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"Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't" by Scott Saul

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Lately I've been seeing ads for a new book about jazz called "Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties" by Scott Saul.

Based on the table of contents, it seems to cover Mingus, Max Roach, Coltrane and some others (Albert Ayler? Cecil Taylor? Ornette?). Has anyone checked this book out and if so what do they think of it? While the book seems to be mostly about the New Thing, I believe there is a chapter at the end about Hard Bop.

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Lately I've been seeing ads for a new book about jazz called "Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties" by Scott Saul.

Based on the table of contents, it seems to cover Mingus, Max Roach, Coltrane and some others (Albert Ayler? Cecil Taylor? Ornette?). Has anyone checked this book out and if so what do they think of it? While the book seems to be mostly about the New Thing, I believe there is a chapter at the end about Hard Bop.

I'd be very interested in that, especially if it has some solid material (not just LP liner rehashes) on The New Thing jazz. It's published by Harvard UP, not necessarily a guarantee of quality, but perhaps an indicator of a more serious or substantial work. Odd to see HUP publishing a jazz book; usually it's Oxford UP that has done the most in this field. Amazon give little information on the book:

Amazon

BTW, is there anything else out there that covers this area of jazz history? I've heard that Valerie Wilmer's "As Serious As Your Life" is a worthwhile book. Again, Amazon doesn't have much to say about it.

URL=http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0882081136/qid=1071894108/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-0048989-4135233?v=glance&s=books]Amazon

Harvard UP site has more:

Harvard UP

Also:

Book reviews

Edited by Leeway

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If someone has access to this book (the one that started this thread) - or can otherwise check (online?), is there much (if any) on Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Tyrone Washington?? - or maybe even Woody Shaw or Charles Tolliver?? Not likely they're all in there, but I'm hoping at least one or two are (Hill, especially!! - doncha know ;) ).

Also, this is sure a good one, if people are searching for tomes about jazz in the 60's...

1180959.gif

The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958

by John Litweiler

Covers "The New Thing" quite nicely, as I recall.

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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The Valerie Wilmer book 'As Serious As Your Life' is a very good book indeed. There is also a French book that deals with the subject 'Free Jazz, Black Power' by Philippe Carles and Jean-Louis Comolli. This originally came out in the '70s and has been republished in pocketbook format by Gallimard/Folio. But it's all in French!

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Also, this is sure a good one, if people are searching for tomes about jazz in the 60's...

1180959.gif

The Freedom Principle: Jazz After 1958

by John Litweiler

Covers "The New Thing" quite nicely, as I recall.

:angry: Oooooh, a sore spot! (No; not the use of the word "tome", although that counts as well ;) ) I bought that book last year, read the first chapter and haven't seen it since. I'm sure it's around here somewhere... :unsure:

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It musta done got free.

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Besides the Litweiler & Wilmer (both essential, I think):

Frank Kofsky's "Black Nationalism & the Revolution in Music" covers this era, with a strong political slant to it.

Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka's "Black Music" is a really neat collection of "in the moment", contemporaneous essays, liner notes, etc. that give a good feel of the climate at the time.

Edward Jost's "Free Jazz" is worth a look, too.

A.B. Spellman's "Four Lives In The Bebop Business" (ca. 1966?) contains in-depth profiles of Cecil & Ornette, as well as Jackie McLean & Herbie Nichols.

Some cat named Rob Baccus (sp) wrote a slim volume called "Fire Music" in the 70s, but it's got more enthusiasm than substance, imo.

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Since it was mentioned, I'd just like to add that I haven't seen the new book itself in any book store. That was why I started the thread. I did manage to find the table of contents on line, but it only mentioned the big names (the ones I already mentioned), so I really don't know if it covers other lesser well known players. If I find the book and am able to browse it I will certainly report back. I would certainly hope the books does talk about more than the big names and it would certainly make the book more interesting to me.

Regarding Leitweiler, I have his book too and enjoy it, although there are places where I have no idea what he thinks about specific albums and musicians that he mentions. Just as an example, to this day I don't know if his comments about Wayne Shorter and Wayne's work with Miles are meant to be taken as positive or negative. Some of them seem to be negative, but it's hard to tell. What I do like about the book though is it has broad coverage of the music and more importantly it was written during the LP era and so he often discusses material which has not come out on CD.

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Looking at the t.o.c. & the page of blurbs it looks to me like the book has little or nothing on free jazz, despite the title--it's largely on hard bop, with a focus on Mingus & Coltrane. I haven't seen the book itself, though. For this particular period I'd also recommend David Rosenthal's Hard Bop.

I've read Jost, Spellmann, Wilmer. They're all of use. Derek Bailey's Improvisation is also useful if you want to follow the European thread of free playing--it's not a history by any means, but it gives a lot of information via reproducing interview material with various players. There are also specialized books of course like Whitehead's New Dutch Swing.

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Just picked this up at a local bookstore last night and will report back after I've had a chance to read it. I think the "Freedom" of the title is more of an allusion to civil rights and other movements of the 1960s, rather than to free jazz, per se.

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Rosenthal's "Hard bop" is very good - lots of detail you don't usually see in jazz books.

Kofsky's is very very very left wing. For a more balanced appreciation of the politics of the last century (well up to the '80s) Nelson George's "The death of Rhythm & Blues" is excellent; much of it applies to jazz.

MG

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John Szwed's Sun Ra book, Space is the Place

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Just to revive this, I just sent the following email to Scott Saul:

Hi Scott –

I’m have been reading Freedom Is/Freedom Ain’t, and wanted to make a few comments.

1) Per Mezz Mezzrow – I think you’re being unfair to ascribe racialism to Mezzrow’s attacks on modern jazz as neurotic, savage, etc – they are not unlike Louis Armstrong’s, who referred to post-WWI jazz as “that modern malice.” It was fairly common to read into bebop as being indicative of modern neurosis, as being representative of a new age’s increasing self-consciousness. Probably much the same would have been said by people like Pops Foster and Baby Dodds.

I also don’t know if you’ve listened to a lot of Mezzrow’s music, but his performances with Sidney Bechet/Sammy Price/Pops Foster (King Label) are quite good and certainly not indicative of any ideological confusion. Ultimately the music is the most important thing, I think, and I wish you had considered more of Mezzrow’s; it is relevant because it shows that he not only talked the talk but could actually play the real thing.

2) If you are going to deal with the 1950s and it’s relationship to changes in the 1960s, especially as regards Mingus, there is a whole school of music you have missed. Mingus himself was very influenced by his association with a generation of 1950s avant gardists, including Teo Macero and John La Porta, and was listening very closely to Lenny Tristano, Lee Konitz, etc. Paul Bley would be a good one to talk to about the low-profile modernist concerts of the 1950s, the experimental work being done by musicians who are not normally well-considered in jazz histories (think also Teddy Charles, George Russell, and Hall Overton). Mingus was not afraid to admit the importance of these associations, and Max Roach also spoke about the importance of Tristano and his 1950s progressive movement, which really should have been integrated into the book (see the recording of Ezz-thetic, a George Russell composition, with Miles/Roach/Konitz/Sal Mosca). It also might have been relevant to talk about Dick Twardzik and Jaki Byard; Twardzik was doing advanced work in the 1950s, and Jaki was playing in open forms in the 1950s. Surely this also impacted on the changes in 1960s music, as well as on the development of hard bop. It might have been interesting, as well, to look at Bill Evans’s association with both Mingus and Miles Davis (not to mention George Russell).

3) Per Sam Shepard, I was a little disappointed that you did not mention his association with the Holy modal Rounders, with whom he recorded, Certainly this was an important part of his musical response to the 1960s.

Thanks,

Allen Lowe

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Did you ever get a reply, Allen?

And could you please share your overall impression of Saul's book?

I know it's been a while, but still, would be cool!

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Somewhat tangential to your question, KU, but Scott Saul was actually my thesis adviser at Berkeley--deeply inquisitive and (like a lot of liberal arts faculty I encountered) rather jazz savvy.

As for Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't, however--it might be considered less (or even "not at all") musicological analysis--more ethnomusicology with a political science/sociology bent. On that level, it's not terribly surprising that it doesn't address the topics that Allen mentions. I admit that it's been a really long time since I read it, but the book focuses on only a handful of "usual suspect" politically active jazz musicians. It doesn't even deal with second wave free jazz (and later) very thoroughly--though on a surface level, you'd think that this material would be pretty ripe for investigation.

The text being fairly vague to my memory at this point, I can't really accuse Scott of championing a "convenient" narrative, though this does beg the question of whether certain "inconvenient truths" about jazz experimentation have resulted in the proportional erasure of certain key contributions (Tristano is the "big" one, but the other players that Allen mentions are cases in point). We've expounded (though maybe not at length) about this topic on this board, but the notion of free jazz as "angry black music" is clearly a partial truth and somewhat a-historic (for every Shepp or Mingus, there is a more apolitical Ornette or, to an extent, Coltrane).

In more complex terms, I think that the symbolic value of avant-garde jazz as a weapon of struggle is almost more valuable than the literal value of avant-garde jazz as artistically emancipatory. I think it's valid to ask if there are many artforms in which experimentation is so closely paired with actual political struggle; I'm reminded a bit of something Clifford once said (I'm paraphrasing from memory, so I may get this wrong) about social liberals tending to be kind of rearguard in their artistic tastes. At the same time, I empathize with the notion that political accomplishment shouldn't necessarily subvert artistic accomplishment, and I find that the extraction of less politically charged artists from the narrative (yes, white musicians like Tristano and Konitz--but also guys like Joe Harriott and Bill Dixon, who are harder to slot into conventional rubrics) to be a tragedy.

Edited by ep1str0phy

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Thanks a lot, ep1istr0phy - the whole topic is of course highly interesting, but I guess I'd rather read Allen's "counter"-narrative about it, rather than a book that seems to go in the more or less usual direction.

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.the notion of free jazz as "angry black music" is clearly a partial truth and somewhat a-historic (for every Shepp or Mingus, there is a more apolitical Ornette or, to an extent, Coltrane).

In more complex terms, I think that the symbolic value of avant-garde jazz as a weapon of struggle is almost more valuable than the literal value of avant-garde jazz as artistically emancipatory.

But doesn't looking at the music in symbolic terms and using it as a weapon (for whatever) tend to obscure the realities of the music.?. I think it's inarguable that a "baggy narrative", of the sort that says the "spirit of the age" both produced big changes in black society and the serious music associated with it, works. Like there was something in the air (to steal a phrase).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

here are many artforms in which experimentation is so closely paired with actual political struggle;

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is something missing in the previous post?

Has anyone here read Ekkehard Jost's book about European jazz? He wrote it after he wrote Free Jazz and he has certainly been knowledgeable about European jazz (I heard him lecture years ago).

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The one from the eighties? there's a second one from 2012 ... only know his "Free Jazz" so far, has been extremely helpful for me, back when I was in my teens and struggled with "Ascension" and the like.

 

(And no, it's just the freaky quote function that went mad in Simon's post, I think.)

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I never did get a reply, but I did annoy some people. Mike Fitzgerald went bezerk because I posted the same thing on his group (which he later kicked me off).

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is something missing in the previous post?

Has anyone here read Ekkehard Jost's book about European jazz? He wrote it after he wrote Free Jazz and he has certainly been knowledgeable about European jazz (I heard him lecture years ago).

Sorry, my reply got lost in the body of the quote( Haven't got used to the software yet). I said:

But doesn't looking at the music in symbolic terms and using it as a weapon (for whatever) tend to obscure the realities of the music.?. I think it's inarguable that a "baggy narrative", of the sort that says the "spirit of the age" both produced big changes in black society and the serious music associated with it, works. Like there was something in the air (to steal a phrase).

......

Not read the Jost European book, but his free jazz book, your one and Val Wilmer's are my trio of fall-back books for this era (as I'm sure they are for many others). I feel there needs to be something else out there by now, though. Maybe the time for this stuff is going to come again.

 

 

Edited by Simon Weil
Lost word

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 But doesn't looking at the music in symbolic terms and using it as a weapon (for whatever) tend to obscure the realities of the music.?.

Yes, and that's exactly why baggy narratives of all sorts don't really work.  The baggier they are, the more empty they are...

 

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 But doesn't looking at the music in symbolic terms and using it as a weapon (for whatever) tend to obscure the realities of the music.?.

Yes, and that's exactly why baggy narratives of all sorts don't really work.  The baggier they are, the more empty they are...

 

Can you articulate precisely why this is so? I'm actually trying not to look at Jazz symbolically and your statement seems to suggest that I'm doing so. I mean what am I symbolizing by it?

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There's always something in the air. Always. Only really noticing it when everybody else does, is, like, a win, but it still leaves you under .500 for the season.

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