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Mark Stryker

Ira Gitler, R.I.P.

83 posts in this topic

9 hours ago, Chuck Nessa said:

Ira disliked most/all of my work, but in the 40 years I knew him we were friendly. Some here might remember when I emailed him about the "no show" on the Dameron "Mating Call" date. 

Whatever some view as failures are overshadowed by his accomplishments.

So who WAS the "no show"?

11 hours ago, Brad said:

In a thread or an article about someone who has passed away, nice things are normally said about the deceased and negative aspects mentioned but softened or glossed over. This thread  seems to run counter to that, unfortunately. 

Isn't that fairly obvious.? One reason apparently was that Ira GItler had the monstrosity of not openly and immediately embracing the "new thing". This automatically got him into hot water with anybody who held these on a pedestal and considered them sacrosanct and did not find any other niche of where to cut his objective achievements "down to size". (What for, I wonder, there WAS quite a bit of "emperor's clothes" out there, e.g. when it came to REAL musical and instrumental "chops" - but that's another debate that's often been led to no avail because everybody remains stuck in their trenches even these days anyway). For some reason it still seems way more "appropriate" in these circles to blast partisans of the "earlier"/older styles of jazz but to take offsense at the reverse. Yet the notion that the development reached a "higher" level throughout when jazz went "free" remains highly doubtful IMHO; the development branched out sideways onto other, different paths that on their own terms might well warrant exploration. But artistically "higher" ? Nope.

Last night I checked the link to that "overrated/underrated" page of 22 years ago and must say there still is a lot of food for thought there (both ways) with various scribes, regardless of whether some consider it heresy. ;)

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I don't want to get into any sort of anti-Ira Gitler mode on this thread. Obviously, ne meant a lot to many people here and I don't want to step on their feelings of loss. 

I will make a comment on one statement you make: "One reason apparently was that Ira GItler had the monstrosity of not openly and immediately embracing the "new thing". There's a big difference between not embracing a certain type of music and writing angry diatribes against it.

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True ... but haven't these diatribes been written in EVERY direction? Starting with a somewhat overzealous self-elevation and assertion that everything that came before what was considered "new" at a given moment was more or less relegated to the scrap heap of musical "has beens" (or to "nostalgia" at best) by many (scribes) who wanted to be and remain "with it"? It still seems to me that a tendency through several decades has been to cut a lot more slack in one direction than in the other.

BTW, when is an outspoken position just that just that - and when does it become a diatribe? A wide linguistic field ... ;)

BTW, I certainly am not one of the "de mortuis nil nisi bene" faction but like Brad said - things do seem like they are getting a little out of hand (and out of proportion) here, as if someone(s) now pulled out their axes they had been waiting to grind ... ;)

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Grudges get tiresome. Insightful criticism does not.

The more time passes, the easier it becomes to tell which is which. Time's funny like that!

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Someone once told me — and I know it’s not original — but holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent free in your head. 

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2 minutes ago, Brad said:

Someone once told me — and I know it’s not original — but holding a grudge is like letting someone live rent free in your head. 

Yeah, but if they have good records and comfortable furniture, hey....

:g

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Ira had music he loved , music he liked, and music he did not like. That sounds like all of us.

But he was willing to say so in print. The key for me personally was that when Ira wrote very positive things about recordings, it was 99% certain that it would be music I would like, and so something I would want to check out.

On the other hand when he wrote about the music he did not care for, it was almost certain that my view would be the same. 

Though I can understand why those whose taste in jazz goes beyond what Gitler liked could be frustrated or angry with what he had to say, I found him personally to be a highly reliable source.

I followed the writing of Stanley Dance quite closely. He would piss me off when he had nasty and sometimes sarcastic things to say about Bebop and Hardbop. However, I also loved the Mainstream/Swing music that he championed, so focused on what he had to say about that musical genre.

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46 minutes ago, Peter Friedman said:

Ira had music he loved , music he liked, and music he did not like. That sounds like all of us.

But he was willing to say so in print. The key for me personally was that when Ira wrote very positive things about recordings, it was 99% certain that it would be music I would like, and so something I would want to check out.

On the other hand when he wrote about the music he did not care for, it was almost certain that my view would be the same. 

Though I can understand why those whose taste in jazz goes beyond what Gitler liked could be frustrated or angry with what he had to say, I found him personally to be a highly reliable source.

I followed the writing of Stanley Dance quite closely. He would piss me off when he had nasty and sometimes sarcastic things to say about Bebop and Hardbop. However, I also loved the Mainstream/Swing music that he championed, so focused on what he had to say about that musical genre.

Well said, Peter.  I think we all have "go-to" people like that, where, over time, we learn that their tastes are similar to ours.  Then there are writers where we learn the correlation is more hit and miss.  I really like Gary Giddins, for example, but could never fathom how much he loved the music of Cecil Taylor.  On the other hand, he was a consistent booster of Sonny Rollins and Sarah Vaughan, even when it was uncool to like them.

I have never understood why it was off limits to criticize avant-garde musicians.  Some have, to my tastes, valid musical conceptions, some consistently suck (again, to my tastes), and some are hit-and-miss.  But why can't we point out that Braxton can't play bebop (although he tries), that Sun Ra's concerts frequently rambled aimlessly (and that's not a positive thing), that Albert Ayler sounded deranged?  Again, solely to my tastes.  If you hear it differently, more power to you.  But there is no reason, as long as we have free speech, not to write it as we hear it.

 

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1 hour ago, mjzee said:

I have never understood why it was off limits to criticize avant-garde musicians. 

How is it "off limits"? People do it all the time. And they get pushback. And then the pushback gets pushback. At some point it's hard to tell who started it, and really, who cares? It's been a loooong time now, and it's long been a part of the general discourse. The less attention to it that musicians pay, the better, but, you know, they talk amongst themselves in ways that don't necessarily make it out to the general discourse.

That's not what "off limits" looks like to me. You want "off limits" in a general discourse jazz realm, there are plenty of subjects. Criticizing "avant-garde musicians" sure ain't one of them.

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Posted (edited)

I liked both Ira and Stanley Dance personally. I dismissed their disdain of newer musics and appreciated their advocacy of the musics of "their time".

They both had great value to me.

Stanley actually got Duke to call me at home.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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35 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

Stanley actually got Duke to call me at home.

Wow!  

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Just now, medjuck said:

Wow!  

My parents were visiting and Dad answered the phone and said "Chuck, Duke Ellington wants to speak to you". A life highlight.

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What a great story. I hope your parents were suitably impressed. 

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What did Duke have to say, Chuck?

I mean, Stanley Dance really got my attention...that guy was a hardcore advocate, but I read both him and Gitler in JazzTimes for as long as they were there (or until I jsut gave up on the mag in general), and it seemed like the older he got, the less tolerant towards and more salty he became about the "blackness": of the music, and not in some "white liberal" way, but more like in a "native tongue" way. Thus his equating of Ornette with Ebonics, snarky, but still knowing what he did not accept as valid while intrinsically acknowledging that this IS language we're talking about, not showbiz goodtimes. How much "provenance" he had in that realm, well, good luck figuring that one out, but you know, he GOT that and never let it slip away.

Gitler, I've maybe sounded harsher than I intended because omg YES, those memories, so vividly passed on, you LOVE somebody who does that for you. But - and this is where it got kinda sad for me - he'd write up all these club sets in JT (and it seems like he was always going out (and again, you gotta LOVE somebody who does that), but it was always the same thing -the club, the players, which set he was at, what they played, and always - ALWAYS - what quotes he heard in the solos. I mean, nice, and there's a "historical record" to be had there for sure, but...every time? At some point I got to be like, what I am reading here, I wasn't there so what can I do with THIS?

So when it comes to "heft", Stanley Dance,ftw. But in both cases, lively, passionate, advocates of a type I don't see too much of these days, if only because the music was regularly live then and records were supplementation. I know Steve Reynolds has access to a world where that still holds, but if Steve had a Stanley Dance or an Ira Gitler to back him up on that to the rest of us, this would be a better world, period.

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On February 26, 2019 at 4:04 PM, sgcim said:

Someone posted this in reply to Ira Gitler's death announcement on another board. Note the recognition of Michael Weiss' work:

https://jazztimes.com/features/whos-overrated-whos-underrated/

I'm forever grateful for all the ink Ira gave me over the years, and a couple of concerts he produced to boot. Ira, yet another icon of the NY jazz scene to leave us - one of those who make living here special. 

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9 hours ago, JSngry said:

 

 

Gitler, I've maybe sounded harsher than I intended because omg YES, those memories, so vividly passed on, you LOVE somebody who does that for you. But - and this is where it got kinda sad for me - he'd write up all these club sets in JT (and it seems like he was always going out (and again, you gotta LOVE somebody who does that), but it was always the same thing -the club, the players, which set he was at, what they played, and always - ALWAYS - what quotes he heard in the solos. I mean, nice, and there's a "historical record" to be had there for sure, but...every time? At some point I got to be like, what I am reading here, I wasn't there so what can I do with THIS?

 

Possibly because many [most?] cats just quote, with little or nothing worthwhile to add of their own? If we're talking bop of contemporary vintage.

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I never took note but did Ira's liners often mention quotes?

Maybe as someone without musical training or deep understanding of what he hears, Ira was particularly proud of his ability to spot quotes, and when he's writing 300 words on a nightclub set for $50 a throw, it was easy to mention the quotes that he spotted?

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Best as I recall, Gitler played a little bit of alto.

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24 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Best as I recall, Gitler played a little bit of alto.

Didn't help, per Allen!

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Part of the fun of listening to The Quotesmaster General, Dexter Gordon, is recognizing the quotes and hearing how (if he does) weave them into his lines. But even Dexter could overdo it, and they were never (except at his worse) the "point" of his soloing.

And yes, I think that as time went on, Gitler's liner notes began to reference quotes heard in the solos. It was like he was becoming the Quotesmaster General of writers.

I'll freely admit that I just don't get it, which is entirely on me. But - I don't get it.

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Gitler liked wordplay, quotation is  musical equivalent of wordplay.  How is that h ard to understand?  

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Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.

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2 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.

wtf?

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I'm quoting.

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On 2/27/2019 at 1:40 PM, Brad said:

In a thread or an article about someone who has passed away, nice things are normally said about the deceased and negative aspects mentioned but softened or glossed over. This thread  seems to run counter to that, unfortunately. 

I don't think this thread is in any way out of the norm for this board; I have seen some far more negative.  And within this thread, even the "negative" aspects have all come in the form of posts that are generally positive.

Also, let's be honest about relative importance: Gitler was an interesting asterisk in the history of this music.  He was a very articulate "super fan" and sort-of-critic.  He wasn't one of the "creators".

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