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MomsMobley

white englishman explains Coltrane '66

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Enjoying this discussion.

Jazz at this point is a mature art form. I'm not sure the "linear"/"teleological"/"progressivist" intrepretation of jazz history ever had much merit, but it certainly doesn't now. There's something worthwhile left to be said in each jazz "sub-style" and there are also likely to be musicians in each of those sub-styles that are producing uninteresting music.

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Neither Wilber nor Davern has ever done much for me. As evidence though that the real thing (at least IMO) can crop up at just about any time in just about any place, here is the red-hot French so-called revival (though I think they're far more than that) band Charquet & Co. from 1978. I love the whole feel of the performance and especially the solos by tenor saxophonist Michael Bescont and clarinetist Alain Marquet. This is not "within quotation marks" playing:

Edited by MomsMobley

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Lost my best post. LOL

Not always linear but if one plays the same material the same way, get ready for more of the same

Some of these guys won't even make a record without a piano, organ or guitar

Stultifying

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Lost my best post. LOL

Not always linear but if one plays the same material the same way, get ready for more of the same

Some of these guys won't even make a record without a piano, organ or guitar

Stultifying

Anything can be stultifying if the creators let themselves be stultified

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Lost my best post. LOL

Not always linear but if one plays the same material the same way, get ready for more of the same

Some of these guys won't even make a record without a piano, organ or guitar

Stultifying

Anything can be stultifying if the creators let themselves be stultified

Agreed - but it is much easier to be that way if nothing is being attempted.

I once walked into the basement at the Knitting Factory and saw a tenor guy truly just trying to mimic late period Trane and it was another version of the same thing. I've also seen Dee Pop try to play "free jazz" drums.

So yes, it comes in all forms. Maybe the worst are those who say they play "creative" music. At least the guys playing hard bop like it's 1958 have no pretensions about what they are doing.

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Neither Wilber nor Davern has ever done much for me.

This discussion interests me, but I don't have time to write at length right now. But I did want to say that Wilber and Davern are pretty good if there's someone there to kick their asses.

And it's not only Lacy that kicked Davern's ass into gear... Dick Wellstood could do it too. That record on Seeds in particular is quite fine.

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turd obliteration from an unexpected source--

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/coltranes-free-jazz-awesome

Dyer calls Jones “Elvin,” calls Coltrane “Trane”; this sense of false intimacy is significant. Dyer is the author of “But Beautiful,” from 1991, a fictional gaze at classic-era jazz greats, in which he writes about “Lester,” “Bud,” “Chet,” “Ben,” and, for that matter, “Hawk” and “Trane.” He writes like a club patron who insinuates himself into the company of the musicians between sets, extracts their confidences, observes scenes of intimate horror, and then passes them along—using first names and nicknames—as if to flaunt his faux-insider status. But, when the musicians are back on the bandstand, he never lets them forget that they’re there to entertain him.

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in the meantime I think Ravi is about 5O now

Edited by uli

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This is always very similar to the ongoing argument in visual arts of representational vs non-representational painting. The confusion in both is the same: critics who confuse their tastes with what is relevant; their tastes with what is beautiful; their tastes with what is art, etc. Critics who have a comfort zone they think everyone else needs to fit into. The critic props himself up as a "protector of the genre who must fend off transgressions against the way things MUST be done."

Art requires an edge of experimentation; an edge where it can reinvent itself; a blank space with no rules where new rules can be created. The artist makes the rules. Stuffy critics will get their panties in a bunch over it. The audience, hungry for the new, will either feel what the artist is doing or they won't. As long as an audience buys into what the artist is doing, it's relevant. The coolest establishment will embrace ALL of it, give the artist a chance, and let the audience decide.

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NOJ, I agree with your first two sentences. Artists will always be ahead of general audience and critics.

I think the argument here is whether indeed "The audience is hungry for the new." Seems a doubtful proposition. Indeed, that is the ground of the argument going on above. Is the 114th tribute to Monk, or something similar, a hunger for the new? Doubtful. More a hunger for what has been tried and true. More a grab at the knowable, and predictable, and SAFE. The avante-garde is always much tinier than the mainstream.

As far as the audience deciding what is relevant, I don't agree, and it rather contradicts the premise that the artist is ahead of the audience. The greatest art has pissed people off, initially and even subsequently, or at least has puzzled, and upset, and shocked its audience. Art is inherently dangerous. Trying to make it safe is an attack on the principles of art. Art is not a polling strategy. This brings up the old arguments over high culture, mass culture, and market forces- which I will not go into here. And I will definitely leave Adorno out!

In the end people follow their tastes, and I shan't argue with that, but statements that go beyond, "I like this" are subject to challenge.

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A critic will always have some sort of bias. One hopefully understands that going in. I'd certainly read a good piece of writing that makes claims that something Coltrane had done wasn't hitting the mark. The problem is that this is not particularly good writing, and the points it make fall quite flat/are on the wrong side of history. Whether or not you like free music shouldn't have any effect on the fact that it's an accepted, valid approach to making "jazz" and has been for decades. Sure, a lot of musicians are stubborn recidivists who bang their heads against the wall, but the work is the work.

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Good points, Leeway.

It is best if the artist assumes the best of the audience. The artist knows they are in on it and along for the ride. The artist does not condescend to the audience. The artist takes the lead and takes them to a new "there." And "new" can encompass a great many things, both safe and unsafe. The audience will ultimately be populated by like minds, as it filters down to repeat customers.

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NOJ, can you give me examples of "safe and unsafe"or at least safe? I'm trying to grasp what you mean by "safe art." I'm more of the opinion that you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

I am interested in your comment about audience stratification. I would probably agree that audiences do stratify; however it seems to me that "the shock of the new" disrupts stratification, at least temporarily, and forces new alignments. In some cases, over time, audiences may migrate from one artistic base to another. Just a thought, haven't worked it through.

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I would think that safety/no safety would depend on context.

To someone who goes to noise shows at Death By Audio (RIP), and who likes to experience weird stuff, the slew of CF discs (as an example) seem utterly safe and boring - neither inside nor outside, neither dense nor spare, neither boneheaded nor intricate. Of course that's a wide brush that doesn't apply to the whole catalog (RED Trio, Rodrigo Amado, Carlos Zingaro among the standout excellent players), but my experience is of by-the-numbers 'creative music.' I'd rather hear that than by-the-numbers mainstream jazz or pop, because those tropes still affect me, but it's not my favorite...

I find the Parker/Drake combo to be utterly staid BUT have also heard them play some weird, excellent stuff when inspired by the right sidemen. You know risk when you hear it, whether it's Ted Brown and Kirk Knuffke subtly turning standards inside out, or Child Abuse ripping progressive electronic rock apart at the seams.

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Clifford, I think I can accept that safety and risk are relative terms and are affected by where you are at a given time. However, the examples you give aren't persuasive to me. I think there is a difference between upsetting the tea cozy and blowing up the building. ;)

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Yeah, I'd rather blow up the building most days.

Some examples: Weasel Walter, John Blum, Chris Pitsiokos, some of Peter Evans' recent work (Pulverize the Sound for example), Matt Shipp (esp. lately), Joe Morris, Stephen Haynes' work (sadly not well-documented on record), rock bands of this ilk (Cellular Chaos, Child Abuse, Retrovirus, Quok)...

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I don't believe that new art has to be earth shattering but it can be. It doesn't have to change the whole language, but it can. There is "safety" in communicating in a language the audience already knows. The opposite is teaching them a new one or expecting they will be able to translate on the spot. One can venture so far off the beaten path that it defies conventional qualitative measuring.

What makes it good and why is it good, and should those qualities be difficult to ascertain?

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I enjoyed blowing up the buildings until all that was left to live in was my car.

And then it blew up, all by itself.

UH-oh!

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We listen to music for how it changes us. That's why some old Greek classified modes and their effects on listeners and why Plato only approved of music that inspired men to fight wars. Or why some churchmen, or popes, banned certain keys as being the devil's domain. Or why Bill Russo's textbook on arranging gets specific about how to convey various emotions.

What you choose to practice during the day is what's likely to appear amidst the immediacy of your improvising at night. I think the most important part of a critic's job is to verbalize what the music communicates and the value of that communication - the life of the music - is it serious or trivial, fresh, personal, coherent, clever (or merely clever), and so on. I almost said "honest," but in the heat of improvisation a player can't be anything but honest. Obviously I'm drastically over-simplifying what a critic writes. My point is, a critic has reasons for his opinions, it's not the jerking of his knees. (And as Bernard Shaw once said, I'll find out if I liked it when I write my review.)

Back to Jack Cooke. His extensive Jazz Monthly survey of Eric Dolphy's recordings, written shortly after Dolphy's death, had such thoughtful detail and analysis that it, more than anything else, convinced me that writing about music could be a worthwhile occupation.

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On 11/15/2014 at 9:19 PM, johnblitweiler said:

We listen to music for how it changes us. That's why some old Greek classified modes and their effects on listeners and why Plato only approved of music that inspired men to fight wars. Or why some churchmen, or popes, banned certain keys as being the devil's domain. Or why Bill Russo's textbook on arranging gets specific about how to convey various emotions.

And they turdified Dyer on these pages for bringing up Yeats and Adorno. How is this different? 

Edited by Dmitry

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"On that note, one wonders about Yeats’s claim that the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Trane is as passionately intense as ever. Did he lack conviction? Maybe the Yeatsian opposition is false and passionate intensity covers up or disguises a deeper lack of conviction."

 

I missed this thread the first time around (three years ago). Some fine reading. I have two thoughts when reading the Dyer quote above:

• No, I don't think "one" wonders about Yeats's claim at all. At least Yeats doesn't enter into my mind when considering Coltrane's Temple recording. I do understand that "one wonders" is rhetorical, but I think Dyer's underlying sentiment is actually imperative, that is: You should wonder, like me!

• When I do wonder about Yeats's claim, I can see how Dyer's proposition fits his own writing — e.g. Dyer's "deeper lack of conviction" when it comes to examining Coltrane's music in context is disguised by a "passionate intensity" of his own opinion, conveniently leading him to his own "terminus" or "brick wall."

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A non-jazzfiend friend recommended a Geoff Dyer book to me today and it reminded me of this, from a review I wrote in 1996.  Incidentally, I regret my careless clause about emotionally crippled lives :

Like 20th Century American poets and visual artists, jazz musicians have suffered a fearful toll in terms of early death and devastated lives. The causes ought to be obvious--most important among them virulent racism in American society and the unnatural circumstances jazz artists have had to endure just to survive. There still are some jazz lovers, most gray-haired by now, who sentimentalize the disabilities of their favorites, and Englishman Geoff Dyer wrote "But Beautiful" for just those fans. It contains portraits of seven jazzmen--most of them major figures, all of them leading emotionally crippled lives--that demonstrate his thesis that their deaths resulted from something inherent in the art form.

The book is an exercise in endless mopery. Dyer maintains that it's necessary to know the musicians' lives to appreciate their music. It's true that jazz artists' creations tend to reflect, probably unconsciously, their awareness of life; witness the terrific tension and brittle phrasing of dope fiend Art Pepper's alto saxophone solos, or the similar tension and extreme, perilous, linear developments in the mentally ill Bud Powell's piano works. Pepper's autobiography certainly reflects that tension better than Dyer's "poetic" prose.

As for Dyer's chapter on Powell, he addresses the pianist: "Your music encloses you, seals you off from me. . . . Somehow you made it to the piano stool, fingers drooling over the keyboard, dripping from it, like booze from a spilled glass, the tune falling to the floor in puddles. . . . Are you tired of me talking at you like this?" As the Bud Powell character said to the fawning jazz fan in a Terry Southern short story, "You're too  hip, man."

Lonely men dying in dark rooms fill the book; Dyer rubs your nose in gloom. His "insights" were cliches decades ago: The fiery Charles Mingus and the fiery music he composed and conducted; a sodden Lester Young staring out the window of his hotel room at Birdland, across the street; his description of Thelonious Monk: "He was a funny man, his music was funny . . . " (Would someone please point out what was so funny about the music of this immensely earnest artist?)

It's not that Dyer's portraits are wholly untrue, it's that he's just so darned maudlin, and his invented dialogue is absurd. For instance, he has Monk cussing like a '90s rock star. He devotes 34 pages to reflections on jazz history, especially his jazz-is-death thesis. There is a well-organized, if unoriginal, discussion of the music's social relevance, rising to the familiar "jazz today is too sophisticated to articulate the lived experience of the ghetto; hip-hop does that better." Dyer's dying musicians to the contrary, there's still plenty of vital jazz being played today as well as a terrific wealth of historic jazz available, and there are plenty of people listening.

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