



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Piano: Christian Jacob - Bass: Trey Henry - Drums: Ray Brinker
Released on label ''Wilderjazz''

''Contradictions'' focuses on the original composition of the late pianist
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-------------------------------------------

This week's sponsor: Christian Jacob Trio CONTRADICTIONS

-------------------------------------------

Going for adds July 25th

The new release by the Christian Jacob Trio
''Contradictions''. A look at the music of Michel Petrucciani.

Piano: Christian Jacob - Bass: Trey Henry - Drums: Ray Brinker
Released on label ''Wilderjazz''

''Contradictions'' focuses on the original composition of the late pianist
and composer Michel Petrucciani.

Not only does this project bring our attention back to Michel's great
melodies, but it allows Christian to use them as a creative platform for his
trio.

For more information or to request an on air copy please contact:
GROOV Marketing and Consulting
877-476-6832
mark at groovmarketing.com or josh at groovmarketing.com

Also feel free to email Christian with any comments or questions:
christian at christianjacob.com

Please visit www.wilderjazz.com

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-------------------------------------------

This week's sponsor: Christian Jacob Trio CONTRADICTIONS

-------------------------------------------

Going for adds July 25th

The new release by the Christian Jacob Trio
''Contradictions''. A look at the music of Michel Petrucciani.

Piano: Christian Jacob - Bass: Trey Henry - Drums: Ray Brinker
Released on label ''Wilderjazz''

''Contradictions'' focuses on the original composition of the late pianist and composer Michel Petrucciani.

Not only does this project bring our attention back to Michel's great melodies, but it allows Christian to use them as a creative platform for his trio.

For more information or to request an on air copy please contact:
GROOV Marketing and Consulting
877-476-6832
mark at groovmarketing.com or josh at groovmarketing.com

Also feel free to email Christian with any comments or questions: christian at christianjacob.com

Please visit www.wilderjazz.com

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