ep1str0phy

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  1. Has anyone accidently purchased this?

    Ok, granted, but his production work is often really strong for his genre. I know this is a jazz board and there's contentiousness herein, but remember that this record won the Pulitzer: This is like the John Mayer vs. John Mayer vs. Jon Mayer thing--i.e., I have a pretty well-traveled jazz friend/mentor who purchased the hilariously titled (granted the tenor of this conversation) Room for Squares on mistake.
  2. Late 60's Early 70's Blue Note Lesser Known Gems

    I wasn't so much talking about the Liberty sale and Lion's departure as a literal "transference of power" as I was saying that the specialness that's so deeply detectable in the late 50's/early 60's Blue Notes sides had gone somewhere else by the late 60's. Discussing canon vis-a-vis a continuum of "must hear albums" is messy and, in the era of streaming, unnecessarily reductionist, but if I knew of someone who was really invested in classic Blue Note and wanted to know where to go next, I'd probably point them in the direction of late-60's Columbia, Impulse!, and Atlantic, Milestone, ECM, the Delmark AACM material, the BYG label, Nessa, etc. on into whatever Michael Cuscana or Joel Dorn were producing in the early-mid 70's, and so on. That's not to say that the post-sale Blue Note output is valueless music or, really, not worthy of discussion (even historical discussion), only that the canon, such as it is, seems to shift elsewhere in that time period.
  3. Late 60's Early 70's Blue Note Lesser Known Gems

    Having come into this period of the music far after the fact, it's interesting to me that despite the obvious issues with this part of the discography--slipshod curation, a lack of visual/design uniformity, overtures to commercialism that often lack in subtlety, etc.--there are a ton of titles therein that might be considered certifiable classics. I wonder how much of that has to do with this received, reissue/post-reissue era understanding of the label as this monolithic marker of quality vs. the realities of the music as it was coming out. I mean, I feel like there's a 5-10 year stretch over the course of the label's lifetime in which almost everything has the patina of daring and innovation, whether we're talking about Out to Lunch or Moanin' or Night Dreamer or whatever, but by the late 60's peak free jazz had sort of dissipated and I have this strong (hindsight-informed) sense that whatever powers had energized the Blue Note of old had transferred to other locations and conceptions. Come '69 or something I might not recommend a Blue Note album over early AACM, the wilier exploits of early fusion, or even something as relatively "prosaic" (but culturally resonant, to some culture) as Swiss Movement. Again, having come into this music so far after it was issued--and with generations of thinkers and creators in-between--there are real historical arguments to be made on behalf of- New York is Now and Love Call, as Jim mentions. I think it's important to note that the subsequent popularization of some of this repertoire vis-a-vis Pat Metheny and others has given these records a place in Ornette's pantheon that is (maybe) outsize the mere novelty of Ornette vs. the Coltrane rhythm team. I definitely think that some of these melodies and sax solos (Ornette on "Airborne", Dewey's gargantuan coming out moment on "The Garden of Souls") rank among the most memorable in the stretch between the Atlantics and Prime Time. Later Wayne Shorter is now invaluable as a kind of bridge between the more structured post-bop of the classic era and Weather Report. I think in light of Wayne's "last" quartet a lot of the later Blue Notes, especially Supernova and Odyssey of Iska, require a reevaluation in the way of forward-thinking performance practice. Similar arguments can be made for the later Andrew Hills and Bobby Hutchersons. I have a personal/early career history with Eddie Gale's records that means that I can't be impartial about them, but I think that Ghetto Music has its own kind of underground/indie cache that is undeniable. That is an overture to avant-garde/soul jazz stylings that paid real artistic dividends, though I think that ultimately Black Rhythm Happening is the stronger of the two, performance-wise. I was at dinner with friends last night and they put on Mr. Jones. That shit is shredding, y'all. Re: the central thesis of this post I think that Live at the Lighthouse in particular and that entire crew of post-Coltrane saxophonists that Elvin employed were making some music that, for better or worse, helped to define the arc of post-bop for the ensuing decade (at least), and this makes that music as relevant, in a way, as the Lion-era stuff. Compounding this reevaluation of the late Blue Notes is the mind-boggling volume of electric/funk/soul jazz of really varying quality that the label seemed to dump in and around this time period. I adore a ton of this music and freely admit that a lot of it is disposable. That being said, I think that the biggest favor the resurgent label could have done for this period in its history was the Rare Groove Series, which properly contextualized a great deal of this music within the realm of the sampling/beat culture to which it was ultimately the most historically relevant. I can't imagine listening to Jack McDuff's Moon Rappin', which I love, so many years after the fact were it not sampled by A Tribe Called Quest for "Scenario"--that's an instance in which mildly experimental, but more or less zeitgeist-y, steak and eggs soul jazz transcends both its epoch and its creative inputs to become something closer to immortal. I can say the same thing for almost everything that got sampled/reworked on Madlib's Shades of Blue--a lot of shit that sounds way hipper when you hear what the music could do when interfacing with post-modern culture some 30-40 years down the line. And then there are records like Grant Green's Alive, which is not only a beat culture staple (again, re: A Tribe Called Quest), but also one of Grant's best late period records. It might have been lost to time because it's not, well, Idle Moments, but the playing there is so committed and the energy so very live (much like Root Down, to choose an appropriate comparison), I'm glad that the label history was there to ensure the album's survival for posterity.
  4. Ginger Baker (1939 - 2019)

    Cream defined a significant portion of my early musical experience, and the completist in me was always very invested in the idea of collecting as much related material as possible. I'm glad that the quieter--but very justly celebrated--victories with The Graham Bond Organization have not been lost to time, but there are some brilliant records with Ginger Baker's Airforce (in the company of UK jazz stalwarts Harold McNair and Phil Seamen, alongside the usual suspects), Fela Kuti (including the moody psych-afrobeat melange Stratavarious), and Bill Laswell's circle (PIL's Album, No Material with what is essentially a version of Last Exit) that I still swear by. I'm not a little sad that Cream declined in critical and communal estimation over the course of the past couple of decades. They were the first group to solve a very particular puzzle, and though my very partial opinion maintains that much of the music that they made together holds up, I'll be the first to admit that there were others who exercised similar ambitions with more verve and vision (Hendrix), conceptual clarity (Vanilla Fudge), experimental fervor (MC5), and enduring quality of songcraft (The Who). I think the one thing that they did do best was make an argument for how one can transmogrify the core elements of electric blues into something much less earthbound and much more surreal, and if Cream opened the door to things like Electric Mud or, extrapolating a lot, Rotary Connection or Tony Williams Lifetime, then the whole experiment was worth it. I listen now to something like the studio recording of "Politician"--which is this warped mix of overdubbed blues guitar, stentorian vocalisms, and Ginger's bizarre--but brilliant--insistence on playing swing time--and I hear something that transcends the end-of-the-line bankruptcy of merely playing electric blues louder. I'll argue at the end of the day that Cream was a more complete artistic project than a lot of the more fully realized (and probably more influential) music that came after it, if only because Cream still has a wash of uncertainty, ingenuity, and freshness dosed into it this many years removed. I can listen to something like "Pressed Rat and Warthog" or--deeper cut--"What A Bringdown" to hear three enterprising musicians near the beginning of their powers just trying to figure out how to make something that sounds new: It's messy and it's weird, yeah. But if you hear what happened with these guys in the years subsequent, it takes on a different character. I don't think Clapton was ever the same, and whether it was the pressure of the spotlight or the imperative of innovation that drew him inward, I don't think it did the artistic side of his ethos any big favors. I maintain that Jack Bruce was a full-blooded *genius* in a way that surpassed even his innovations on bass, and he was able to refine the miscellany of Cream into the laser-focused art rock (for lack of a better term) of Songs for A Tailor, Harmony Row, and later stuff like Somethin Els--music that is in its very own way both lost to time and timeless in a way Cream is not. Ginger never consolidated his artistic ambitions into a single project that defined his strengths, and I'll argue that when he and Bruce returned to the Cream well in subsequent years (with Bruce Baker Moore or on Jack's own solo records), it felt surprisingly rearguard. But inside of Ginger's plodding intensity was something of intrinsic value: a deep musicality and directness of attack, and a deep-set attention to sound. The dude was an improviser at heart. Skip to around 25 minutes here for a trio with Dick Heckstall-Smith. It's fucking free jazz. Somewhere inside of Ginger's Elvin Jones-cum-afrorock-isms is something both completely inimitable and spontaneous at heart, and if that isn't the mark of a jazz musician who has achieved self-actualization, then I don't know what is. Hearing Ginger's outsized drum sound + Jack's amped up fretless bass playing in this context really drives home the point that at some point before the end these guys were very content to be something smaller than their very big innovations, and in this most unusual and unlikely way, they shined. RIP to Ginger Baker. These guys were maniacs, but they did it down.
  5. See, these premises are faulty--you're basically debasing an entire genre of music and performance practice because it can't replicate Beethoven on the spot. You may be right, but in the process of rendering this assessment you're missing the point of jazz and improvised music entirely--i.e., you're de-contextualizing the music from the very conceptual and practical pressures that it is predicated on. You could flip this around and say, "Well, Beethoven isn't as great as Charlie Parker, because he was allowed to take his time--also, Beethoven just doesn't swing, so he's lame." This is of course nonsense, because one artist lived in midcentury America and the other lived at the turn of the 19th century. If you want to get into real, contextualized comparative analysis, you have to assess things like how a lot of Bird's prime coincided with a wartime recording ban and how Beethoven had the benefit of a system of sponsors and patrons that was virtually nonexistent inside of midcentury jazz; hell, the Bird that we have on record is mostly shunted into these 4-5 minute chunks of time, so we're talking about hyper-compressed musical development performed in an interactive/reactive fashion vs. solo piano sonatas that have the consistent benefit of 15-30 minutes of motivic development. If you want to just talk about "notes and sounds," you have to define your terms--are you evaluating Beethoven by Bird's terms, or the other way around? Institutional musicology would suggest that we evaluate Bird's grasp of harmony and melodic development inside of Beethoven's, but this disregards the fact that the bebop that Parker co-invented (and that had such a significant mark on virtually all subsequent jazz) had an internal rhythmic matrix that is completely alien to 18th/19th century art music. In short, this entire exercise is freaking nonsense, and if you want to enjoy any of it you have to confront the notion that beyond any de-contextualized commonalities that can be identified most value judgements in the way of western art musics vs. jazz will boil down to preference.
  6. If you like Beethoven, that's cool. If you want to measure against Schubert, for example, there are grounds for comparison in the way of methodologies, time period, performance practice, etc. That's a discussion grounded in any number of (theoretical, critical, historical) realities. Granted, I appreciate a provocative discussion, but this feels like a bit of rhetorical table flipping--i.e., let's evaluate one canon by the standards of another just because--and, while I'm at it, let's shunt value judgments into the conversation, because why not. It's like cutting someone off in traffic just to see how they'll respond. It's a fun academic exercise but it strikes at some very real historical phenomena in the way of establishing genre-practice hierarchies. These hierarchies are in turn tied up in some big, messy things like nationalism, classism, racism, etc.--the kind of stuff that contorts civil discussion into 2019 discussion which is--yes, we should all have the presence of mind to not get offended by civil discussion, but if we're going to dig into the meat of this kind of comparison we're ultimately forced to confront a series of messy underpinnings. Bummer. I actually appreciated Clifford's note about Silent Tongues to the degree that I, too, instinctively went to prime solo Cecil. The "why" of that is, I think, tied into my own auditory prejudices. I liked this note from a Gary Giddens thing: "Taylor is almost like a tabula rasa in the sense that listeners read into him whatever they happen to know about music. People with a classical background will hear everything from Ravel to Messiaen or Mozart to Brahms, and those with a jazz background tend to talk about Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Horace Silver or Dave Brubeck, and so forth. While people always seem to hear references to the music that they know, at the same time, whether you love Taylor or not, he doesn’t really sound like anybody else. That is the great paradox, that he is so much an original, yet he calls to mind so much of western music and so much of piano music." I guess the core of what I'm getting at here is that a lot of the illusion of artistic holism has to do with the limited spectra through which we perceive others' contributions. At the stage in my life that I'm at I'd rather listen to Death Grips or the Adventure Time soundtrack or Babi Music than Beethoven's piano sonatas--and I mean that--but that has everything to do with my own state of mind and absolutely nothing to do with the radioactive objectivity that so much music theory, both brilliant and terrible, seems preoccupied with.
  7. Previously unreleased Sam Rivers live recordings

    I've been on a Sam Rivers kick lately and so am thrilled to hear about this. As someone who is a relative novice in the ways of collecting the surprisingly voluminous amount of circulating "unofficial" SR material that is bouncing around online, I'm thrilled to hear that some vintage material will be getting this sort of treatment. Obviously the AAJ article is a summary press release-type deal, but I'm a little bummed to see no mention of any Holland-Altschul trio material. I've heard scarce few recordings of this trio in its prime playing in the sort of long-form, free associative format that Rivers more or less pioneered. The Pi reunion album is indispensable, yes, and Paragon and The Quest are wonderful documents in the way of more or less digesting that trio at its most focused and combustible, but the unedited live stuff is bananas. I'm of the mind that Rivers's trio material is really best heard without filter--full of languors and dead-ends, yes, but also a kind of grind and ecstasy of discovery. This is the thing I admire the most about Sam's work--his phrase construction, sense of development, time sensibility, etc. sound like someone who has studied formalism, exploded past liberation, and arrived at a kind of constructivist abstraction. Even his more expressionist episodes have a kind of refinement and clarity of gesture that is just extraordinary. Holland and Atschul were a monster of a rhythm section going into the 70's, and every time I hear vintage recordings of that trio it sounds like three different people working and trying to bend a terminal point in expression--like listening to an event horizon in all these threads of inside-outside jazz (energy free jazz, minimalist proto-AACM-type stuff, Miles Quintet pseudo-math, Blue Note post-bop, Ornette-ish freebop, etc.)--brilliant and catastrophic and reaching for the ineffable. Knowing, again, only a small piece of this group's oeuvre, the stuff is have is by and large in crappy audio quality, with the exception of an incomplete concert from (IIRC) '72 that sound a bit like the Pi album on steroids. As an aside, if that trio with Holland and Steve Ellington is the Foggia date that was put up on youtube a while back, then I'm all in. That band comes the closest, I think, to the dynamic of the Holland-Altschul trio, but with a lot more linear momentum--i.e., a lot of post-bop fireworks, not as much pure abstraction.
  8. Branford slams Miles

    I agree with the dint of what you're saying--and this is the crux of what I'm saying: the fundamental economic value of something like revivalist/young lion jazz is tied up in broader social and cultural mechanics. As Jim sort of said (much more pithily) like five or six pages ago, a guy like Branford serves as a kind of cultural role player/placeholder--but as such it's impossible to disassociate that music from its historical location. Revivalist jazz was expedient in an era confronting the question and scope of American cultural hegemony--a question that kind of resolved itself center-right. I take no joy in saying that none of this, apropos of what some of the others on here are saying, necessarily applies to the value of the music as artistic content--but then we're never going to talk about, say, Archie Shepp independent of the nationalist rhetoric that he so overtly tied himself up in, so when the artist is thus preoccupied, why bother otherwise? And lest it go unsaid, I absolutely get where some of you are coming from in terms of this discussion about avant-garde music and its mainstream appeal--but I get the distinct sense that setting up this distinction between avant-garde musics vs. mainstream stuff is itself an expedient way of ghettoizing music that we feel is subjectively inaccessible--as if economic failure, rather than any particular practical attribute, were a marker of what constitutes experimental or avant-garde music. I recognize that this is a bit of a truism, but weren't a lot of what we now consider to be mainstream musics considered avant-garde at some point? Did they cease to be "avant-garde" the minute the mainstream caught up with them--in which case where do we leave something like late Coltrane (respectably integrated into a healthy bit of the jazz mainstream at this point)? These distinctions seem arbitrary to me, especially when the second best selling jazz album of 2018 was Both Directions at Once--music that was called anti-jazz over a half-century ago. To put it another way, I know from reliable sources (who I can't quote here because I can't speak on their behalf(s)--I swear it's not because I'm being dorkishly cryptic) that there are certain musicians who would very easily be considered part of jazz's historical avant-garde whose asking prices eclipse those of some very mainstream artists (and I'm not talking straightahead guys--I mean Diana Krall and whatnot). If such individuals have been able to persevere for decades in an economy unresponsive to their artistic approaches--and wind up on the other side, in 2019, with better financial prospects--I can't imagine we're looking at a full, real picture of what it means to be viable, sellable product in 2019.
  9. Branford slams Miles

    Apologies for the cross-talk this deep into a conversation that I seem to have missed most of, but I felt compelled to touch on this- Dispensing for one moment the impact that Wynton or Branford had as ideologues, if we're going into the role of investors in the supplanting of one genre for or by another, then it's important to recognize the fact that profit-maximizing entities are often neither equipped nor inclined to make artistic value judgments. As you make clear here, financial decisions on the part of people like promoters and record companies usually track market appeal as opposed to perceived artistic value. Where I find issue with this general line of argumentation is that there are a variety of factors--social, artistic, contextual, etc.--that determine something like market appeal. Real case in point (related to me anecdotally, fwiw): Nirvana would sometimes play to empty rooms after the release of Bleach. The album didn't even chart until it was re-released after Nevermind. That early post-punk aesthetic had its moments of lucidity before the grunge explosion but was noisy, harsh, and often alienating; the music ascended to something like mainstream appeal by virtue of its synergy with a generation of disaffected youth looking for something reflecting itself. You can't honestly believe that music preoccupied with tuneless screaming and squalls of feedback--they're still there, very late into the band's existence--has something in its basic makeup that makes it more accessible than the pop/hair metal that preceded it. Yes, Nirvana is marketable--but it's marketable for 1991, defined and elevated by its context. Another example: Kendrick's Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly was the third best selling hip-hop album of 2015. If you follow contemporary hip-hop, this isn't an insignificant statistic--it beat out a lot of diehard mainstream fare, and it did so saturated with uninflected passages of jazz, atonal horn scribbles, extended (a-metric) spoken word episodes, and a lot of might elsewhere be described as alternative or avant-garde production. Why? Probably it was championed by press, examined social issues with candor and relevance, and crossed over into an urbane mainstream audience. Keep in mind I'm not arguing that something like Babi Music has equivalent market value to something like Black Codes--I'm only saying that to make these sweeping statements about the inherent economic value of one or the other presupposes that artistic content is more economically relevant than market considerations. To say that you (I mean the universal "you" here, of course) can define these considerations for all time is dangerously devoid of nuance. And what determined market value in the mid-1980's? I (literally) have a degree tracking improvised music inside of 20th century sociopolitical context and I wouldn't presume to know with any certitude. What is plain is that guys like Wynton and Crouch were making dismissive comments toward "progressive" strains of music emanating out of the mid-60's onward. The Marsalis brothers were making music that traded in then-contemporary trends in technical achievement wrapped inside of traditionalist aesthetics. The Marsalis brothers sold records. Sure, what happened to avant-garde practitioners in the wake of the young lion movement was not a hit job masterminded by the Marsalis brothers, but I honestly cannot understand how you can hold them separate from a broader machine designed to elevate traditionalist aesthetics at the expense, by comparison, of things like free jazz and fusion. Wouldn't these things work in consort? In terms of speaking more constructively to the topic at hand, I'll hazard this: people in the wake of the preeminence of the young lion movement did avoid certain genres because Wynton told them to, but the effect was convoluted. I can speak speculatively and only from experience as someone who was in institutional "jazz school" in the early 2000s, but the deep-set tension between the technocratic, often Marsalis/post-Coltrane/post-2nd Quintet-informed mechanics of this era's jazz pedagogy and freer choices in expression may have fostered a rubber-band effect in community aesthetics that led to the effective destabilization of traditionalist hegemony. Whatever your take on the Marsalises, their vice-grip on the music ended--as it always does--when something younger and less forbidding provided an alternative option. The irony in this case (vis-a-vis this longwinded thing about economics and aesthetics) is that the thing that may have supplanted retrogressive traditionalism is at least literate in the kind of abstraction that the young lion movement more or less displaced.
  10. Branford slams Miles

    Dude, where is this hostility coming from? And what's with this straw man fallacy about the marketability of experimental music? As far as I can tell, no one is directly claiming that the only credible distinction between the Marsalises and their contemporaries in free jazz is a matter of marketing. As per normal, Jim cut to the meat of what I was trying to get at in only a handful of sentences. (And keep in mind that Scott, I really don't intend to persecute you, personally, for your point of view-) To suggest that the Marsalis brothers were more successful because their music was more accessible--and that the notion that their success impeded in some fashion the careers of other musicians is an agenda'd myth and/or sour grapes--is simplistic. A musician's career can be affected in ways that don't just have to do with record sales. It can be affected in the way of job offers, level of compensation, public visibility, perception of risk, institutional opportunity (thanks for the post on the Pulitzer, Larry), and so on. Look at this through the lens of something I'd assume many of us are far less passionate about--would you disagree with the notion that the onset of grunge music and the mainstreaming of indie rock in the early 1990's altered the market for heavily produced, high-gloss hair metal that prevailed in the 1980's? Would you then argue that Nirvana was more marketable in a fundamental sense than, say, Def Leppard? Would you argue anything other than that the onset of gangsta rap in the late 1980's/1990's altered the trajectory of mainstream hip-hop, opening up commercial avenues for some and limiting opportunities for those who did not fit the mold? Do you think that someone like Vanilla Ice would have gotten anywhere near as popular post-Biggie/Tupac rivalry, and would you argue that Vanilla Ice's intrinsic market appeal is inferior to, say, NWA's? What about A Tribe Called Quest vs. NWA? The point of this is not to shift the field goals of this conversation--it's to illustrate a point. This is 7pm on VH1-type stuff--i.e., really straightforward, hard to argue--and people in other genres of music don't seem to be as preoccupied with grinding each others' gears over these crisis points in the music as we are. Shit happened, we acknowledge the complexity of the reality, and we move on.
  11. Branford slams Miles

    The persistence of this debate defies comprehension, especially insofar as the jazz world in a broader sense seems to have moved on from the thing. If you're look for an accurate post-mortem of the situation (i.e., the Marsalises and their impact on jazz in the last century), I don't know how you're going to find someone on this board of sounder and more relevant experience than Chuck. He knows these guys and runs a record label that corresponds to the timeline in question. I recognize that a lot of this debate is kind of rhetorical/for the sake of discussion, but in my admittedly incomplete understanding of the situation, my sense is that if you follow the dint of the jazz economy in the 1980s, it will more or less confirm what folks like Chuck and Jim have been saying. Determining market success for a jazz artist in this era is a function of a lot more than just record sales--as has been noted here, we're also talking about bookings, publicity, funding, grant and commission viability, asking prices, and so on. I'd love to be made aware of a market or policy analysis from after this era that looked into these issues in some kind of comprehensive way--our evidence otherwise is anecdotal or speculative at best. Or let me put this another way: I've had in-person conversations with some of the musicians we're discussing here, as have (I assume) many of you. The ascension of the Marsalis brothers did, at least in some cases, limit economic opportunities for musicians who operated under different artistic pretenses. This is not to say that a lot of the opportunities that Wynton and Branford were able to take advantage of would have somehow been made available to some other entity in the Marsalis brothers' absence--i.e., it's not (necessarily) as if Julius Hemphill would have gotten that press. Rather, it's important to consider the complexity of the jazz economy and how altering the overarching narrative of the mainstream can alter the music's internal mechanics. Really ponder this: what effect did Marsalis's later-flowering preoccupation with serious/art music have on the less commercial jazz-adjacent music that, by the mid-1980's, was relying on the European market, independent (often non-US-based) labels, and the US's grant infrastructure to survive? Blood on the Fields won the Pulitzer in 1997. As far as I can tell, the next time a jazz musician won the Pulitzer was in 2007, when Ornette won for Sound Grammar. (Zorn won not long after Wynton, but that's a completely different and much more complex issue.) A short list of some of the other US based jazz-adjacent people writing visible art music inside of that ten year window: Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Davis, Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Coleman, Herbie Hancock, Jon Jang, Carla Bley, Wayne Shorter, Amina Claudine Myers, Vinny Golia, Anthony Braxton, Oliver Lake, Jack DeJohnette, Alice Coltrane, etc. etc. I'm taking a very specific case and using it as a basis for a broader line of argumentation, but lest this seem disingenuous, I'm talking about America's premier prize in music--an honor that is intertwined with this nation's legacy of art music and institutionalized composition. Do you really mean to tell me that Wynton's histrionic, widely-publicized traditionalism had nothing to do with Blood on the Fields's Pulitzer? That Wynton's peddling of his very specific and exclusionist jazz narrative had no effect on his victory in the same arena that guys like Braxton live and sleep in?
  12. Difficult week

    Hey, Chuck--really, my condolences. There's little to say that embellishes that other than that I thought of you (and Roscoe, too, in particular) amidst all this news. I'm really thankful for the tremendous work that is there--things we'll be unraveling and enjoying for as long as we're here.
  13. Joseph Jarman - RIP

    Heard the news last night. Listening to Sunbound and Together Alone to remember and commemorate. I've been forced to consider mortality a lot these past few years, and a big lesson for me throughout all of this is that it's often hard to detect the size of one's fingerprint until or unless you look at the earth moved around it. I never had a chance to meet him, but JJ worked and/or befriended a large number of people who are very important to me--a fact that I had not considered until just today. His music has changed my life in many ways--not just the immediate stuff of transforming my listening habits or the broader shifts in understanding that the Art Ensemble induced in my cultural perspective, but also in the way of being a part of a world that has felt more real to me even as it has grown (physically) smaller.
  14. Yes--that's absolutely it. And to go one step further, I'm not certain that these are questions that are keeping working musicians awake at night so much as they are considerations that have too long consumed jazz as a social process. "Jazz is dead" diagnoses/post-mortems/prognostications are their own industry--that is a narrative made of convenience, and one that feeds few mouths and silences multitudes of others. The thing you say about virtuosity is true, and if there's a fundamental problem to be solved in this post-whatever/whomever milieu, it's that marrying a panoptic consciousness of, as you say, a "clear macro-understanding" to lucid technical accomplishment is very, very hard. I think back to some conversations on here years ago about Coltrane vs. Ayler--i.e., two individuals arriving at a similar aesthetic conclusion having confronted two very different maths. The unspoken but (I think) deeply felt reality of Coltrane is that he was able to do the paradoxical work of mathing his way into spiritual consciousness, and he had the tools and drive to solve another step beyond--he just ran out of time and we're left with the aspirational challenge of imagining what the next thing would be. The Ayler route, by contrast, is an easier solve--it's just more elusive--one of those "you have it or you don't"-type things, and the Coltranes of the world can't go that direction because their minds and bodies just don't work that way. This is all one long-winded way of saying that I think the challenge of solving is itself more interesting to me than arriving at the big, heroic solution that may very well never come. (Or said solution may, like Ayler, come by semi-accident/artistic exigency--who knows. You can program a Max patch that sounds, by accident, like a full Morton Feldman String Quartet or improvise a piano trio that sounds more-or-less like Nancarrow. I've heard some liberal treatments of Cage's Branches that sound suspiciously similar to early Art Ensemble. All this may speak more to my limited knowledge as a listener than any reality--again, who knows.) I read guys like Braxton or Roscoe proceeding from this notion, and a deep inquiry into their respective methods and realities--if you were really able to read into all that music and do the theory homework and research--would yield the impression that yes, a lot of the method involves dead-ends, incomplete reads, and even some fumbling around in the dark. Is this not as or more worthwhile than "saving the music"? This is a big reason why I support this Makaya album--especially in theory. The Teo Macero-ness of editing a live improvisation into something new is, well, not new at all, but the basic premise of rearranging the mechanics of free improvisation post-hoc is a methodology that, I think, too few improvisers are willing to explore for fear of corrupting the process. You know that whole thing about how Barre Phillips originally recorded Journal Violone as something that was to be electronically manipulated after the fact? This is a reversal of that--it's taking physical practice and limiting its parameters because to do would mean confronting inconvenient macro-realities. I mean, Universal Beings isn't itself very different in principle than some of the Blue Series recordings from several years ago, Madlib's more esoteric jazz stuff (Slave Riot being the best example), or even Terry Riley's Music for the Gift. There is a superficiality to Makaya's music that masks, as we say, the underlying math--but the math there is real and in its own way confrontational. This isn't "way ahead" stuff--it's about addressing the world "as it is."
  15. I mean, please don't take my statements to mean that proficiency is in any way a substitute for vision or identity--and that's precisely my point. The root resources for strong statements are if anything more widely available now than they were in jazz's (maybe partly misremembered) heyday. What I'm saying is that something in the intersection between hagiography, ennui, and the myriad economic and philosophical considerations discussed above has elided the fact that jazz has had a crisis of vision and identity since (at least) the 1960s--or, rather, a kind of crisis-state that is permanent and impossible to argue out of. I'm poking at a beehive a bit with this, since I know there are people on this board far better equipped to tackle this topic than I, but the general dint of jazz musical practice post-1970 or so (and as might be affirmed by the discombobulated ethos of 21st century jazz critical theory) feels a lot like unresolved postmodernity--a plurality of voices that the broader community has struggled, time and time again, to shunt into installed hierarchies that no longer have any real relevance to either the players or the listeners. Post-Coltrane, what need have we for virtuosos?--and I'm not talking about great technicians per se, I'm asking why heroic virtuosity is still a standard by which we discuss this music when that archetype came, went, and blew his own iconology apart in a definitive, sadly final way. Remember that Kurt Rosenwinkel debacle where he called out people for (I'm paraphrasing) not practicing or working hard enough? Consider how almost every documentary on or involving Coltrane pauses right before late Coltrane and starts talking about metaphysics without addressing the implications of that music to Trane's own ethos of virtuosity. Like I said: not only are we placing unnecessary burden on our young musicians, but we're also stuck in a Groundhog Day of reliving jazz's great Jesus moment and trying to reclaim the last sure time that everything actually made sense. This is what I mean when I say that a lot of the most meaningful and resonant material being made right now issues from music that fails to resolve its own existential dilemma. None of this is to say "don't practice"--quite the opposite: stock up on Move Free in your 30s and get your 3+ hours in a day, please--but I would argue that transcendent meaning is a more "real" artistic consideration now than whatever it is that jazz is so preoccupied with every few months. Steve, you mention John Edwards--my constant invocation of Louis (who works with John frequently) is related to this--his is an example of the kind of passion, intensity, and risk that has both visceral impact and undeniable purpose. Speaking of Louis--how many here have given a real listen to his duo album with Cecil Taylor (Remembrance)? We embrace passion before practiced ideologies, but I wonder how many players have been able to elicit that kind of performance alongside Cecil after the heady explosion of the 60s. The folks on here who are players will know this. Real improvisation vs. practiced improvisation are very different things. I'm sure Louis would attest that not everything that he plays lands to his satisfaction, but I would argue that everything that he plays on Remembrance, at least, is really and truly improvised. That's enough reason to get me to listen.