Larry Kart

Larry Kart's jazz book

476 posts in this topic

"Though in some ways I find it even more enigmatic how pre-modernist music has become less strange with the passage of time, rather than more so. "

I'm not sure about this - I listen to a lot of 1920s hillbiully music, and I find that people consider it weird beyond weird - in a way it's so old it's new -

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Allen--actually I was thinking narrowly of the classical music tradition & how a lot of people I know seem to treat it as pleasant, uncontroversial background music nowadays.

Yeah, one of my prizes in my collection is an anthology of material from the Bristol Sessions from 1927--some scary stuff on there!

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Did you deliberately allude to Chomsky there by the way ("slept angrily")?

It was unintentional... I think it's 'sleep furiously', but your point is well-taken.

I just had two wisdom teeth pulled this morning, so my muddled thoughts are even more muddled than usual...let me just say that I don't think the amount of time that a language has existed is the decisive factor here...you and I could make up a language today as long as we both had agreed-upon rules for our expressions. Meaning is public, shared, communal...perhaps there are rules in avant garde playing but they're fundamentally different from the rules that are traditionally found in jazz (by rules, I mean structure, phrasing, harmony etc.). If the rules are fundamentally different, this raises the canard about whether avant garde is 'jazz'-I know most people are bugged by that question, viewing it as irrelevant, but it's probably worth noting that avant garde musicians many times disavow the label 'jazz' anyway. I guess if the listener is 'in on' the rules that an avant garde musician is playing by, then some meaning is being communicated. For myself, I'm not in on the rules, the game, so it sdoesn't communicate to me. My loss, I suppose.

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it's probably worth noting that avant garde musicians many times disavow the label 'jazz' anyway

So have Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. I'm not sure about Buddy Bolden.

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A perhaps useful rule of thumb -- which I owe to Terry Martin -- is this one (as far it goes or as far as you can or want to take it): Is it conceivable to you that the music of "avant-garde" musician X or Y could have arisen if there had been no such thing as jazz, either in his or her personal musical background or just on the planet period? To me it certainly works for, say, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, and John Stevens. Offhand, I can't think of a single so-called avant-gardist who interests me (or who think ought to interest me) for whom it doesn't work. Can't, or haven't yet tried, to build a theory on this, but if others also feel this way, there may be an organic principle or two at work.

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montg: hm, I don't know, I even feel uncomfortable about the word "rules" in application to just about any kind of jazz. I spent a period of my life trying to play (conventionally beboppish) piano & somehow it didn't feel like I was trying to learn "rules" exactly. You were trying to learn (& come up with for yourself) ways of thinking & reacting & behaving--it seems to me procrustean to call that process "learning the rules".

None of which is to say you gotta like the avantgarde stuff: I know it's not going to appeal to everyone. But I just get bothered by the idea that it's primarily about a willful (& unsubtle) failure to meet expectations.

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"Im not sure about Buddy Bolden" - well, ask Wynton Marsalis - from what I could tell on the documentary, the two were quite close -

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"Im not sure about Buddy Bolden" - well, ask Wynton Marsalis - from what I could tell on the documentary, the two were quite close -

Funny you say that. In my original message I typed something like that and deleted it. :P

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Well, Chuck, great minds think alike - but all seriousness aside...(as Steve Allen used to say) -

this rules thing is frought with danger - Dave Schildkraut told me something that I found to be one of the most illuminating quotes I've ever heard re-jazz, though it may be mostly for personal reasons. He told me that Joe Henderson said to him: "I never felt I could really play jazz when there was only bebop - but after Coltrane I knew that there was a place for me." Now here's a guy (Henderson) who had no lack of the musical fundamentals, no shortage of knowledge of the rules - and yet even he felt constrained by the conventions of the dominant post-war music, bebop, to the point of feeling that he could not even really play jazz until he heard another musician (Coltrane) who felt no such constraints. Personally, as a saxophonist, this has always been an issue for me - I know how to play changes but I don't feel I am at my best in the standard format. And yet, if I concentrate on music that is more open I sometimes feel like I am cheating, perhaps because of my original exposure to the music of chords and song. Internally I know this is nonsense, but it's very hard to discard this kind of conditioning - especially since I have known a fair amount of "free" players who, musically speaking, did not know their ass from their elbow (including one fairly famous free drummer who could not keep a steady 4-beat, try as he might). On the other hand, I have performed in public with both Julius Hemphill and Roswell Rudd, and felt as though the stage was about to levitate -

Edited by AllenLowe

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Well, I was lucky enough to receive a Borders gift card as a Christmas gift this year, and I put it towards a purchase of JAZZ IN SEARCH OF ITSELF. Finally.

And I just have to say: those "critics" (budding and otherwise) among us should be so lucky as to aspire to writing of this quality. An extremely happy addition to my bookshelf of essential jazz titles, slotting nicely alongside THE FREEDOM PRINCIPLE, A JAZZ RETROSPECT (Max Harrison), HEAR ME TALKIN' TO YOU, WHERE'S THE MEOLDY? and a few others.

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Just to add to my previous - Roswell plays changes very well - Julius not as well, but he was still a transcendant player -

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NOTES AND TONES is an extremely valuable (the Johnny Griffin interview comes to mind) document but, you have to admit, contains a few too many softball questions.

For my $$, not that there's a lot of it, John Litweiler is the most "literary" of our critics, and thus receives special honors.

Edited by Joe

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Q: am I the only person who felt Litweiler was... good, not great? Useful... & not a masterpiece?

Depends on what you're looking for, I suppose.

Myself, I found it to be a wonderfully lucid accounting of "how we got here". If you want more specifics about anything in particular, I suppose there's better places to go, but if you want an introduction (and/or a fairly comprehensive summation), there's none better that I'm aware of.

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I enjoyed Notes and Tones but was alarmed by the number of unchallenged anti-semitic comments -

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As for the whole "rules" thing...

As somebody who, like Allen, plays "both types" of music and enjoys doing so (and who has also known a fair share of avant-garde "posers"), I think the issue is not so much intentionally breaking the rules for the sake of rebellion as it is enjoying the freedom to use what is needed to tell a particular story, to disregard what is not (nothing creates a bog faster than doing something you don't need to do jsut because indoctrination insists you must), and to do this in any combination/ratio to meet the needs of any and all situations/moments.

When I was a student, the mantra was "You have to learn the rules before you can break them", which seemed at once a mixed message, as if the need to break the rules was already acknowledged, but "they" wanted you to learn them from "them" so they could have a gig, and because "they" still believed in their heart of hearts that the rules didn't need to be broken after all. Too much math for R&B...

My mantra is this - "You should learn all the rules so you can decide when to use them." Because sometimes you do want to use them. But sometimes you don't. It all depends.

This isn't an act of willful rebellion or sociopathy or anything like that. It's just an embracement of the full freedom that I believe that we as expressive creatures should have, DO have, at our disposal. But it is a freedom that I believe comes with responsibility, a responsibility that mandates that we be honest with our expression, and that we use every tool at our disposal as we create these expressions. This doesn't mean that we have to use every too (i.e. "rule") at every juncture, but it doesn't mean that we willfully not use something that would work for us either.

If seeking a fuller realization of one's expressive capacity is "rebellion", it's a rebellion only against structures/strictures that have been imposed, intentionally or unintentionally, benevolenty, malevolently, or otherwise, on humans by other humans. I don't consider that a rebellion, I consider it working out terms of a relationship.

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Many thanks. Joe.

About Litweiler -- to me he's John, but I don't think that friendship means I'm biased; besides, we became friends way back when because I already knew and admired his work (what there was of it at the time) and was surprised and delighted to discover that the guy who had written those pieces happened to live in the same neighborhood. Anyway, "The Freedom Principle," in addition to everything else it does very well, has so much hard to define "soul" going for it; while it's full of shrewd judgments, it also tells you between the lines why this music had to be made and why the people who responded to it at the time needed to hear it. This is a big part of the story of any evolving art, and once the moment when direct testimony is possible has passed, it's damn hard to get those things right or even to acknowledge their existence. John gets that right, and there's lots of acute analysis to boot. Now a "Collected Litweiler" would add much to this picture, because John has written beautifully about jazz of all eras. For example, his liner lines for the Nessa Ben Webster album "Did You Call?" probably is the best appreciation of Webster there is. Also, John has a unique prose voice -- wry and nutty-sweet. J.B. Figi (who also caught that moment in time on the wing in words) once referred to John as "the Herb Shriner of jazz criticism." John is from Indiana, as Shriner was, which no doubt is one reason the phrase arose in Figi's mind, but I'm sure the main thing he was thinking of was the deep Middle Western taste for "now you see it, now you don't" irony. Another reference point might be Paul Rhymer, the creator of the "Vic and Sade" radio show.

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I enjoyed Notes and Tones but was alarmed by the number of unchallenged anti-semitic comments -

Well, assuming that Taylor wanted to challenge them, you gotta ask yourself if doing so would have compromised his intent of creating "uninhibited" conversation.

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My prob with N&T was that Taylor asked so many blantantly leading Q's in an effort to get his subjects to say anti-rock things, making me wonder how "uninhibited" the rest of it was...

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good point about leaving the remarks unedited - I was just very disturbed by the various anti-semitic remarks of, as I recall, Roach, Hubbard, and Kenny Clarke - they were just unworthy of such great artists -

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Thanks to a Christmas present in the form of a Barnes & Noble giftcard, I was able to order Larry Kart's book and Dan Morgenstern's book, and I did so after reading this thread. I am anxiously awaiting both books!!!

(And if this isn't blatant post-count stuffing, I don't know what is!) :P

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Al,

I knew that was you when I went to the Muskegon B&N and they said, "Oh, Mr. Kart's book came in yesterday." Then came back without it, saying, "It must have been a special order."

:D

I'm waiting for those boogaloo brothers, too.

LV

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So THAT'S where it's coming from! :g

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Just picked this up tonight and reading the ending chapters first, Larry -- really enjoy how your point of view includes the emotions communicated (or not) in the music of the current scene. A lot of people seem to be struggling with why no one wants to listen to the jazz in school "style" -- to point out that it is too homogenous from an emotional point of view seems obvious.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to spin a seque set of "I Like the Sun Rise" and that piece you mentioned of Wynton's.

Mulling over your observations on how Armstrong expanded possiblilties for individual sounds, while Parker, perhaps, limited them.

Interesting, too, about the avant-garde. It is true that the challenge is, "If anything is possible what will hold the improvisation?" Cecil, Ornette, Sun Ra, Ayler, Trane, the Art Ensemble all came up with their own "musical universe" to deal with that question. Never thought of that as limiting, though, just a challenge to others to do the same.

Just started reading, so....

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Hey, Larry!

You hear a lot more in Chris Connor than I ever have, but you've no doubt heard a lot more of her than I have. What's the one album to have if you're only having one, the one that will give me the willies like you got, if I'm to get them at all?

I have the Atlantic side w/Maynard, and found it quite pleasant (especially the arrangements), but nothing like you describe. Of course, that's to be expected, I suppose, what with Maynard and all.

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try the self titled Atlantic album for starters

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