sgcim

"Blue: The Murder of Jazz" by Eric Nisenson

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I just finished this book, written in 1997, that dealt with Wynton Marsalis and his movement, which the author called 'Neoclassicism'. The book is a strong attack on the  trio' of Marsalis, Stanley Crouch, and Albert Murray, and their corporate supporters, Sony and JALC. It's 247 pages, so the author uses the entire history of jazz to support his views on how Murray, Crouch and Marsalis have excluded the contributions of white musicians such as Bix Biederbecke, Bill Evans, etc..,.and have declared any jazz that comes after Hard Bop as worthless, non-jazz.

Their contention is that any music that is not strongly blues and swing influenced is not jazz. The author refutes this view by citing musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, and Earl Hines as being not particularly blues influenced musicians, and asking, "Are they not supposed to be considered jazz musicians?"

He uses the same logic concerning Dizzy Gillespie's embrace of Latin music in the 50s- "Is that not jazz because it doesn't swing?" The same logic is applied to Anthony Braxton's solo performances and Cecil Taylor. 

He also cites the exclusion of George Russell's music from the JALC, because Russell included electronic instruments in some of his later compositions.. Another chapter demonstrates the charges of ageism and reverse racism in Murray, Crouch and Marsalis' thought, with endless examples of white and older white musicians who are excluded from the JALC program and their consideration as not being valid jazz musicians by the trio of Crouch, Murray and Wynton.

At this point, you're probably saying, "Yeah, I've heard all this before", but the blatant lies of the aforementioned trio are certainly worth being documented, and the author's outlining of the corporate powers backing them are extremely relevant to an understanding of the corruption of NYC in regards to the JALC program,

It is important to note that the author knew he was dying of Leukemia when he wrote this book, and that might account for his urgency of tone throughout. It's easy to criticize someone writing from this state of mind, but i prefer not to. I'll leave that up to you...

 

 

Edited by sgcim

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No love lost for Marsalis's past 30-35 years here, especially considering his first high-profile gig (where he did the best music of his career):

 

Image result for jazz messengers wynton marsalis"

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Race is just the symptom. The diseases are xenophobia/neophobia.

But in The American Discourse, we get hung up/stuck on race because it's easier to stay where you know than go where you don't. And god knows, America knows everything about race and racism except how to get past it. So rather than trying to get up and over, we keep digging down and in.

Dig?

On a completely unrelated note, Nisenson's Sonny Rollins bio was a little bit of a big mess, and I've never had 100% trust about him since. So I dunno, jazz was not murdered, it essentially committed suicide.

And yet that spirit lives on anyway. How about that, eh?

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5 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

He doesn't put down Wynton's playing as much as his jazz philosophy and composing. He dissects Crouch and Murray, though. He treats Wynton like he was just their puppet, along with Sony's, but he is very harsh on Wynton's programming at JALC, which is quite justified, IMHO.

Nisenson was very close to Miles, and almost forgives his Michael Jackson/Cindy Lauper phase towards the end of his life. Almost...

5 hours ago, JSngry said:

Race is just the symptom. The diseases are xenophobia/neophobia.

But in The American Discourse, we get hung up/stuck on race because it's easier to stay where you know than go where you don't. And god knows, America knows everything about race and racism except how to get past it. So rather than trying to get up and over, we keep digging down and in.

Dig?

On a completely unrelated note, Nisenson's Sonny Rollins bio was a little bit of a big mess, and I've never had 100% trust about him since. So I dunno, jazz was not murdered, it essentially committed suicide.

And yet that spirit lives on anyway. How about that, eh?

What did he get wrong about Sonny in his bio? In this book, there is nothing but 100% adoration. Same with Miles, Trane and Bird...

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7 hours ago, sgcim said:

I just finished this book, written in 1997, that dealt with Wynton Marsalis and his movement, which the author called 'Neoclassicism'. The book is a strong attack on the  trio' of Marsalis, Stanley Crouch, and Albert Murray, and their corporate supporters, Sony and JALC. It's 247 pages, so the author uses the entire history of jazz to support his views on how Murray, Crouch and Marsalis have excluded the contributions of white musicians such as Bix Biederbecke, Bill Evans, etc..,.and have declared any jazz that comes after Hard Bop as worthless, non-jazz.

Their contention is that any music that is not strongly blues and swing influenced is not jazz. The author refutes this view by citing musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, and Earl Hines as being not particularly blues influenced musicians, and asking, "Are they not supposed to be considered jazz musicians?"

He uses the same logic concerning Dizzy Gillespie's embrace of Latin music in the 50s- "Is that not jazz because it doesn't swing?" The same logic is applied to Anthony Braxton's solo performances and Cecil Taylor. 

He also cites the exclusion of George Russell's music from the JALC, because Russell included electronic instruments in some of his later compositions.. Another chapter demonstrates the charges of ageism and reverse racism in Murray, Crouch and Marsalis' thought, with endless examples of white and older white musicians who are excluded from the JALC program and their consideration as not being valid jazz musicians by the trio of Crouch, Murray and Wynton.

At this point, you're probably saying, "Yeah, I've heard all this before", but the blatant lies of the aforementioned trio are certainly worth being documented, and the author's outlining of the corporate powers backing them are extremely relevant to an understanding of the corruption of NYC in regards to the JALC program,

It is important to note that the author knew he was dying of Leukemia when he wrote this book, and that might account for his urgency of tone throughout. It's easy to criticize someone writing from this state of mind, but i prefer not to. I'll leave that up to you...

Now that's cultural appropriation.

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The JALC programming has gotten a bit wider. The ECM concert I went to a few weeks back, more things with electric instruments, more women led groups, all things great in themselves, but wonder if it's to fill a quota.  The one thing that's a plus is that it gets people onto jazz, but I'm just not sure if season ticket holders, et al, know just how much jazz of different stripes is out there.  There was a guy in the elevator who said to me after the ECM at 50 gig "I've heard all those guys on WBGO".  I politely said "they don't really play ECM albums on WBGO", at least I haven't heard any.

Edited by CJ Shearn

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I heard Wynton Marsalis twice in 1983, the first time with the VSOP II with his brother Branford and the Incredible Hancock/Carter/Tony Williams. Just incredible ! Fantastic ! 

And later in the year it was his current working quintet, also very fine music. Well, Wynton Marsalis was quite new then and was considered a very good young trumpet player. From those two performances that I attended, I can´t say nothing negative about him. 

Edited by Gheorghe

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On ‎11‎/‎28‎/‎2019 at 9:49 PM, sgcim said:

What did he get wrong about Sonny in his bio? In this book, there is nothing but 100% adoration.

It was a weird book. A little too much adoration, no real discernment on display, plus the weird thing about Sonny smoking too much pot for too long. Not saying that wasn't true, but it was just  a weird thing to get as much of a focus as it did.

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6 hours ago, JSngry said:

It was a weird book. A little too much adoration, no real discernment on display, plus the weird thing about Sonny smoking too much pot for too long. Not saying that wasn't true, but it was just  a weird thing to get as much of a focus as it did.

The adoration thing can get tired real fast. I read Herb Wong's book recently, and it was pathetic. I realize it contained some liner notes he wrote, but there wasn't even a hint of critical thinking in the entire book. It was pure gushing about each player he focused on, and the interviews he did amounted to one sentence answers which can be summed up as, "Golly, this guy is simply wonderful!" I realize Wong had a long time Radio Show, and brought the music to a large audience on the West Coast, but his book is unbelievably worthless.Not even any useful info, which even the worst book contains.

Thanks for the warning on his Rollins book, but by the time he wrote "Blue", and got his Leukemia diagnosis, Nisenson was able to focus much more critically on the many musicians he wrote about (although Rollins, Miles and Trane get a pass), and his inclusions of both sides of his arguments become almost comical in their constant presence, as he leaps from subject to subject. I'll be more specific when I've gone over the notes I made in the book.

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I take no back seat to anybody when it comes to Rollinslove, but geez, the guy's been inconsistent all his recording career, and although the Milestone records are most accurately appraised through a different lens than their predecessors (so much had changed in both Sonny, the jazz world, and the world in general), still, some are a LOT better than others, very often on the same record! OTOH, such has always been the case with Rollins, imo.

BTW, I more or less totally agree with his assessment as to what happened. But I no longer find it useful to let it begin and end with "race". That gets nobody anywhere except deeper in the rut. There's broader and deeper human inadequacies at play in all this. Let's challenge the species, not the races, that's a fool's game.

Didn't always see it like this, but now see no other way forward. Elevate!

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9 hours ago, JSngry said:

I take no back seat to anybody when it comes to Rollinslove, but geez, the guy's been inconsistent all his recording career, and although the Milestone records are most accurately appraised through a different lens than their predecessors (so much had changed in both Sonny, the jazz world, and the world in general), still, some are a LOT better than others, very often on the same record! OTOH, such has always been the case with Rollins, imo.

BTW, I more or less totally agree with his assessment as to what happened. But I no longer find it useful to let it begin and end with "race". That gets nobody anywhere except deeper in the rut. There's broader and deeper human inadequacies at play in all this. Let's challenge the species, not the races, that's a fool's game.

Didn't always see it like this, but now see no other way forward. Elevate!

I recall now that Nisenson felt that most of Sonny's live stuff was great, but most of his studio stuff was pretty lousy.

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On 11/29/2019 at 3:51 PM, JSngry said:

I take no back seat to anybody when it comes to Rollinslove, but geez, the guy's been inconsistent all his recording career, and although the Milestone records are most accurately appraised through a different lens than their predecessors (so much had changed in both Sonny, the jazz world, and the world in general), still, some are a LOT better than others, very often on the same record! OTOH, such has always been the case with Rollins, imo.

BTW, I more or less totally agree with his assessment as to what happened. But I no longer find it useful to let it begin and end with "race". That gets nobody anywhere except deeper in the rut. There's broader and deeper human inadequacies at play in all this. Let's challenge the species, not the races, that's a fool's game.

Didn't always see it like this, but now see no other way forward. Elevate!

I agree that bringing up the race card can get ugly. It's better to say that Nisenson is dealing with the 'human inadequacy' of Albert Murray, and his two disciples, Crouch and Wynton.

However, it can't be ignored that Nisenson thinks that the central thesis of Murray's 'Stomping The Blues" was that white musicians cannot play authentic jazz, and that is the message that Crouch has passed on from his master, Albert Murray. Nisenson makes it clear that this is specific to Crouch and Murray, NOT some universally held belief by others. He stays with the actions of the JALC programming, and doesn't limit it's view to race; he extends it to ageism, and the notion that jazz stopped at the Hard Bop period, and anything else is NOT jazz.

However, he starts with Murray and Crouch. and their talented trumpet playing puppet. At a jazz symposium, he overheard Crouch launching a diatribe on Bill Evans:

"Evans was a punk, whose playing wasn't jazz. He couldn't swing, and there is no blues in his playing". 

He then quotes Tom Piazza:

"I must admit that I have trouble sitting still for his work very long.He doesn't swing enough, he can't play the blues, and I don't feel close to his soul".

Nisenson cites Evans' playing on "Blues and the Abstract Truth", Miles Davis' comment that he learned a lot from Bill Evans, and that he played the piano the way it should be played, and lists the many musicians that used Evans in their bands, George Russell, Mingus, Miles, Oliver Nelson, Art Farmer, etc... He then mentions the many pianists that publicly stated that they were extremely influenced by Evans; Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal, Keith Jarrett, and Wynton Kelly (who said that Evans completely changed his way of playing ballads).

Nisenson then centers on the the complete omission of Bix Biederbecke from JALC. When Wynton was confronted with the omission of any white composers from the JALC programs on a 60 Minutes interview, he angrily said he wouldn't lower himself to answer such a question, and then retorted that, "Duke Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of them all." A representative of JALC is then quoted as saying that they are presenting only the important composers first (Wynton?!), and then may get to the less important ones...

Other things Nisenson deals with is the interesting parallel of Mezz Mezzrow's attitude towards jazz (only the original style of New Orleans ensemble jazz was authentic music, and all the post-Armstong innovations had little to do with authentic jazz), and the Neo-classicists' attitude towards, 'authentic jazz'.

He then offers a history of jazz, to point out the wrongheaded interpretations of Neo-Classicists throughout.

, Nisenson feels most strongly about the point that the Neo-Classicists are doing away with the most important part of jazz (best exemplified by Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis, in that order), that of Existentialism, The Neo's put a straitjacket of tradition on jazz that strangles innovation in the art form, hence essence precedes existence, instead of the reverse tenet of existentialism.

Take it or leave it, that is 'Blue".

 

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Yeah, well, all that happened.

And then a lot of other stuff happened.

And now?

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His hope for the future lies in the number of musicians who are clearly playing jazz and whose music is vital and relevant to our time. They range from mainstream musicians who prove that it is possible to play straight ahead jazz in a way that is fresh, idiosyncratic, and even innovative, to avant gardists who are attempting to redefine the music's vocabulary.

He also includes post-modern jazz players, and finally Ornette and George Russell, who were still alive when he wrote the book. He also adds international players like Jan Garbarek, mentioning the Twelve Moons album. He also mentions the Lebanese oud player Rabih-Abou--Khalil's work with Charlie Mariano, Kenny Wheeler, Sonny Fortune and Glenn Moore.

He complains that the Neo-Classicists refuse to accept that musicians like Henry Theadgill and Tin Berne are playing authentic jazz, and that attitude will lead to jazz's doom.

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20+ years later, what do we have here, right now? A lot of those people have futurized into being dead!

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23 hours ago, JSngry said:

20+ years later, what do we have here, right now? A lot of those people have futurized into being dead!

 

23 hours ago, JSngry said:

20+ years later, what do we have here, right now? A lot of those people have futurized into being dead!

Kurzweil has all their brainz available on file, if you need them...:alien:

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Didn't Threadgill get a night or three at Lincoln Center a couple of years ago? Just sayin', I no longer have a dog in this hunt.

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