[JPL] Blowin' Hot & Cool...Jazz & Its Critics...review in The Nation

Robert Hoff rhoff at mercyhurst.edu
Tue Sep 26 08:37:57 EDT 2006


Speaking of critics, my friend and colleague, Mark Gridley (author of Jazz 
Styles) have prepared an article for publication and which JPL members may 
find of interest.   Your comments welcome.

Rob Hoff, JazzFlight, WQLN, Erie, PA



Abstract

Two hundred and five listeners indicated their perception of emotion in John 
Coltrane's 1958 Newport Jazz Festival performance and completed the 
Multidimensional Anger Inventory. Listeners who were high in trait anger 
were about twice as likely to perceive anger in the music as listeners who 
were not high in trait anger.  The data suggest that the widely cited 
accounts describing Coltrane's music as angry may have been created by 
journalists mistaking their own anger for Coltrane's, not detecting anger in 
the music as much as imputing anger to the music.




Who's Actually Angry, Coltrane or his Critics?



In his down beat magazine review of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival 
performance by jazz tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, Don Gold termed the 
musician an "angry young tenor" (Gold, 1958). In a Seattle newspaper account 
of another performance, Ed Baker mentioned that Coltrane's music "could be 
described as angry" (Baker, 1965).  In summarizing Coltrane's style for his 
book Jazz Masters of the Fifties, Joe Goldberg referred to "the rage in his 
playing" (Goldberg, 1965, p. 209). This intrigued us for several reasons. 
When Ira Gitler asked Coltrane about being termed an "angry young tenor" in 
the down beat magazine review, Coltrane said, "If it is interpreted as 
anger, it is taken wrong" (Gitler, 1958).  When Swedish radio interviewer 
Carl-Erik Lindgren asked, "Are you angry?" Coltrane responded, "No. I'm not" 
(Lindgren, 1960). In other interviews, Coltrane mentioned creative goals 
quite the opposite of conveying anger. "I know that I want to produce 
beautiful music, music that does things to people that they need. Music that 
will uplift, and make them happy." (Wilmer, 1962). ". what music is to 
me-it's just another way of saying this is a big, beautiful universe we live 
in, that's been given to us, and here's an example of just how magnificent 
and encompassing it is" (DeMichael, 1962).

Though mindful of the impossibility of determining the actual mood a 
musician has during his performance, we were struck by the discrepancy 
between the anger perceptions of Gold, Goldberg and Baker and the trend that 
was evident in the stated goals of Coltrane. The present study was 
undertaken to investigate the possibility that a listener's personality 
affects the listener's perception of emotion in music. We addressed the 
personality trait of anger.



In designing our study, we selected John Coltrane's solo improvisation on 
"Two Bass Hit" from his 1958 Newport Jazz Festival performance because it 
was the same performance that evoked the "angry young tenor" 
characterization of Don Gold. We played it for 205 high school students who 
were participating in a month-long, summer workshop for highly accomplished, 
creative students. Almost all participants reported previous exposure to 
jazz.  On a 7-point scale for a "Perception of Emotion Survey" in which 
"friendly" was position 1 and "angry" was 7, 17% of the participants rated 
Coltrane's playing on the angry side of the midpoint. These data are 
consistent with data previously collected on 216 jazz-naïve college 
students, only 13% of whom perceived Coltrane's music as angry and 23 
professional jazz musicians, only one of whom perceived Coltrane's music as 
angry (Gridley, in press).

These high school students also completed the Multidimensional Anger 
Inventory (Siegel, 1985), a 38-item self-report inventory having adequate 
reliability and validity. Of the 17% in the present sample who perceived 
Coltrane's music as angry, 62% of the students scored above the mean on the 
anger inventory, indicating anger as a personality trait for them. Of the 
remaining students perceiving anger in Coltrane, 8% scored at the mean, and 
30% on the non-angry side of the mean on the anger inventory. Of the 
participants who did not rate Coltrane's playing as angry, only 32% scored 
above the mean on the inventory, 30% scored at the midpoint, and 37% scored 
on the non-angry side. In other words, by comparison with listeners who 
perceived Coltrane's solo as not angry, listeners who perceived the solo as 
angry were about twice as likely to score high on trait anger themselves.

By combining measures of trait anger and measures of music perception, these 
data suggest that the listeners most likely to perceive anger in music are 
themselves angry. Perceiving that a thought or feeling lies in someone else 
when it actually lies in ourselves is termed "projection."  An essential 
condition for calling such a phenomenon "projection" is that the perceiver 
not be aware that the thought or feeling is actually their own. The 
historical significance of this possibility is that the anger perception was 
widely disseminated as though a fact about Coltrane's inspiration, not as 
merely the perception of a few listeners who happened to be widely read 
journalists. And, if indeed Coltrane were not angry, these remarks 
misrepresented him. The danger is that they continue to appear in accounts 
of his work (Blumenthal, 2001) and potentially bias new listeners who have 
yet to form their own opinions of Coltrane and his music.

References

Baker, E. (1965) Coltrane sounds like nobody else in world of jazz. Seattle 
Times, Sept.

 29, Pg. 48.

Blumenthal, R. (2001) liner notes to the compact disc Miles Davis at Newport 
1958

 (Columbia Legacy CK 85202),  Pg. 5.

DeMichael, D. (1962) John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy answer their critics. 
Down Beat,

 April 12, 20-23.

Gold, D.  (1958)  Newport Jazz 1958. Down Beat, August 7, Pp. 16.

 Coltrane's playing at the concert, characterized in this article

 as "angry young tenor," was recorded and was first available on

            the album Miles & Monk at Newport (Columbia PC 8978), 
subsequently

            available on the compact disc Miles Davis at Newport 1958

 (Columbia Legacy CK 85202).

Goldberg, J. (1965). Jazz masters of the fifties. New York: Macmillan. Pp. 
209, "the rage

 in his playing"

Gitler, I. (1958),  Trane on the track. Down Beat, October 16, 16.

Gridley, M. C.  (in press). Perceptions of Emotions in John Coltrane's 
Saxophone

 Improvisations. Perceptual and Motor Skills

Lindgren, Carl-Erik. (1960) "Coltrane Interview" available on Miles Davis 
and John

 Coltrane: 1960 in Stockholm. Dragon Records DRLP 90/91, copyright 1985,

Stockholm, Sweden.

Siegel, J. M. (1985). The measurement of anger as a multidimensional 
construct.

            In M. A. Chesney & R. H. Rosenman (Eds.), Anger and Hostility in

 Cardiovascular and Behavioral Disorders. Washington, DC: Hemisphere,

 Pp. 59-82.

Wilmer, V. (1962) Conversation with Coltrane. Jazz Journal. January, 2.



OPTIONAL FOOTNOTE OR DIGRESSION

Is it possible that Coltrane's sounds revealed an anger in him that was not 
known to him at the time and not due to his technical struggles? Was 
Coltrane angry and though 17% of his listeners knew it, he didn't?   Was he 
a multifaceted person, one facet of him angry and another gentle and calm, 
the angry facet surfacing only in his jazz improvisations and only 
detectable by some listeners?  Was he consciously striving for beauty and 
lyricism, but producing angry music?  Were only the angry listeners able to 
detect this unconscious anger in Coltrane's playing?  Did the non-angry 
listeners filter out the signs of anger because that is how their 
personalities handle unpleasantness?



Another unanswered question is why Coltrane anger was not perceived by those 
32% of the listeners who scored above the mean for their own trait anger but 
did not perceive anger in Coltrane. How are they different from the 62% of 
the listeners who did perceive anger in Coltrane and scored above the mean 
for their own trait anger?



Another unanswered question is whether the jazz critics were projecting when 
listening to Coltrane. Perhaps a study of their published responses to other 
highly vigorous saxophonists would reveal whether by comparison with other 
critics they were more prone to perceive anger. As with the impossibility of 
determining the mood of the performer during performance, it is also 
impossible to determine the mood of the reviewer at the time of hearing the 
performance, especially since the reviewer might not be truly aware of his 
own feelings and emotional tendencies. Moreover, it is too late to give the 
reviewers the Multidimensional Anger Inventory.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "r durfee" <rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com>
To: "jazzweek.com jazzproglist@" <jazzproglist at jazzweek.com>
Sent: Monday, September 25, 2006 6:31 PM
Subject: [JPL] Blowin' Hot & Cool...Jazz & Its Critics...review in The 
Nation


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>
> Music of My Mind
> by DAVID YAFFE
>
> [from the October 2, 2006 issue]
>
> Amiri Baraka, in his 1984 Autobiography, recalls a
> fistfight with the legendary composer and bassist
> Charles Mingus outside the Five Spot, one of
> Manhattan's hippest jazz clubs in the 1950s and '60s.
> Mingus took one look at the jazz critic and slugged
> him, only to have Baraka slugging back in his best
> Sugar Ray imitation. "I'm sorry," Mingus said. "I made
> a mistake. I was wrong." As Baraka explained with more
> than a touch of self-flattery, "I guess he meant
> because he thought he could just slap me and walk
> away, having chastised some jive intellectual. But I'd
> ducked and dodged around some much meaner with they
> hands mf's than Charlie Mingus."
>
> At least the two men came to an understanding, even if
> it was unclear how, after their scuffle, Mingus
> assessed Baraka's chops as a jive intellectual. Not
> all conflicts between jazz critics and their subjects
> have been resolved so easily, as John Gennari points
> out in Blowin' Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics. The
> book includes a few other moments when the musicians
> turned the tables on their professional scrutinizers.
> Pianist Cecil Taylor, after being outed by his onetime
> champion Stanley Crouch, responded with an equally
> ferocious poem. Mingus, in his memoir Beneath the
> Underdog, imagined how pathetic a group of ofay jazz
> critics would sound jamming on the bandstand. And in
> 1961 Miles Davis hosted an extravagant "press
> conference in reverse" at his Central Park West
> penthouse, in which he, Cannonball Adderly, Horace
> Silver, Philly Joe Jones and other legendary musicians
> engaged in a playful but revealing interrogation of
> Martin Williams, Nat Hentoff, Dan Morgenstern and
> other notable tastemakers. "What qualification does a
> jazz critic need?" asked Silver. "Anybody can be a
> jazz critic," Hentoff admitted. "The standards are
> very low." Hentoff, whose own jazz criticism has set a
> particularly high standard for more than half a
> century, had a good point.
>
> Gennari, an assistant professor of English at the
> University of Vermont, has not been living in jazz's
> most exciting moment, but he has come along at a
> fortuitous time for jazz studies, a growth industry in
> the academy. The book had its origins as an American
> Studies dissertation, and was then revised and refined
> over more than a decade. Jazz critics usually scribble
> notes in dark, smoky clubs and then hastily turn in
> copy in a caffeinated rush of deadlines, cobbled
> anecdotes and many, many adjectives. With a few
> exceptions, they tend to be neither technically
> proficient musicians nor credentialed scholars but
> former English majors and sometimes lapsed humanities
> graduate students--a venerable tradition in cultural
> journalism.
>
> There are a few PhDs discussed in Gennari's book, but
> none did their scholarly work on jazz, which was an
> impossible pursuit until relatively recently: Marshall
> Stearns taught medieval literature at Hunter while
> founding the Institute of Jazz Studies; Barry Ulanov
> taught theater history at Barnard while editing
> Metronome; and Albert Goldman, after receiving a PhD
> in English at Columbia, fled academe for hired hackdom
> after learning that an entry-level Brooklyn College
> instructor made less money than a subway conductor.
> Williams received a master's in English from the
> University of Pennsylvania, and Gennari, who received
> his PhD from the same institution, demonstrates that
> the lessons of New Criticism weren't lost on the most
> influential jazz critic of his time. Hentoff, for his
> part, left Harvard's American Civilization graduate
> program after a year when he met resistance to the
> idea of taking black artists seriously in general and
> writing a Duke Ellington dissertation in particular.
> He may have bemoaned the standards of jazz criticism,
> but higher education was not exactly friendly to it
> back in the 1950s.
>
> And so Gennari's book does for jazz critics what most
> of them were unable to do for themselves, but with a
> postmodern twist: The scholar demystifies and
> historicizes the journalists. The first sustained
> scholarly book exclusively about jazz criticism--and,
> not least, about the passions that have driven and
> surrounded it--Blowin' Hot and Cool is thorough,
> absorbing and original, an obsessive study of
> professional obsessives that will circumvent the need
> for any other.
>
> In the introduction, Gennari cites Thelonious Monk's
> maxim that "if you want to know what's going on in
> jazz, ask a musician." Yet Monk's statement doesn't
> necessarily undercut the need for jazz critics--or
> even a book about jazz critics. What it implies is
> that the best jazz criticism--really, like the best
> criticism of any art--has to be informed by the
> artists. This may seem like an obvious point, but
> considering that jazz was in its most vital periods of
> development during segregation and the early,
> tumultuous years of the civil rights movement, it
> required a considerable cultural crossing among the
> people who wrote about it, many of whom were white men
> from privileged backgrounds.
>
> Of all these privileged white men, none were more
> influential, or more stricken with racial and class
> guilt, than John Hammond. To call Hammond a man of
> wealth and taste would be an understatement on both
> counts. An heir to the Vanderbilt fortune, Hammond
> grew up with every extravagance offered to the most
> well-heeled beneficiaries of the Gilded Age. Armed
> with a trust fund to get him through the Depression
> years, he started out as a jazz critic, but his real
> legacy was as a legendary Columbia Records producer
> and talent scout who counted among his discoveries
> Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Charlie Christian, Benny
> Goodman, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin and
> Bruce Springsteen.
>
> All of these artists could have been recognized
> without Hammond, but he managed to get there first. He
> championed racial integration back in the 1930s
> (reporting on the Scottsboro case for The Nation), but
> when he persuaded Benny Goodman to break the racial
> barrier by including Charlie Christian and Lionel
> Hampton on his session, he wasn't doing it merely out
> of political principle; he knew it would be good for
> music, which for him was also good for business. He
> was notoriously wrong about Ellington's politics and
> high-art aspirations, and idiotically forbade Billie
> Holiday to record the lynching dirge "Strange Fruit"
> for Columbia (he thought it was "artistically the
> worst thing that ever happened to her"), but it was
> extraordinary that this company man to the manor born
> was right as often as he was. (Hammond is also the
> subject of a new biography, Dunstan Prial's
> serviceable but hardly revelatory The Producer: John
> Hammond and the Soul of America.)
>
> Gennari's first chapter opens with Hammond acting as a
> jazz Virgil for the English critic Leonard Feather on
> Feather's first trip to New York. The pairing of the
> two men in 1935 not only consolidated the two most
> influential jazz critics of the decade but also set
> the tone for what Gennari calls the "Ur-stance of the
> jazz critic: poised on the seam between artistic
> creation and popular consumption, close to but also
> crucially distinct from the dancing mass body, caught
> up in an imagined sense of privileged intellectual and
> emotional communion with the music." Hammond and
> Feather were, in other words, the original jazz nerds,
> or as the section heading calls them, "White Guys
> Without Dates." But while their detached scrutiny may
> have seemed unduly removed from the physicality of the
> jitterbugging around them--something about white
> critics that was not lost on Ralph Ellison, Albert
> Murray and Stanley Crouch--their geeky pose also had a
> serious purpose: They were determined to make the case
> that this mass entertainment was also high art. In the
> 1930s, this stance was as counterintuitive as it was
> radical.
>
> Before jazz acquired mainstream respectability in the
> 1980s (and various alternative monikers, such as
> "America's classical music" and "black art music"),
> jazz criticism was an adventure, a hierarchically
> indeterminate project of discovery--and
> self-discovery. Leonard Feather and Stanley Dance
> leapt across the pond for Ellington, Hammond migrated
> from New Haven to Kansas City juke joints to spread
> the word on Basie, and Williams and Hentoff fled
> academe to raise intellectual standards in jazz
> criticism. Just after the publication of Norman
> Mailer's notorious 1957 essay in Dissent, "The White
> Negro," Hentoff wrote that Mailer's statement that
> "jazz is orgasm" "is not too far from the legend that
> 'all God's chillun got rhythm,' particularly the
> darker ones." Getting jazz right was an aesthetic
> matter, but for Hentoff it was a moral one as well.
> Baraka, when he wasn't dodging punches from Charles
> Mingus, summed it up back in 1963 as the critic
> formerly known as LeRoi Jones, then a necessary black
> voice in a largely white domain: "Most jazz critics
> have been white men, but most important jazz musicians
> have not been." Gennari is keenly attuned to this
> fact, not only when critics like Hammond and Hentoff
> were politically engaged but also when The New
> Yorker's Whitney Balliett confected elegant metaphors
> and when Williams defined a tradition of universal
> transcendence; being postracial in the 1950s was a
> luxury African-American musicians couldn't afford.
> Gennari searches high and low for these cultural
> divides and finds that while Ralph Gleason had high
> intellectual aspirations for jazz criticism, he was
> also at his boldest and funkiest in obscure girlie
> magazines like Rogue and Gem.
>
> The 1960s divided jazz critics like everyone else in
> that decade, and what had been a problematic crossing
> became a war zone, as Gennari describes in his
> fascinating chapter "The Shock of the New." Martin
> Williams liked Ornette Coleman but not later John
> Coltrane. LeRoi Jones became Amiri Baraka, left his
> Jewish wife, Hettie, and their two daughters and
> spouted anti-Semitic agitprop from the Village Gate.
> Gleason became, as Gennari described him, the "Dutch
> Uncle" of the hippies and helped found Rolling Stone.
> Dan Morgenstern tried to find virtues of the "new
> thing" of 1964 while still drawing lines in the sand.
> And for Frank Kofsky, a Jewish Trotskyist historian
> who heard the sound of the coming black revolution in
> Coltrane and Archie Shepp, if you weren't part of the
> solution, you were part of the problem, even including
> SNCC organizer Jackie McLean, whom Kofsky dismissed as
> "another one of the Establishment's good niggers in
> jazz." The one thing, it seemed, that nearly every
> jazz critic held in common was a contempt for the 1965
> Moynihan Report, which Albert Murray called "the
> folklore of white supremacy and the fakelore of black
> pathology."
>
> Between the 1920s and the '60s, jazz criticism was a
> topical subject, but by the '70s, notwithstanding the
> splendors of the loft scene, the debates became more
> archival, and Gennari's finds in this area are
> formidable. He digs up a well-meaning but shoddy 1960
> journal essay by Jack Kerouac, who wrote that Quincy
> Jones was a bass player and described Red Garland,
> somewhat vaguely, as "a strange thinker, actually."
> Jazz critics can be strange thinkers, too: In the
> book's central coup, Gennari unearths the
> correspondence between Ross Russell and Albert Goldman
> on Charlie Parker, housed in archives at the
> University of Texas, Austin. In these letters, written
> while Russell was working on Bird Lives!, his Parker
> biography, we get critics unfiltered, and Goldman
> gives a sense of what some of the white hipsters were
> saying about their black fetish objects behind closed
> doors (or, in this case, excavated from vaults).
> Russell, whom Miles Davis once likened to a vampire,
> was given the following writerly advice from Goldman:
> "I feel that for such a great cocksman your treatment
> of [Parker's] sex life is disappointing.... How about
> the faggot angle? You told me that Bird was intimate
> with [singer] Earl Coleman.... Please make sure you're
> not copping out in this area. It's a very important
> theme."
>
> After a thorough, engrossing investigation of about
> half a century of criticism, Gennari's final chapter,
> "Tangled Up in Blues," charting the more recent
> debates in jazz criticism, feels oddly tame. The jazz
> wars of the 1990s revolved around a single
> musician--the trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis, who
> has excoriated anything that veers from his particular
> take on the jazz tradition--and the institution that
> he directs, Jazz at Lincoln Center. Gennari shows his
> hand in the conclusion, counting himself "among those
> aggrieved by the Lincoln Center jazz program's
> denigration of the post-1958 avant-garde." But he's so
> determined to be fair to all sides that his true
> polemic never quite comes across. Having traversed
> fifty years of rancorous debate, the book lands in the
> present--and takes a polite dodge vis-à-vis the
> conflicts in jazz today.
>
> Gennari begins the final chapter with a perfect setup
> for irony: Gary Giddins thanking Crouch for his
> generosity in his acknowledgments to Celebrating Bird,
> the short book on Parker he completed while Crouch was
> working on a longer--and still much anticipated--Bird
> biography. He then lays out Crouch's idea of the jazz
> tradition, influenced by Albert Murray and Ralph
> Ellison, one that venerates Armstrong, Basie,
> Ellington and Bechet, and expands (beyond Murray's and
> Ellison's predilections) to a canon that includes
> Parker, Monk (Wynton Marsalis's favorite musician),
> Mingus, Ornette Coleman (when acoustic and
> appropriately swinging), John Coltrane (up to
> mid-1965) and Miles Davis (up to 1968) but not fusion
> or anything too European (including most ECM
> recordings and anything involving Cecil Taylor) or too
> rock-influenced, and definitely nothing that has the
> faintest whiff of hip-hop.
>
> There are, of course, plenty of jazz critics with a
> broader musical palette, like Francis Davis, a protégé
> of Pauline Kael, and Greg Tate, whose post-hip-hop
> black and cross-racial aesthetic Gennari praises for
> its originality. But when Gennari discusses the
> "strongest critics of the Murray/Crouch jazz model,"
> he devotes his attention to writers who have held out
> the torch for allegedly marginalized white musicians:
> most notably, Richard Sudhalter, James Lincoln Collier
> and Terry Teachout. What about Gary Giddins, who has
> no racial ax to grind? Giddins (who is discussed
> elsewhere in the same chapter) shares many of Crouch's
> passions but has also championed many of the musicians
> whom Crouch either disdains (Dave Douglas, Don Byron,
> Matthew Shipp) or repudiated after years of fervent
> advocacy (Cecil Taylor, David Murray). And when he was
> a staff writer for the Village Voice, Giddins
> published blistering attacks on Marsalis, reprinted in
> two essay collections. (Crouch gives his account of
> the jazz wars in his recent collection Considering
> Genius.) But the chapter shies away from the feud
> after nearly setting the stage for it.
>
> Still, this shying away from confrontation--in the
> last of eight chapters--shouldn't detract from the
> overall achievement of Gennari's thoughtful, original
> and impressive book. Jazz is not only in need of
> serious criticism, it is in need of serious criticism
> of its criticism. The best critics are self-critics as
> well, and are often the first to defer to the
> musicians. The mind of Martin Williams may have done
> much to canonize the mind of Ornette Coleman, but is
> it nearly as interesting a place to dwell? Surely not,
> just as writing The Jazz Tradition is less notable
> than recording The Shape of Jazz to Come. Williams
> himself would have certainly agreed. "I've often
> considered writing a column dedicated to the
> proposition that musicians are the only qualified
> critics," he wrote in Down Beat, undercutting his
> authority from his own perch.
>
> Williams was, of course, overstating the case, and he
> wasn't about to give himself a pink slip (though he
> did end up spending his final years at the
> Smithsonian, a move from criticism to curatorial work
> that reveals much about what was happening to the
> music). Even so, his invitation for the musicians to
> have the final say makes sense, and after spending all
> these pages with jazz critics, even more of a musical
> response would have been welcome. Many books have been
> written from the musicians' point of view (A.B.
> Spellman's 4 Lives in the Bebop Business, Valerie
> Wilmer's As Serious as Your Life, Arthur Taylor's
> Notes and Tones, the memoirs of Ellington, Mingus and
> Miles), and this is the first serious consideration of
> critics, but those moments of reverb between musicians
> and critics were so tantalizing, I wanted to hear a
> few more bars. "Jazz speaks," writes Gennari in his
> eloquent introduction, "through means that can make
> post-performance written accounts seem secondary or
> even superfluous." Indeed, but who gets the last word
> in the book? "May the noise forever clamor, and may we
> listen and learn," says Gennari, seemingly optimistic
> about the current state of jazz writing. But does jazz
> really get enough of the criticism it deserves?
> Hentoff was certainly right to defer to the musicians
> in Miles Davis's living room, and his point about the
> low standards in jazz criticism is still worth
> pondering. If only more of it was up to Gennari's
> impeccably high standards. Gennari writes about jazz
> critics with an impressive scholarly command, but I
> wanted the musicians to speak back a little more, even
> if it meant getting a little roughed up by Charles
> Mingus.
>
>
> Roy Durfee
> P.O. Box 40219
> Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
> rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
>
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