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Rabshakeh

Soul jazz and jazz historiography

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http://www.organissimo.org/forum/index.php?/topic/10192-what-vinyl-are-you-spinning-right-now/&do=findComment&comment=170500

"llinois Jacquet - How High the Moon (Prestige)

Compiles cuts from Jacquet's Prestige releases, 1968-69

Check out the final sentence from Dan Morgenstern's liner notes: "... don't pay attention to any history of jazz tenor that doesn't have Jacquet's name in bold type."  Bob Porter feels the same."

An interesting quote, and presumably one that was meant to be hyperbolic, but it is a reminder of how little attention Illinois Jacquet's historic corner of the jazz world gets.

Does anyone actually know of a general history of jazz that deals with soul jazz, R&B approximate saxophone or jazz organ in anything like reasonable depth?

In my experience, the treatment of the genre in general histories of the sort Morgenstern is referring to (as opposed to specialist works on the subject like Porter's) is mostly confined to a summary reference to Jimmy Smith and Horace Silver before moving swiftly on to Giant Steps and Kind of Blue.  I can't think of any that give a halfway reasonable treatment, even to "stars" like Lou Donaldson, Brother Jack McDuff or Stanley Turrentine. 

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31 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

Does anyone actually know of a general history of jazz that deals with soul jazz, R&B approximate saxophone or jazz organ in anything like reasonable depth?

Nope.  I don't.

 

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I don't either.  It really bothers me how some jazz histories treat soul jazz in a very disparaging way.   When I got to that part in Alyn Shipton celebrated "New History of Jazz," I even had to put the book down. 

I am still waiting for the book that can treat the development of jazz, blues, R&B, and gospel in a truly integrated way.   That would naturally give justice to the music that doesn't fit neatly into just one of these categories.              

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Nor I.  To me, Gene Ammons is as important as Ornette, and I love Ornette, and Billy Higgins might be more important than either.  The fact that both Ray Charles' band and James brown's bands cut versions of the Sidewinder is hugely significant to me, and that river flowed both ways...so this may be the greatest failing of received opinion in jazz historiarguefully - the utter failure to deal with groove in a meaningful way.  I'd love to see something that treated all American vernacular music as one thing, one that interacted with more formal musics sometimes but was not dependent or inferior to them.

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Important to who, what, where and when? Way too many variables to make statements like that. There isn't one audience or one paradigm.

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William James made the argument that all people -- and all philosophies, histories, and outlooks of any kind -- tend towards either the "One" or the "Many."  Either unity or diversity. Either monism or pluralism. Either Plato (the ideal) or Aristotle (the particular). 

Isaiah Berlin articulated this same idea in his essay, "The Hedgehog and The Fox."  The hedgehog knows one thing, but the fox knows many things.

Bringing these ideas to the topic at hand:  I want to have a pluralistic understanding of jazz. I want the way I think about jazz to be foxy and slippery and elusive. Because I think jazz itself is all those things.

The idea of integrating all these different strains doesn't interest me. That's monistic. And I think the overly simplified histories that we're bemoaning have failed to give us an accurate portrayal of jazz because they were trying to tell THE story of jazz, rather than the STORIES of jazz or A story of jazz (among many others). 

When you're trying to tell ONE story, stuff is inevitably going to be excluded; anything that doesn't fit neatly is out!  But if you're telling MANY stories, things are much more complicated and convoluted and maybe even contradictory.  But there's also the possibility of a more accurate model or picture or framework.

That's how I like to think about these things.

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I can see that there is never going to be space for everything in a general history.

I'm not at all surprised that Ted Gioia, for example, doesn't deal with Evan Parker's music, or with the Blue Notes' time in London, or with the jazz scene in the Eastern Bloc countries in his History of Jazz. There wouldn't be space for such a treatment in a book that was meant to have widespread appeal. 

Then again, it isn't like jazz is overpacked with genres or specialist niches. Nor is it that these books only cover the basics - Gioia for example has a long chapter on recent big band recordings.

The lack of attention to soul jazz always seems to me to be the most blaring omission, because (i) it was commercially popular, (ii) it is solidly within the focus of exactly those generalised jazz history books: it had its high point during what those same histories would probably regard as jazz's golden age (i.e., 1945-69) and it is closely associated with hard bop and the Blue Note label, and (iii) unlike other commercially oriented takes on jazz (presenting Mr. G) it produced lots of great music, which people generally agree on.  

In my view, if you are going to go into some basic detail on Lennie Tristano's or Kenny Dorham's musics (as Gioia, to use the above example, does), there out also to be space for Eddie Lockjaw Davis' and Gene Ammons'.  

Edited by Rabshakeh

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I recently read the 1953 edition of Behrendt book on jazz (thanks to Big Beat Steve for the gift!)... He also discusses the future directions for jazz. Of course, there is a big focus on Tristano and Birt of the Cool (in fact, Tristano has his own chapter which would be replaced by a Miles chapter in later editions). But one alternative path with big possibilities which he highlights is "Jump Bop" as played by Earl Bostic, Gene Ammons and others... despite all his faults, Behrendt usually tried to be fairly balanced, even included Kenny G in the 80s edition iirc without putting him down... and he also has a few pages on soul jazz in the 1973 edition I have here, forgetting John Patton but at least mentioning (without further comment) Don Patterson, Lou Bennett, McGriff and others

I am also not sure whether it's always just oversight... if you want to guide people to the best albums ever, then Stanley Turrentine may be as important as Albert Ayler... but if you want to explain how jazz evolved over the 20th century and how the pieces of the puzzle fit together, I would argue that you need to say more about Ayler than about Turrentine

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Elephant in the room...

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7 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

In my view, if you are going to go into some basic detail on Lennie Tristano's or Kenny Dorham's musics (as Gioia, to use the above example, does), there out also to be space for Eddie Lockjaw Davis' and Gene Ammons'.  

I agree 100%.   

Somebody needs to write that chapter in the book!  Where's MG?!?!?  ;) 

 

 

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A very interesting thread. And one that echoes many feelings I have had over the years too.
Rabshakeh, from your initial post I take it that you are aware of "Soul Jazz - Jazz In The Black Community 1945-1975" by Bob Porter, published in 2016 (as far as I can see it's a print-on-demand book so doesn't this say something about the usual suspects among jazz book publishers and about how they care to approach THIS niche?).

Following a discussion of the book on this forum I snapped it up at the time and did not regret it. Though I must say that overall the book is a bit slim in the actual Soul Jazz part. The initial chapters (including the history of the musical developments that led to Soul Jazz) are very nice IMO (fine with me as Jump Blues is another strain of jazz that IMO is bypassed too much) but the coverage of the actual Soul Jazz artists somehow drifts into a string of names and brief bios along the lines of "and there also was ...". Musical analysis and stringing of the various aspects together seems to be on the short side, contrary, e.g., to the writings ot Ted Gioia and Robert Gordon on West Coast Jazz.
Still, a good book for lack of a better one ...

I also would welcome a book that gives more coverage to Soul Jazz as well as its R&B/Jump Blues ancestors within the framework of the OVERALL history of jazz, but as it has been hinted at earlier, jazz sub-styles such as Soul Jazz seem to have become suspect just BECAUSE they were popular (above all in the Black community), because this OTOH would highlight the corresponding lack of popular appeal of those styles of jazz from the same period that are given coverage in the "usual" kinds of jazz history books because they are considered THE overriding key steps of jazz development (raising jazz to a "higher" level?? making a "high-art lady" out of jazz? ;)) . There must be a lot of names that anyone covering the subject just HAS to mention, or else he be excommunicated by the scribe and publishing scene at large :D. And once those checked, there will be hardly any room left for those pluralistic jazz strains that did exist at various times but are usually given short shrift. Western Swing (as a valid and important part of the entire "Territories" scene of the 30s), Jump Blues/early post-war R&B (as the OTHER major path of development of jazz after 1945 - it wasn't all bebop or "Progressive" only), Soul Jazz (for evident reasons), to name just three.
But of course this would mean that those seriously attempting to cover aspects such as the above move quite a bit away from jazz (particularly post-1945 jazz) seen as a strict "art for art's sake" history only and look at how jazz-drenched music was in fact absorbed by the audiences that DID exist. ;)
But honestly, from over here the only one I can think of who would be up to the task of doing these aspects of the history of jazz justice is Allen Lowe.

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

Elephant in the room...

Not sure I understand your comment, Jim.

Are you saying that Soul Jazz is the elephant in the room that authors of jazz histories have conspicuously ignored?

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1 hour ago, Big Beat Steve said:

A very interesting thread. And one that echoes many feelings I have had over the years too.
Rabshakeh, from your initial post I take it that you are aware of "Soul Jazz - Jazz In The Black Community 1945-1975" by Bob Porter, published in 2016 (as far as I can see it's a print-on-demand book so doesn't this say something about the usual suspects among jazz book publishers about how they care to approch THIS niche?).

Following a discussion of the book on this forum I snapped it up at the time and did not regret it. Though I must say that overall the book is a bit slim in the actual Soul Jazz part. The initial chapters (including the history of the musical developments that led to Soul Jazz) are very nice IMO (fine with me as Jump Blues is another strain of jazz that IMO is bypassed too much) but the coverage of the actual Soul Jazz artists somehow drifts into a string of names and brief bios along the lines of "and there also was ...". Musical analysis and stringing of the various aspects together seems to be on the short side, contrary, e.g., to the writings ot Ted Gioia and Robert Gordon on West Coast Jazz.
Still, a good book for lack of a better one ...

I also would welcome a book that gives more coverage to Soul Jazz as well as its R&B/Jump Blues ancestors within the framework of the OVERALL history of jazz, but as it has been hinted at earlier, jazz sub-styles such as Soul Jazz seem to have become suspect just BECAUSE they were popular (above all in the Black community), because this OTOH would highlight the corresponding lack of popular appeal of those styles of jazz from the same period that are given coverage in the "usual" kinds of jazz history books because they are considered THE overriding key steps of jazz development (raising jazz to a "higher" level?? making a "high-art lady" out of jazz? ;)) . There must be a lot of names that anyone covering the subject just HAS to mention, or else he be excommunicated by the scribe and publishing scene at large :D. And once those checked, there will be hardly any room left for those pluralistic jazz strains that did exist at various times but are usually given short shrift. Western Swing (as a valid and important part of the entire "Territories" scene of the 30s), Jump Blues/early post-war R&B (as the OTHER major path of development of jazz after 1945 - it wasn't all bebop or "Progressive" only), Soul Jazz (for evident reasons), to name just three.
But of course this would mean that those seriously attempting at covering aspects such as the above move quite a bit away from jazz (particularly post-1945 jazz) seen as a strict "art for art's sake" history only and look at how jazz-drenched music was in fact absorbed by the audiences that DID exist. ;)
But honestly, from over here the only one I can think of who would be up to the task of doing these aspects of the history of jazz justice is Allen Lowe.

Poor old jump blues seems to have been written out of the narrative everywhere you turn.Too glossy and jazzy to be blues; too poppy to be supposedly high art jazz. The result is that people aren't aware that blues was urbane and jazzy, and jazz was populist long past the bebop line. These genres were pluralist, as you say. There was no one highway taking everyone in a single direction. 

On the question of popularity as having an inverse relationship with whether the jazz legates (or whoever is invested with the power to excommunicate under jazz canon law) allow you to be mentioned, I do wonder. The Gioias and Giddenses of the world are quite proud of the popularity of Swing era jazz, and seem to have come to an acceptance of the popularity of jazz rock / fusion. Perhaps it is a question of the particular audience with which the particular style is popular - as I think you suggest.

Edited by Rabshakeh

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9 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

Poor old jump blues seems to have been written out of the narrative everywhere you turn.Too glossy and jazzy to be blues; too poppy to be supposedly high art jazz. The result is that people aren't aware that blues was urbane and jazzy, and jazz was populist long past the bebop line. These genres were pluralist, as you say. There was no one highway taking everyone in a single direction. 

On the question of popularity as having an inverse relationship with whether the jazz legates (or whoever is invested with the power to excommunicate under jazz canon law) allow you to be mentioned, I do wonder. The Gioias and Giddenses of the world are quite proud of the popularity of Swing era jazz, and seem to have come to an acceptance of the popularity of jazz rock / fusion. Perhaps it is a question of the particular audience with which the particular style is popular - as I think you suggest.

Rabshakeh, I know you're looking for something lengthy that's folded into a broader history of jazz in general, rather than a specialist book like Bob Porter's.  But re jump blues, this touches on it to some degree--I read it many years ago when I was on a big jump-blues kick: Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues

Could be remembering incorrectly, but I think jump blues also factors into the narrative of the Los Angeles oral history Central Avenue Sounds (and is represented on the corresponding box-set as well).

Edited by ghost of miles

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13 minutes ago, ghost of miles said:

Rabshakeh, I know you're looking for something lengthy that's folded into a broader history of jazz in general, rather than a specialist book like Bob Porter's.  But re jump blues, this touches on it to some degree--I read it many years ago when I was on a big jump-blues kick: Honkers and Shouters: The Golden Years of Rhythm and Blues

Thanks. I'd actually been sizing that one up, at least partly because of the excellent title. I'll take the plunge.

Edited by Rabshakeh

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1 hour ago, HutchFan said:

Not sure I understand your comment, Jim.

Are you saying that Soul Jazz is the elephant in the room that authors of jazz histories have conspicuously ignored?

I assumed the elephant Jim was referring to was race. Most writers of jazz history and criticism have been (and remain) white; soul-jazz was (and remains) a cultural expression of the black community. 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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8 minutes ago, Mark Stryker said:

I assumed the elephant Jim was referring to was race. Most writers of jazz history and criticism have been (and remain) white; soul-jazz was (and remains) a cultural expression of the black community. 

Oh, I see.  ... Yeah, that tracks, for sure.

 

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2 hours ago, HutchFan said:

Not sure I understand your comment, Jim.

Are you saying that Soul Jazz is the elephant in the room that authors of jazz histories have conspicuously ignored?

No. I am saying this - look at who the audience for "soul jazz" was, and then look at who is writing the "jazz histories, then and now.

The elephant in the room is that the music in question was created by and for a demographic, and with with a motivation that "historians" can at best only objectively (re)construct.

To use the most usually cited example - who was Gene Ammons playing for, and how did that line up with any of the critical/historian's views of what "jazz" was "about"? Art, revolution? Sophistication? No, Gene Ammons was just playing everyday life as he and his audience - they - lived it. Not something most critics look for in jazz, although they love it in country (if the care for country).

It's one more example of cultural blindness. A lot of assumptions and projections. Lots of agendas and plays for ownership, especially once there's the past involved, yeah, now EVERYBODY loves "soul jazz", now let's start making that money.

 

1 hour ago, Mark Stryker said:

I assumed the elephant Jim was referring to was race. Most writers of jazz history and criticism have been (and remain) white; soul-jazz was (and remains) a cultural expression of the black community. 

bingo

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And yet a handful of the writers were not white.   Albert Murray, for example, always preached the superiority of "sophistication (especially Duke Ellington)" in the blues over more "primitive" approaches.

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9 minutes ago, John L said:

And yet a handful of the writers were not white.   Albert Murray, for example, always preached the superiority of "sophistication (especially Duke Ellington)" in the blues over more "primitive" approaches.

I think that might be a bit of misread. Murray was less concerned with the primacy of sophistication per se  than with the idea that the blues encompassed a far wider range of expression and cultural meaning than commonly understood, including including elegance, joy, sophistication, as well as the gutbucket -- as opposed to the music only expressing emotions of sadness and degradation.

I can't find any mention of, say, Gene Ammons or JImmy Smith, in the Murray books I have close at hand -- he didn't write ear-on-the-ground criticism when it came to modern players. But given his insistence of viewing the music through an African American cultural lens and his admiration he expressed through blues-oriented social music by folks like Basie and Illinois Jacquet, who were precursors in a way to soul-jazz, I'm confident that he "got" this music way more than white critics. 

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I'm not...

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I think there's also something at work that's running in parallel to the prism of race that we're discussing.

It seems to me that for a long time writers AND musicians would look down their noses at jazz musicians that they deemed to be "commercial"  -- because certain elements of the jazz community wanted jazz to be positioned as ART music. It was a question of credibility and funding and power.  Their goal were to make jazz "as important as Classical music," which was traditionally perceived by the Western world as being the "real" art music.

On some level, that goal has now been accomplished.  But now, we find ourselves looking around and saying, "Sheesh, a lot of great music got left behind!"

And we're saying this because jazz is both folk music and art music.  It's commercial music and it's non-commercial music.  It's dance music, and it's listening music.  Jazz, at its core, embraces all of those contradictions EASILY -- but those contradictory aspects had to be smoothed out to make it's way into the academy and into the concert halls.  To make it fit with traditional conceptions of what constitutes "art."

Ironically, now that jazz is seemingly firmly "in," this idea that art is something separate and higher than "ordinary" culture is breaking down.

 

 

Edited by HutchFan

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Let me put it this way - if your Gene Ammons car doesn't take a nice healthy drive through this neighborhood, then why the hell are you driving that car to begin with, just play the video game instead.

 

4 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

I think there's also something at work that's running in parallel to the prism of race that we're discussing.

It seems to me that for a long time writers AND musicians would look down their noses at jazz musicians that they deemed to be "commercial"  -- because certain elements of the jazz community wanted jazz to be positioned as ART music. It was a question credibility and funding and power.  Their goal were to make jazz "as important as Classical music," which was traditionally perceived by the Western world as being the "real" art music.

On some level, that goal has now been accomplished.  But now, we find ourselves looking around and saying, "Sheesh, a lot of great music got left behind!"

And we're saying this because jazz is both folk music and art music.  It's commercial music and it's non-commercial music.  It's dance music, and it's listening music.  Jazz, at its core, embraces all of those contradictions EASILY -- but those contradictory aspects had to be smoothed out to make it's way into the academy and into the concert halls.  To make it fit with traditional conceptions of what constitutes "art."

Ironically, now that jazz is seemingly firmly "in," this idea that art is something separate and higher than "ordinary" culture is breaking down.

 

 

fuck jazz.

let my children hear music. more importantly, let my children MAKE music, and let them make music that is straight from who they are, what they know, what they are leaning to know, who they are, who they are becoming, and who they will refuse to become. Let them make the music that is how they, all of them, know to be life.

long live soul.

 

14 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

Ironically, now that jazz is seemingly firmly "in," this idea that art is something separate and higher than "ordinary" culture is breaking down.

I'll believe that when we see the Billy Eckstine MGM/Emarcy Mosaic - and then when it is embraced by the "jazz" audience.

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FWIW, in John Gennari's "Blowin' Hot and Cool," a history of jazz criticism, there are some interesting discussions of the reactions of critics black and white to various iterations of soul-jazz. 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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51 minutes ago, JSngry said:

I'll believe that when we see the Billy Eckstine MGM/Emarcy Mosaic - and then when it is embraced by the "jazz" audience.

I meant "in" with regards to the concert halls and the academy.  Years ago, you couldn't study jazz in a university.  Now you can just about anywhere. You couldn't hear jazz at Lincoln Center.  Now you can.

The upshot: In people's minds, jazz is high-falutin', cerebral, arty stuff.  It's "America's classical music."

And, of course, jazz LOSES something when people think about it that way exclusively.

 

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