[JPL] Phat Band/Bruce Hornsby

Lazaro Vega wblv.wblu.fm at gmail.com
Sat Jul 29 00:27:01 EDT 2006

Thanks for those insights, Rick, especially the notion of "narrative"
in music, something Lester Young mastered, and Rollins -- but
translated to the ensemble in the organic way you describe, smearing
the line between composition and improvisation into an indefinite,
indeterminable zone. Ellington was a master of that, and so is Anthony

Jae wrote: "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."

Do you agree with that, Jae, or being facetious?  Not a truism – there
are systems, intentions, histories involved. You can hear when a
musician goes for something and pulls it off or doesn't; or when
someone's coasting on their familiar bag of tricks or playing with
inspiration. The observation negates the influence of experimentalist
classical music's influence on experimentalist jazz conceptions:
there's vocabulary growing in both idioms. Or, as a friend said,
""Freedom" and "discipline" are only as useful where they get you. You
can never fully escape the cage, but decorating it doesn't make it any
bigger, or any less of a cage. You can, however, get inside a bigger
cage (or succession of cages), simply by walking out the door and
looking around. The door's not locked. They just hang the keys on the
wall to make you think that it is…..Oh volunteered slavery..."

One might look at Sonny Stitt or Roscoe Mitchell with a similar
critical eye: Sonny at times motored on his changes in auto drive, and
there are moments when it seems too easy for Roscoe to jump into
circular breathing. Not that either of them coasts/coasted often, but
when they do/did -- what's the diff? And how much work did you have to
do as a listener to know the difference between that and when either
one of them is really "on"? Either way, a lot.  It's not a matter of
knowing what you're doing, it's a matter of being inspired while doing
it. And everyone has levels and degrees of that in their performance
life. You'd really say, after all these years, that the grand leaders
of the avant garde, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, Muhal and Roscoe,
Braxton, don't know what they're doing, or that Brotzmann hasn't
developed a specific vocabulary for the different ensembles he works
with, or that the Rova saxophone quartet is shuckin'?

Reminds me of a memorial service for Lester Bowie in Chicago – many
bands and individuals performed, but most did their own music. Ken
Vandermark transcribed and orchestrated Bowie's "New York is Full of
Lonely People" for the Vandermark 5 and it was one of the most
thoughtful tributes of the night. It didn't matter that he was playing
outside, everyone was playing outside, but his performance was notably
different. Basics are basics: you rehearse or you don't, and if you
don't there are consequences, or trade offs.

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