[JPL] Out of tune Ellington

Len Dobbin lendobbin at sympatico.ca
Sat Aug 9 20:51:56 EDT 2008


When Pepper Adams heard the Ellington tribute "And His Mother Called Him 
Bill" - he said," it's too bad they didn't at least take the time to tune 
up" - and he was a great Ellington fan - Rex Stewart being his inspiration 
to become a jazz musician !.

Len
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ray Reach" <rreach at bellsouth.net>
To: <jazzproglist at jazzweek.com>
Sent: Saturday, August 09, 2008 4:15 PM
Subject: Re: [JPL] Get Out'Tha Ghetto!


This week's sponsor:  JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be 
announced in August; registration opens in September.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My Dear Mr. Willis,

First let me say this:  "Ouch" for that slicing sarcastic remark about the 
possibility of my being drunk when I wrote my comments.  In fact, I rarely 
drink alcohol.  Maybe a beer every three to four months, or perhaps a single 
glass of wine with a meal with similar infrequency.  But, I can take a joke.

As to the reviews you quoted, I'm glad you found some good(?) (at least 
mediocre)  ones in reference to the Jarreau/Benson recording.  I have 
tremendous respect for both these musicians.  I don't even remember where I 
read the "slam" review.  There are a number of critics with which I am in 
almost total disagreement as to their point of view.  I know that if said 
critics "love" the music, I am most assuredly going to "hate" it and vice 
versa.  Perhaps if those critics could present recordings of their own 
performances which show skill commensurate with the performers which they 
are criticizing, I might take heed to what they say.  My personal feeling is 
that one has no business being a critic unless they are a skilled and 
talented performer themselves.

An example of John Coltrane's intonation problems would be the ballad 
playing on his album with Johnny Hartman.  He is consistently sharp in the 
upper register.  Painfully so to my ear.  If I had been the producer, I 
would never have let that pass.  On the other hand, Mr. Hartman's voice is 
quite mellow and pleasing, and his delivery is solid, and he possesses good 
musical instincts as to phrasing and articulation.  Mr. Coltranes concept, 
while lyrical and at times beautiful, loses me at times in technical 
limitations.  Still, Mr. Coltrane left a great legacy.  Part of that legacy 
is:  DON'T TAKE DRUGS...THEY WILL DESTROY YOU.  Who knows what higher level 
of skill to which Mr. Coltrane may have risen if he hadn't made such 
incredibly poor lifestyle choices.

In all fairness, Mr. Coltrane may have been having problems with flaws in 
his instrument.  Very often, the rush to "get a product to market" overrides 
asthetic considerations.  These may have been mitigating factors.  At the 
risk of sounding hypercritical... As to the flawed Ellington recordings: 
Duke's band was populated with inveterate partiers, though they were, in 
fact, supremely talented individuals.  Sometimes their lifestyles got in the 
way of sound musical execution.  The band did, of course, swing - and swing 
hard.  Don't get me wrong, I believe the Ellington band was a rare and 
beautiful organization.  Duke, along with his band (and don't forget Billy 
Strayhorn), broke lots of new ground in the history of jazz in general, and 
in the history of the jazz orchestra in particular.  Often his (and Billy's) 
orchestrations were more akin to the works of Igor Stravinsky than that of 
Count Basie or Woody Herman.  In this respect, I agree wholeheartedly with 
Gunther Schuller and other Ellington (and Strayhorn) scholars.

I'm sorry I don't have time to fish through my rather large collection of 
Ellington scores and recordings in order to site specific instances of bad 
intonation and blend.  Certainly, there are times when the execution of the 
Ellington band was incomparable.  But, there were times when I wondered 
"what were they thinking?"  Again, the decision to release may have been 
driven by pressure from the record label.  Also, jazz recording budgets are 
often tiny.  There is often not the luxury of doing a re-take.

To the Coltrane devotees:  My apologies if I have offended anyone.  A 
comment fomented by a dullard such as myself certainly doesn't diminish his 
stature in the history of jazz.  I merely feel that, in my role as a jazz 
educator, it is my responsibility to point out the good and bad aspects of 
high profile jazz icons who often serve as role models for future 
generations of jazz practicioners.

Respectfully,

Ray
--
Ray Reach

Pianist / Vocalist / Guitarist /
Arranger / Composer / Producer
CEO, Magic City Music Productions
207 Three Sons Drive
Birmingham, AL 35226
Director of Student Jazz Programs,
Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
www.jazzhall.com
www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Reach
www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=1874
www.myspace.com/rayreachmusic
Cellular: 205-960-6328


-------------- Original message from mileswillis at wpfw.org: -------------- 

This week's sponsor: JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be announced 
in
> August; registration opens in September.
>
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
>
>
>
> Hello Ray,
>
>      Since you've been a professional musician for some 45 years,
> would please explain what you mean by 'massive intonation problems'?
> And on which particular recordings by Coltrane or anyone else is this
> problem most obvious and easily detected? I too play and read music so
> please don't feel the need to 'translate' your explanation for a
> non-musician. Maybe you could also provide the titles to some of those
> 'drunk-sounding' Ellington records as well.
>
>      Also, I found at least four reviews of the 2006 Al
> Jerreau/George Benson recording, /Givin' It Up/, that you may not have
> read. One, from allmusic.com
> (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gpfexqqkldfe[1]),
> give it 3 and a half stars; not exactly glowing but hardly a 'slam'.
> Another, blogcritics.com
> (http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/11/29/0957222.php[2]), ends with
> this statement:
>
> "fans of either artist will find this an acceptable to distinguished
> effort but detractors will point to it as another example of a
> tendency to underachieve. Perhaps the latter comes with the territory
> when you have the considerable talents these gentlemen possess."
>
> Again, not gushing but not exactly an emphatic 'thumbs down' either.
>
> Another one states, "Every song on the album is worth a listen, with
> Bensonâ?Ts guitar and voice in fine form, and the addition of Jarreauâ?Ts
> ability to sing different styles while never losing his ability to
> entertain. Youâ?Tll enjoy this brand new release, especially if youâ?Tre a
> fan of the artists" Maybe that particular reviewer was in a 'manic'
> phase of his bipolar illness.
>
> And there was this one:
> (http://ezinearticles.com/?George-Benson-and-Al-Jarreau-Givin-It-Up-Smooth-Jazz-
> Music-CD-Review&id=461751[3]) "One of the really nice things about a CD 
> like
> this is with this level of talent even if Smooth Jazz isn't your favorite 
> style
> you still can't help but appreciate the greatness of the artists. These 
> two have
> been doing it so long and are so polished they just seem to embody the 
> term
> musician."
>
> I did not find a single review of this recording that came anywhere
> close to being a 'slam' or thumbs down.
>
> Were YOU drunk when you wrote this or had you not taken your meds that 
> day?
>
> Sincerely,
> Miles Willis
> WPFW
>
> Quoting Ray Reach :
>
> > This week's sponsor:  JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be
> > announced in August; registration opens in September.
> >
> > ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> >
> > Dear Misters Davis and Willis,
> >
> > As a professional musician of some 45 years, I find validity in
> > some  aspects of both your points of view.  Here's my view:  I
> > believe  that there are good things to be gleaned from both more
> > traditional  ("mainstream") jazz and the so-called "contemporary" or
> > "smooth" jazz
> >
> > It is my belief that, in the words of Louis Armstrong, there are
> > "...only TWO kinds of music, good music and bad music."  Fact is,
> > there has always been, since the earliest days of recorded music
> > history, lots of mediocre and bad music and precious little good
> > music.  Not all of us (musicians) are in possesion of the high
> > level  of talent or skill that it takes to be a Mozart or an
> > Ellington.
> >
> > However, it is also my firm belief that "the cream will rise to the
> > top."  The quality listeners will always seek out the quality music.
> >
> > I produce recordings of all sorts, from Country to Gospel to Jazz
> > to  Classical.  True, my fave is jazz, but I also appreciate great
> > Bluegrass, Western Swing (a la Bob Wills or Asleep At The Wheel),
> > Pop / R & B (a la Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire and Luther
> > Vandross), great Classical (a la Itzak Perlman), etc., etc., etc.
> >
> > I remember the 1970's when many jazz "purists" thought Chick Corea
> > and Return To Forever and other such fusion groups were the jazz
> > "Anti-Christ."  Nowadays, tunes such as Spain from RTF's "Light As
> > A  Feather" album are considered mainstream.
> >
> > My main point is:  All these genre and subgenre of jazz don't have
> > to be mutually exclusive.  Jazz will continue to evolve.  If it
> > doesn't, it will surely die.  So, at this point, I guess I agree
> > with Mr. Davis.  Let's "lighten up."  Yes, there are a lot of
> > "dumb"  (low artistic content) smooth jazz recordings out there.
> > But, I've  also heard a lot of "stupid," poorly executed "pure" jazz
> > recordings.
> >
> > Dare I say this?  I've heard some cuts by John Coltrane and others
> > wherein the intonation problems are massive, but they were still
> > released.  And live recordings of various "pure jazz" artists that
> > exhibited ensemble problems, problems with balance and blend, and
> > poorly executed improvised solos, yet they became "hit" jazz
> > recordings.  Or recordings of the Ellington band which sounded as
> > if  most of the band was drunk.  (They may have been.)
> >
> > Are these poor quality "pure" jazz recordings any better than some
> > of the slickly produced, but unimaginative, smooth jazz recordings.
> > I think not.  In fact, I've heard contemporary jazz recordings such
> > as the recent effort by Al Jarreau and George Benson, which got
> > slammed by the critics, and I thought it was wonderful!  The
> > arrangements were extremely clever, the production was top drawer,
> > the performances were incredible, yet the critics gave it a "thumbs
> > down."  Often I wonder if many critics are bipolar, and if they
> > were  having a depressed day when the wrote certain reviews.
> >
> > All the best,
> >
> > Ray
> > -- 
> > Ray Reach
> >
> > Pianist / Vocalist / Guitarist /
> > Arranger / Composer / Producer
> > CEO, Magic City Music Productions
> > 207 Three Sons Drive
> > Birmingham, AL 35226
> > Director of Student Jazz Programs,
> > Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
> > www.jazzhall.com
> > www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Reach
> > www.allaboutjazz.com/php/musician.php?id=1874
> > www.myspace.com/rayreachmusic
> > Cellular: 205-960-6328
> >
> >
> > -------------- Original message from 
> > mileswillis at wpfw.org: -------------- 
> >
> > This week's sponsor: JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be
> > announced in
> >> August; registration opens in September.
> >>
> >> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Dear Mr. Davis,
> >>
> >>       I think that I understand your sentiments but must take strong
> >> exception to your characterization of a commitment to playing 'pure'
> >> jazz as some stubborn 'ghetto-ization' of the music that may
> >> ultimately lead to it's disappearance from the radio airwaves.
> >>
> >>       I assume that what you are hinting at is the mixing of music that
> >> is referred to as 'smooth' or 'contemporary' along with jazz for the
> >> purpose of gaining greater general audience appeal. You go on to infer
> >> that doing so will lead to "developing a mindset... that programs jazz
> >> as a part of an interesting, challenging, sophisticated general music
> >> format", as though the playing of ONLY jazz cannot precipitate such a
> >> development. This thought makes apparent that you, inexplicably, do
> >> not find jazz itself to be 'interesting, sophisticated and
> >> challenging' on it's own and can only become so by diluting it's
> >> presention with non-jazz music.
> >>
> >>       Being that you are (or claim to be) a jazz radio programmer, I'm
> >> deeply troubled by your assertion that we must 'rid (ourselves) of the
> >> idea that (we)... owe something to this genre... (or that) it must be
> >> kept "pure"'!? First of all, it is the musicians who keep it the art
> >> form "pure" by respecting and absorbing it's traditions as
> >> they continue it's evolvement. Even more disconcerting is your belief
> >> that it is BOTH musicians and radio people who are responsible for
> >> this 'ghetto-ization', which you define, rather clumsily, as "making
> >> music that appeals primarily to academic circles--conservatory
> >> musicians and a few fellow travellers". While I do acknowledge that
> >> some of jazz' more abstract forms/genres are difficult for even some
> >> of it's most avid fans to appreciate, there is no reason why the more
> >> traditional and/or mainstream works cannot have more broad popular
> >> appeal far beyond the conservatories and academic circles,
> >> particularly if it... you know, swings.
> >>
> >>       You blame the music and the 'purity' with which we stubbornly
> >> present it as the reason for it's disappearance from radio, implying
> >> is that a larger potential audience awaits if we'd all just 'lighten
> >> up'. The truth is that too few people ever get to hear jazz in the
> >> first place. We, the musicians and 'radio people', need to promote the
> >> music to, shall we say, 'underserved' populations. Let's go to the
> >> schools, community centers, bookstores, etc. to talk about and play
> >> this great music for those who've never had the opportunity to hear
> >> it, which would include just about everyone, everwhere. The music can
> >> create it own demand or, to paraphrase, 'if they hear it they will dig
> >> it'. For nearly a century jazz has stood upon its own merits,
> >> diluting, however well-intentioned, it is the surest path toward its
> >> demise.
> >>
> >> Sincerely,
> >> Miles Willis
> >> WPFW - Washington, DC
> >>
> >> Quoting Eric Hines :
> >> > This week's sponsor:  JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be
> >> > announced in August; registration opens in September.
> >> >
> >> > ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> >> >
> >> >
> >> > How do we stop these changes? Jazz programmers have to get as serious
> >> > about radio as they are about jazz. I've seen plenty of progress here 
> >> > at
> >> > jpl over the years on that issue, but there's still a lot of work to 
> >> > be
> >> > done.
> >> >
> >> > One thing that I think needs to happen is that programmers have to 
> >> > rid
> >> > themselves of the idea that they,a s radio programmers, owe something 
> >> > to
> >> > the genre "jazz" or that this genre has to be kept "pure." Radio is a
> >> > mass medium; if you don't use it (less than 1 AQH share in wmub's 
> >> > case),
> >> > you lose it. I know a lot of us (including me) have a long way to go 
> >> > in
> >> > that respect, but that's the battle we're fighting.
> >> >
> >> > Developing a mindset--and programs--that programs jazz as a part of 
> >> > an
> >> > interesting, challenging, sophisticated general music format probably 
> >> > is
> >> > the only chance there is for jazz music on radio. And the more 
> >> > musicians
> >> >   and radio people ghettoize the music (by making music that appeals
> >> > primarily to academic circles--conservatory musicians and a few 
> >> > fellow
> >> > travellers; by programming shows consisting largely of such music), 
> >> > the
> >> > more likely it will be ghettoized on the radio as well--to places 
> >> > like
> >> > HD, which, frankly, is a bad joke which we won't have to kick around 
> >> > for
> >> > very long in any case.
> >> >
> >> > --eric
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >
> >> >
> >> > Eric Hines
> >> > General Manager
> >> > WNMC 90.7 FM
> >> > http://www.wnmc.org[1[4]] ( http://www.wnmc.org/[2[5]] )
> >> > 1701 East Front St.
> >> > Traverse City, MI 49686
> >> > 231-995-2562
> >> >
> >> >
> >> > Play in NMCâ?Ts scholarship golf outing Aug. 7 (
> >> > http://www.nmc.edu/foundation/events/golf-scholarship.html[3[6]] ) (
> >> > http://www.nmc.edu/alumni/update.html[4[7]] )
> >> >
> >> >>>> "Dr. Jazz" 8/7/2008 3:11 PM >>>
> >> > This week's sponsor:  JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be
> >> > announced in August; registration opens in September.
> >> >
> >> > ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> >> >
> >> > WMUB (Miami U) in Ohio has just changed to an all news & info 
> >> > station,
> >> >
> >> > and has moved all music to their HD channel.  From their website:
> >> >
> >> > *Why These Changes?
> >> > *As many of our listeners know, in the last 18 months WMUB has been 
> >> > the
> >> >
> >> > subject of a major internal study from Miami University, chaired by
> >> > Journalism Program Chair Richard Campbell. The radio environment both
> >> > nationally and locally has seen rapid change during that time, but as
> >> > General Manager of WMUB I did not feel it was appropriate to 
> >> > institute
> >> >
> >> > anything but very minor changes to our overall programming mix during
> >> > this time.
> >> >
> >> > Now that review is over, and it is time for WMUB to move ahead. The
> >> > committee's recommendation of dynamic partnerships on and off campus
> >> > has
> >> > challenged us to live up to our mission as never before:
> >> >
> >> >      * Miami's review affirmed WMUB's role as a public service radio
> >> >        station.
> >> >      * We believe that commitment is best served by a full-time mix 
> >> > of
> >> >        local and national news and information programming.
> >> >      * By focusing our format, we believe we will increase our 
> >> > ability
> >> > to
> >> >        attract and retain new listeners as well as serve the great
> >> >        majority of current listeners.
> >> >      * This change thus orients us toward future growth in audience 
> >> > and
> >> >        local fundraising capacity.
> >> >      * The resources of the WMUB news room will build on the best of
> >> > NPR
> >> >        and now (for the first time) the BBC.
> >> >      * Repeating Diane Rehm and Talk of the Nation reinforces the
> >> >        centrality of our news and information format.
> >> >      * The repeats give those who can't listen during the daytime the
> >> >        chance to experience the depth of NPR's talk shows.
> >> >      * The BBC World Service gives an international scope and
> >> > perspective
> >> >        unmatched by any other available source.
> >> >      * Although other stations in the area carry some BBC also, we 
> >> > will
> >> >        carry more hours, and at different times.
> >> >      * The *HD2 Jazz channel* and its
> >> >        associated live web stream provide the appropriate vehicles 
> >> > for
> >> >        presenting Mama Jazz to her audience as well as our overnight
> >> > and
> >> >        daytime jazz offerings.
> >> >      * We will be able to provide further opportunities to work with
> >> >        Miami students in a professional environment.
> >> >
> >> > What can be done to stop this continuing trend by non-commercial
> >> > stations?
> >> > -Dr.
> >> >
> >> > -- 
> >> > Dr. Jazz
> >> > Dr. Jazz Operations
> >> > 24270 Eastwood
> >> > Oak Park, MI  48237
> >> > (248) 542-7888
> >> > http://www.drjazz.com[6[8]] ( http://www.drjazz.com/[7[9]] )
> >> > SKYPE:  drjazz99
> >> >
> >> > -- 
> >> >
> >> > Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> >> > List information:
> >> > http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[8[10]]
> >> > List archive: 
> >> > http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[9[11]]
> >> > Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
> >> > -- 
> >> >
> >> > Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> >> > List information:
> >> http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[10[12]]
> >> > List archive: 
> >> > http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[11[13]]
> >> > Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
> >> >
> >>
> >>
> >> Links:
> >> ------ 
> >> [1] http://www.wnmc.org/[14]
> >> [2] http://www.wnmc.org/[15]
> >> [3] http://www.nmc.edu/foundation/events/golf-scholarship.html[16]
> >> [4] http://www.nmc.edu/alumni/update.html[17]
> >> [5] http://www.wmub.org/HDradio/[18]
> >> [6] http://www.drjazz.com/[19]
> >> [7] http://www.drjazz.com/[20]
> >> [8] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[21]
> >> [9] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[22]
> >> [10] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[23]
> >> [11] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[24]
> >>
> >> -- 
> >>
> >> Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> >> List information:
> >> http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[25]
> >> List archive: http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[26]
> >> Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
> > -- 
> >
> > Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> > List information: 
> > http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[27]
> > List archive: http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[28]
> > Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
> >
>
>
> Links:
> ------ 
> [1] http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:gpfexqqkldfe
> [2] http://blogcritics.org/archives/2006/11/29/0957222.php
> [3]
> http://ezinearticles.com/?George-Benson-and-Al-Jarreau-Givin-It-Up-Smooth-Jazz-M
> usic-CD-Review&id=461751
> [4] http://www.wnmc.org[1/
> [5] http://www.wnmc.org/[2
> [6] http://www.nmc.edu/foundation/events/golf-scholarship.html[3
> [7] http://www.nmc.edu/alumni/update.html[4
> [8] http://www.drjazz.com[6/
> [9] http://www.drjazz.com/[7
> [10] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[8
> [11] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[9
> [12] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist[10
> [13] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[11
> [14] http://www.wnmc.org/
> [15] http://www.wnmc.org/
> [16] http://www.nmc.edu/foundation/events/golf-scholarship.html
> [17] http://www.nmc.edu/alumni/update.html
> [18] http://www.wmub.org/HDradio/
> [19] http://www.drjazz.com/
> [20] http://www.drjazz.com/
> [21] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
> [22] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
> [23] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
> [24] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
> [25] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
> [26] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
> [27] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
> [28] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
>
> -- 
>
> Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
> List information: http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
> List archive: http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
> Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com
--

Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com
List information: http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist
List archive: http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/
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