Milestones

Branford slams Miles

211 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, felser said:

Here's my take.  The whole early-mid 80's Wynton phenomenon kicked off the majors looking for "young men in nice suits" for their jazz releases, which flooded the market.  Some, such as Terence Blanchard, were substantial talents.  The vast majority were not.  18 year olds (and younger) were getting Columbia and RCA contracts), the creative masters could not.  Even the talented new players could often be traced directly to older masters.  Christopher Hollyday did a mean Jackie McLean, but Hollyday could get recorded and McLean couldn't.   Vincent Herring did a swell Cannonball Adderley.  Kent Jordan, Marlon Jordan, Amini A.W. Murray.  And so on.  And so forth.    Josh Redman (who I do like OK) could get a contract, but Dewey could not.   Though some of this started in the 70's, where even in some of the cases where masters did get contracts, they were expected to make safe, marketable music (Bobby Hutcherson, Cedar Walton, even MCoy Tyner on Columbia).  That also affected what got played on jazz radio stations.   Broad brush, I realize, but that's sort of my impression of it.    Ellis totally puts me to sleep without fail.  I have to think his contracts were totally on the coattails of his sons.  And he was even (much) more reactionary than they were.   

But unless one subscribes to the idea that all of the jazz sales are purely the result of marketing and manipulation, it still appears that people liked the music, based on the relative success of these "young men" at the time. There is really no way of knowing, but I wonder if Dewey would have sold as well as Joshua if he had gotten the contract. 

Edited by Daniel A

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19 minutes ago, Daniel A said:

But unless one subscribes to the idea that all of the jazz sales are purely the result of marketing and manipulation, it still appears that people liked the music, based on the relative success of these "young men" at the time. There is really no way of knowing, but I wonder if Dewey would have sold as well as Joshua if he had gotten the contract. 

Understood, but the hypothesis being discussed wasn't that they had stifled sales, but rather that how they were championed had stifled creative opportunity.  I agree that Joshua was always gonna outsell Dewey, and that he plays very well indeed, but Dewey expands the music.  That being said, I play Joshua's "Spirit of the Moment" as much as I play anything by Dewey.  

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Posted (edited)

I actually see it as a deliberate attention to stifle the creative flowering of the music and bring attention back to what the labels may have seen as more marketable music. By then the progressive aspects of jazz of the sixties was now to conservative listeners and perhaps many A&R people the outer edge, they didn't want to market music that went further, and musicians were going further. This didn't stop the music from evolving but it did impact the economics of musicians wishing to be even more forward moving. In a way this didn't/doesn't upset me that much as I too find that jazz up to the New Thing is my cup of tea, and further fusions and developments don't necessarily attract me. 

Anyway as far as the Marsalises go I like some of their music, I won't lie, and I just don't read what they say, which is designed to get them attention I'd rather not give them, and much of what they say I just don't agree with and there is so much I don't agree with in this world of ours that I limit my exposure if I can.

Edited by jazzbo

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Posted (edited)

46 minutes ago, felser said:

Understood, but the hypothesis being discussed wasn't that they had stifled sales, but rather that how they were championed had stifled creative opportunity.  I agree that Joshua was always gonna outsell Dewey, and that he plays very well indeed, but Dewey expands the music.  That being said, I play Joshua's "Spirit of the Moment" as much as I play anything by Dewey.  

OK, while I do appreciate and understand what you’ve laid out, there is one enormous flaw that brings the whole thing crashing to the ground. 

Record companies, the big boys, sign who they know is the most marketable. Remember, even ECM, of all companies, once signed folks like Evan Parker, and the Maneri brothers to contracts. Was it the Marsalis’ fault that they didn’t sell well and ECM then decided to stick to the easier listening stuff? 

Is it a “Marsalis roadblock” that keeps Free Improvisation musicians from selling millions of albums and getting big time airplay? Absolutely, 100%, no fucking way. You could have someone like Sony or Columbia market the ever living shit out cats like Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Peter Evans, hell, even the William Parker circle if friends, and they’d likely not even make the money back that they spent on advertising. And that would have jack shit to do with the Marsalis family. 

No matter what level of advertising something gets, it still has to be marketable/accessible to the masses to begin with. Record sales from the smaller labels aren’t small because Wynton Marsalis is more popular. They are small because the market for their artists is small. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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2 hours ago, Rooster_Ties said:

I hate to say it, but I think that's probably right.  I was fully prepared to read whatever Branford said, and give him half the benefit of the doubt that maybe it came of worse than intended.  But there's no real way to spin what he said as being anything other than some real in-your-face "Miles didn't know shit" nonsense.  There was certainly tons of give and take in that band, both ways -- there would have had to have been.

Has anyone ever heard anyone in that 2nd quintet ever say a negative word about Miles?  Realizing it would have never been in their interest to cross Miles publically.  Still, as many interviews as I've seen footage of and heard (audio) with both Herbie and Wayne, it seemed they both genuinely got an enormous amount out of their experience with Miles (and presumably from Miles).

What the hell is Branford talking about, really?  Miles grew up listening to Pops, but tried to stay modern?  What kind of nonsense is that?

Don't know where I ran across it, but I recall reading some time ago some remarks from Ron Carter about how all the innovations in the second quintet came from Wayne and the rhythm section, while Miles was pretty much scrambling to keep up. But then do we trust Ron Carter on any matter where his ego might be involved?

1 hour ago, Daniel A said:

But unless one subscribes to the idea that all of the jazz sales are purely the result of marketing and manipulation, it still appears that people liked the music, based on the relative success of these "young men" at the time. There is really no way of knowing, but I wonder if Dewey would have sold as well as Joshua if he had gotten the contract. 

Go to just about any used record store and see how many CDs by the Marsalis Bros. and other "young men" of the time now rest in the bins. Lots and lots. They got bought and got dumped.

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Posted (edited)

Since CDs, in general, are being dumped, and the Marsalis circle of friends sold more of them than pretty much anyone else, the ratio makes perfect sense. 

As for Miles, he sounded perfectly comfortable playing with that quintet, but I think there is hardly any question that the youngsters played a huge role in the style change. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Scott Dolan said:

OK, while I do appreciate and understand what you’ve laid out, there is one enormous flaw that brings the whole thing crashing to the ground. 

Record companies, the big boys, sign who they know is the most marketable. Remember, even ECM, of all companies, once signed folks like Evan Parker, and the Maneri brothers to contracts. Was it the Marsalis’ fault that they didn’t sell well and ECM then decided to stick to the easier listening stuff? 

Is it a “Marsalis roadblock” that keeps Free Improvisation musicians from selling millions of albums and getting big time airplay? Absolutely, 100%, no fucking way. You could have someone like Sony or Columbia market the ever living shit out cats like Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Peter Evans, hell, even the William Parker circle if friends, and they’d likely not even make the money back that they spent on advertising. And that would have jack shit to do with the Marsalis family. 

No matter what level of advertising something gets, it still has to be marketable/accessible to the masses to begin with. Record sales from the smaller labels aren’t small because Wynton Marsalis is more popular. They are small because the market for their artists is small. 

I hear you, but also remember a time in the Clive Davis era when Columbia signed and recorded Bill Evans, George Russell, Keith Jarrett, Compost, Horacee Arnold, Dreams, and even Ornette Coleman, along with Miles, Brubeck, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report.  10 years later, it was the Marsalis Bros. and Harry Connick.

Edited by felser

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Yes, but Jazz was still quite popular then. 

Record companies turned to the “young lions” in the 80’s in hopes of reviving the popularity of Jazz. 

Not to mention every artist you named is FAR more accessible to a mass audience than any of the artists supposedly held back by the mythical “Marsalis roadblock”. 

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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?

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Posted (edited)

If you think that Evan Parker and Barry Guy would have sold just as many albums as Wynton and Branford Marsalis just because they were marketed the same way, you are beyond delusional. 

I guess the next thing you’ll be telling us is that if only Frank Zappa had been signed to CBS or Sony he would have been as popular as Michael Jackson. 

Get out of here. That is weapons-grade nonsense. 

Edited by Scott Dolan

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Sigh.

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Just now, Chuck Nessa said:

Sigh.

You purposely refuse to explain anything, so you brought that sigh on yourself. 

Logic and common sense dictate that mass appeal can only germinate from something that was highly accessible to begin with. 

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Sigh!

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Yep, that’s what being a complete asshole gets you. At least I’m aware enough to recognize it in myself. I’m assuming at your age it’s a lost cause. 

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Scott, how old were you in, say, 1984? How many gigs were you trying to book? How many records were you trying to sell? How many deals were you trying to make? What kind of records were you buying? What was on your radio?

Tell us what was going on in Dolan World in 1984 (more or less) that gives you credibility on this matter.

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59 minutes ago, ep1str0phy said:

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?

Re: the Blood on the Fields Pulitzer -- that was more or less engineered, as these two articles make fairly clear.

https://niemanreports.org/articles/the-story-behind-the-first-pulitzer-for-jazz/

http://www.gregsandow.com/old/marsalis.htm

 

Howard Reich’s piece, in particular, lets a good deal of the cat out of the bag, but it is also disingenuous in some respects. He writes that the late Jack Fuller, then publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Reich’s boss,  'came onto the [Pulitzer] board with no agenda but knew the sorry history of jazz and the Pulitzers: “It’s hard not to be embarrassed by the Duke Ellington story [Fuller said], and nothing had been done to change the course of that history. Mistakes had been made.” 

In conversations I had with Fuller around this time — we were friendly, and he was my boss too — he made it quite clear that he was determined to have the music Pulitzer awarded to a jazz artist ASAP. 
“We didn’t know quite how to change that,” says Fuller [per Reich]. “But, ultimately, the way to change the kind of finalists you get is to think about the juries. So we began to think about the juries.”
 
BTW, all this came in the wake of a big dust-up over the 1992 music Pulitzer. The music jury, like all Pulitzer so-called "expert juries, presents the board with three nominees, ranked one to three. But that year’s music jury was so convinced that a work by composer Ralph Shapey was that year’s  best work that Shapey’s work was their only nominee. The board (composed of newspaper publishing executives FWIW) rose up angry at this act of would-be usurpation by the composers who made up the music jury  and instead awarded the 1992 Pulitzer to a work by composer Wayne Peterson. 
 
In any case, it was Fuller, with jury-shaping in the front of his mind, who then engineered the appointments of jazz-connected composers Gunther Schuller and then David Baker to the Pulitzer music jury. But that led not to a jazz winner but to Schuller himself winning a Pulitzer in 1994 for his “Of Reminiscences and Reflections” (Schuller was of course not on that jury) and to the estimable but not jazz-oriented African-American composer George Walker winning in 1996 for his “Lilacs.” As Reich says, "Frustration was rising.  Fuller then placed Reich (a fervent admirer of Marsalis’ music and a journalist, not a musician  IIRC only one other journalist, Irving Kolodin, had ever served on a Pulitzer music jury), along with John Lewis, a recipient of commissions from Jazz at Lincoln Center. Voila! — 1997’s winner was Blood on the Fields, even though (see Greg Sandow’s piece), it probably was not eligible.
 
IIRC, Reich wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune (somewhat different than the one linked to above) in which he proudly explained in some detail how he in effect had carried out his mission of bringing a Pulitzer to Blood on the Fields
 
 

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BTW IIRC I did suggest to Jack Fuller that jury-shaping might not be the right way to solve this problem -- if problem it be. But Jack, a veteran of the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. (he had been chief assistant to Attorney General Edward Levi in the Ford administration) knew or thought he knew how to move those levers and get things done.

I could go on about the history and anomalies of the music Pulitzers, but enough.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

Don't know where I ran across it, but I recall reading some time ago some remarks from Ron Carter about how all the innovations in the second quintet came from Wayne and the rhythm section, while Miles was pretty much scrambling to keep up. But then do we trust Ron Carter on any matter where his ego might be involved?

 

Yes, you can trust Ron Carter on this. Herbie has said the same thing to me -- which is not at all the same thing as him saying Miles gave them nothing, I don't think there's any doubt that rhythm section and Wayne were driving the innovations in terms of  the details of harmony, the elasticity of form, rhythmic complexity and layers of interaction, Miles WAS scrambling to keep up with the specifics of what they were doing. BUT it was his band. He was still driving the bus, shaping all of these ideas in the presentation AND influencing how the rest of the group manifested their ideas on the bandstand by the choices he as making in terms of his improvising, tune selection, tempos, segues between numbers, his overall attitude and history and his creating a space in which the band could experiment on the bandstand -- you know, he was being a fucking brilliant bandleader. Also -- and this is where those revelatory session tapes from "Miles Smiles" are so instructive -- Miles could also be extremely hands on and detailed when he felt had to. Listen to way he shapes "Freedom Jazz Dance" by telling Tony and Ron what to play. Moreover, Miles edited the compositions of everybody in the band -- except for Wayne, whose music was so perfect he didn't touch it. But with everyone else, he often thinned out the harmony and played with the forms. 

 So to me, there were different kinds of information and  influences going back and forth (and sideways) in the band.

Having said all that, I would add that when I read Branford's remarks in context -- "He didn't teach them anything, Nothing. Because he didn't know it" -- I came away thinking he was focusing narrowly on the technical shit as in the abstracted harmony and approach to form -embodied by Wayne, Herbie and Tony's innovations. That's what I interpreted Branford meant by "it" when he says "He didn't know it." I thought he was saying more or less what Ron meant by his remarks and what Herbie meant.

YMMV. 

Carry on ...

Edited by Mark Stryker

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For somebody who was scrambling to keep up, Filles De Kilimanjaro is one helluva strong record.

And OMG, Branford - he plays the fucking changes all over that record without getting lost of otherwise faking it!!!!!!!!

That's some stupid shit for Down Beat to be printing. Leonard Feather must have been sent back to Earth by Satan.

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8 minutes ago, JSngry said:

For somebody who was scrambling to keep up, Filles De Kilimanjaro is one helluva strong record.

And OMG, Branford - he plays the fucking changes all over that record without getting lost of otherwise faking it!!!!!!!!

That's some stupid shit for Down Beat to be printing. Leonard Feather must have been sent back to Earth by Satan.

I  saw the band between the sessions for that record at the Plugged Nickel. The band was Chick, Dave Holland, Wayne and Tony. Miles married Mademoiselle Mabry either that night or the next. Miles "playfully" offered to take me outside to break my arm.

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Posted (edited)

15 minutes ago, JSngry said:

For somebody who was scrambling to keep up, Filles De Kilimanjaro is one helluva strong record.

And OMG, Branford - he plays the fucking changes all over that record without getting lost of otherwise faking it!!!!!!!!

That's some stupid shit for Down Beat to be printing. Leonard Feather must have been sent back to Earth by Satan.

I had a line in my original post that I deleted for some reason but it speaks to your first point re: Fille de Kilimanjaro: By 1968 certainly Miles was comfortable with whatever the band threw at him. To be clear: Miles figured that shit out. Also, Filles is 100% a Miles Davis record. 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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Just now, Chuck Nessa said:

Miles "playfully" offered to take me outside to break my arm.

:wub::wub::wub:sigh:wub::wub::wub:

2 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

The band was Chick, Dave Holland, Wayne and Tony. Miles married Mademoiselle Mabry either that night or the next.

and seriously - how would it be that a bandleader who was "struggling to keep up" with one band replaced the pianist and bassist with people who were even further out on the edge?

We've mostly all got that Lost Quintet tree, one of the great documents in bootleg history. Where on there does Miles sound like he's scuffling and/or trying to keep up?

Branford listens to records, hears gaps of the moment, and automatically defaults to a deduction of flaws and then ends his consideration. That's the difference between a craftsman and a creator.

 

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8 minutes ago, Mark Stryker said:

 Also, Filles is 100% a Miles Davis record. 

Well, Miles and Gil, but oh well about that!

Miles ALWAYS had people working for him and with him, Bird, Trane, Wayne, Marcus Miller, hey, but in the end, it was his music, and they all contributed to it.

In the business world, people who do this this well for that long are revered. In jazz, they have suspicion cast upon them (cf  Ellington, Mingus, etc.).

Who's creating this narrative, and who do we have to send off into what kind of exile to make it stop once and for all?

PS - also consider that it was in the post-On The Corner "electric jungle" music that seems to have been the music that Miles was most fully involved in creating from the ground up. Teo made the records, but Miles made the music. But that's the music that all the Reactionary Good Boys find it easiest to dismiss. Tehy don't get it becuase, I think, they CAN'T get it.

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