rick at rickmclaughlin.com
Sun Jul 30 10:21:44 EDT 2006
Hey, you know, I'm not a programmer, so I'll bow out on this in a moment.
Don't want to be a party to steering this list to far off course, on the
other hand I can't help but think that there is something of a "we're all in
this together" experience here, too. After all, musicians make the records,
you guys play 'em, which inspires musicians to make more, which gives you
more to play, etc and so on.
I think that the general quest for connecting with listeners is one that we
all have in common (programmers & musicians alike), and that, accuracy and
reliability of numbers aside, the size of the jazz audience could be built
up a bit. A colleague of mine (here in Boston) with a penchant for sarcasm
once said to me that his neighbors in the 'burbs often relate to him like,
"Oh, jazz musician eh? Jazz. Yeah man. I don't know what it is, but I
know that I hate it." And let us not forget that blog that everyone was
riled up about a few months back when the Chicago station dropped jazz. The
guy said something like, "I'm not against jazz, I just can't stand that
virtuosic kind. I mean, ok, you can play your horn, I get it" and then went
on to say that jazz fits perfectly into a Sunday morning brunch or at a hip
bookstore, but not really anywhere else. So whether we are trying to figure
out what the audience likes, what we like, the difference(s) between those
two things, and/or the elements that make up the music, the end result is
the same: connection or the lack thereof. I can't speak to which records
light up the phone lines, but I can speak to the sounds that perk up an
Whether making the records or spinning them, we are all suffering from - and
aspiring to - many of the same things.
So, just a few quick things. Not exactly my "peace" because it could end up
being a tome, and then I still wouldn't be able to get it all in, but at
least a little more from my point of view.
Re: Thad Jones. Jae, you are right. Thad et al rock unbelievably hard.
How could I not like a band that uses Richard Davis (I mean, among many many
other incredible musicians, and for many other incentives to listen). My
point really was that Thad's band happened and thank God. Now, what's next?
I tire of hearing people compose "in the style of," especially when it's one
that has already so much amazing material out there. Thad's writing style
has been so copied that his sound is now sort of a cliché (not his records,
but the records of his followers). I won't stop listening to Thad anytime
soon, or even his followers, I'm just questioning the need for today's
musician to actually compose in that style, since there are so many other,
less explored directions. That's all (recognizing that each composer should
understand how it works). I mean, at some point, when something starts as
an innovation then becomes the standard, then the mainstream, then a cliché,
you end up with Michael Bolton or Rod Stewart singing a record of that
music. So, Thad yes, contemporaries writing in the style, ok yes probably,
but let's all be careful now. There are many other incredible directions to
go (again, Brookmeyer, George Russell, Maria Schneider, and many of the
bands on the lists starting this whole conversation).
Re: Braxton et al. Ok, now here's a very interesting question. Does it
matter whether or not some of our favorite improvisers are able to play in
the style, as a part of the tradition, instead of against it or outside of
it or whatever? Have any of you been to the Picasso museum in Barcelona?
You make your way through room after room of classical paintings, portraits,
landscapes until you finally arrive at cubism. There's an argument for
being able to paint the tradition. Why not be able to play it? On the
other hand, is it possible for someone to bypass all that and still have
something valid to say? I saw a master class (participated in it, actually)
with Steve Coleman in which he basically said that he couldn't get Von
Freeman or any of the other guys in his neighborhood to explain to him how
the tradition worked, so he had to make up his own approach to playing. 25
years later and he can not only play the tradition, but has his own thing
happening to (as he did all those years ago - remember Dave Holland's
Triplicate record. Good lord that was amazing). For me, my answer is "yes"
one can bypass the tradition and still have something valid to say. But as
for Braxton and others who are perceived as having missed some fundamentals,
I would prefer to hear a record like Quartets 1974 (which is totally
amazing, even with a bizarre version of You Stepped Out of a Dream) than
hear a standards record. Similarly, I prefer to hear someone like Wynton
(Mr. Fundamentals, I hope you will agree, and I don't mean it as an insult)
play on records like Black Codes and Standard Time than hear him play an
avant garde record. Just my personal choice. But I hear both the Braxton
records and the Marsalis records as jazz (note to self: that comment will
probably cost me...).
Re: Intonation/Jackie et al. Jae, I used the word "different" on purpose,
and I have to say that when you replied about not being in Asia or India, I
was both thrilled and a little sad about that comment. I value your opinion
and really respect that you have said "here's the line, don't cross it."
But for me, I get a lot of happiness from hearing Charlie Rouse play sharp
on Monk records (but he doesn't on Sphere records, ever notice that?), or
hearing Lee Konitz in all of his nutty sharp glory. Three of my favorite
bassists have classical backgrounds, and all three has been taken to task
over the years on their intonation (even my own performances, which you know
are -flawless- have had the -very rare- feature of an out of tune note or
two. Or on a recent live record I even start the tune about 1/4 step sharp
and don't let up for the first 15 seconds or so. That was great. PS - read
the preceding comment with all the sarcasm you can muster.) Jae, in none of
these cases do fundamentals really have anything to do with it. Each of the
masters I'm citing (taking myself out of the equation now) is incredible and
has either chosen to play consistently sharp, like Jackie, or has a more
slippery approach to intonation, but is aware of it. The piano,
unfortunately, doesn't help matters, Jae (you had mentioned earlier that it
revolves around the piano). I don't know what it's like in your hometown,
but in Boston, and on tours, an in tune piano is celebrated because of its
rarity. And that only gets worse the farther back in jazz history you go.
In Bill Crow's Jazz Anecdotes book there's a nice little story about what
Billy Holiday did with a machete to an out of tune piano, after Earl Hines
had to suffer through a gig on it. Anyway, I'm saying that this particular
issue is perhaps a bit trickier than it would seem. For me, I prefer an
approach that allows the guys above to be sharp, includes Joe Maneri and
others (Joe has taught a class at New England Conservatory for years and
years on microtonal composition and improvisation), and makes room for
African musicians, Indian musicians, Asian musicians, and all the
incredible, non-Eurocentric-tuning systems and phrasing styles that they
bring. Keeps me listening to great music, and connecting with it from the
downbeat. This is not better than the line you have drawn Jae, and I'm
definitely not trying to have words on this because man, I love the strength
of your statement. This just works better for me.
Ok, I'll try to keep it to a minimum henceforth. I'm really psyched we were
able to talk a little about this stuff, and if any of you want to talk more
1:1, send me an email to rick at rickmclaughin.com. Oh, and I HIGHLY second
the regard for Steve Lacy. I played with him a bit, and studied with him in
his last year of life. He was absolutely amazing in every way.
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