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Don

Jazz in the 90s

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I went to a record store yesterday to buy a gift for my mother-in-law and on a whim grabbed a late Jackie McLean album, Rhythm of the Earth (1992)McLean's albums from the 50s and 60s, especially those with Grachan Moncur III, are as good as it gets for me, so it was interesting to hear what he was doing at the end of his career. It's a good record!

But I realized while listening to it that I know nothing about jazz in the 90s. What am I missing? What has held up?

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OMG, there's a big question!  All kinds of things happened, good bad & indifferent.  Whether it all adds up to some definable 'jazz in the 1990s' thing, I don't know.  I can certainly name a few albums that I love from then, and I'm sure some will, but one of the biggest things was reissues on CD that solidified a particular narrative about the jazz past, for better or worse.

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I always saw the first half of the 90s as one of the weaker periods of mainstream jazz, and music as a whole, but there's lots of good stuff. 

Personal favourites from the decade that aren't far off McLean are Banned in New York by Greg Osby (Blue Note, 1998) and Ancient Ritual by Sonny Simmons (Qwest, 1994).

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I'm happily stuck listening to Blue Note releases from the 50s and 60s, but I thought it'd be nice to try a more recent decade. Record recommendations welcome!

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Randy Weston made some of his best albums for French Gitanes, almost all highly recommended (=not the blue cd w the african drummers)… that label had quite a run in the 90s, both with historical reissues (Jazz in Paris) and new productions (Weston plus e.g. Teddy Edwards, Christian Escoude, Helen Merrill...)

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Very important in the 90s was the revival of a hard bop style which I think of as neo-bop. Leading exponents like Eric Alexander and Jim Rotondi were young, but they retained links with hard bop from the 60s through working with older musicians such as  Harold Mabern and Mel Rhyne.

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Ralph Peterson Jnr’s Blue Note releases are worth picking up, as are the Don Pullens and the ones by the Tony Williams Quintet (although late 80s I think). I have a soft spot for the early Don Byrons too.

I saw that McLean ‘Rhythm of the Earth’ band in performance - and they played much of the material from that CD. An excellent evening, well received by the Canadian audience.

Edited by sidewinder

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The late Thomas Chapin would be my favorite jazz artist discovered in the 1990s.

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We need a blog!

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56 minutes ago, Don said:

I'm happily stuck listening to Blue Note releases from the 50s and 60s, but I thought it'd be nice to try a more recent decade. Record recommendations welcome!

 

29 minutes ago, BillF said:

Very important in the 90s was the revival of a hard bop style which I think of as neo-bop. Leading exponents like Eric Alexander and Jim Rotondi were young, but they retained links with hard bop from the 60s through working with older musicians such as  Harold Mabern and Mel Rhyne.

Yes, this is an important question for Don ... have you sampled any of the neo-boppers? Does the idea of creativity within an older language/style appeal or are you the kind who wants the originals, as defined by those BN releases of the 50s and 60s? Relatedly, where do you stand on the Wynton Wars?  

There are a lot of names to add to Bill's list - Brian Lynch and Ralph Moore would be two off the top of my head.

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GARY THOMAS

Not everything, but the better/best half of his output is just divine (which includes a bit from the late 80’s).

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For quality "inside" jazz that was not at all "retro", Verve and the labels it licensed had an incredibly strong and diverse run during the decade.

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On the neo bop side, was this a continuation of the young lions thing or something new stylistically (perhaps "new" is wrong)?

I'd be interested in hearing about specific albums for these artists.

Edited by Rabshakeh

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Searching by label could help. Some really good releases were on Black Saint, Soul Note, AUM & ECM, at least in my limited exposure to 90s jazz. In particular albums from Muhal Richard Abrams, Julius Hemphill, Tim Berne, Matthew Shipp, Bill Frisell and Kenny Wheeler come to mind. 

Regarding Jackie McLean, I love some of his later output. Rites of Passage is a good one. 

But the best one that comes to mind is Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages from '91. A classic in every sense, with some nice vinyl reissues coming within the past year. 

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55 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

 

Yes, this is an important question for Don ... have you sampled any of the neo-boppers? Does the idea of creativity within an older language/style appeal or are you the kind who wants the originals, as defined by those BN releases of the 50s and 60s? Relatedly, where do you stand on the Wynton Wars?  

There are a lot of names to add to Bill's list - Brian Lynch and Ralph Moore would be two off the top of my head.

I can't overstate how ignorant I am of jazz between say 1980 and 2005. Just trying to get an idea of what records stand out to listeners in the 90s so I can listen around and see what sounds good to me. Bebop and hard bop are elastic and open enough as styles to allow for at least a century or two of genuine experimentation and creativity...

I have no position on the Wynton Wars because I just don't know his music very well. I remember that record he did with Jennifer Sanon being pretty good, but I haven't listened to it in a decade.

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4 minutes ago, Don said:

I can't overstate how ignorant I am of jazz between say 1980 and 2005. Just trying to get an idea of what records stand out to listeners in the 90s so I can listen around and see what sounds good to me. Bebop and hard bop are elastic and open enough as styles to allow for at least a century or two of genuine experimentation and creativity...

I have no position on the Wynton Wars because I just don't know his music very well. I remember that record he did with Jennifer Sanon being pretty good, but I haven't listened to it in a decade.

Check out some Archie Shepp stuff from the 80s & 90s. Art Farmer was still recording then too, and Blame It On My Youth is a good one. Also check out Sam Rivers' Lazuli which is more inside stuff, but I'd also recommend anything he was doing during this time. 

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I find the 1990's to be simply one of the great decades in jazz.  There were so many great musicians at their peaks and putting out one fine record after another.  Randy Weston is an all-time favorite, and he OWNED that decade.  McCoy Tyner started the decade on fire!  This also where Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano really got going; these are the two musicians I follow most closely to the present day.   

These are some favorites (the list could be much longer):

 1.      Open Land--John Abercrombie

2.      Every One of Us--Ray Anderson

3.      Hipmotism—Arthur Blythe

4.      Change—Chick Corea and Origin

5.      Miles and Quincy at Montreux

6.      Gone, Just Like a Train—Frisell

7.      Have a Little Faith--Frisell

8.      Pursuance—Kenny Garrett

9.      Dream Keeper—Haden/Liberation Music

10.  Steal Away—Charlie Haden and Hank Jones

11.  Haunted Heart--Charlie Haden

12.  Beyond the Missouri Sky--Haden/Metheny

13.  Jim Hall & Pat Metheny

14.  So Near, So Far--Joe Henderson

15.  In the Spirit--Jay Hoggard

16.  Vivian--J.J. Johnson

17.  From the Soul--Lovano

18.  Rush Hour—Lovano

19.  After the Rain—John McLaughlin

20.  Imaginary Day--Pat Metheny

21.  Rhythm Within--Steve Turre

22.  Lotus Flower--Steve Turre

23.  The Turning Point--Tyner

24.  Street Suite--Tynerth44

25.  The Spirits of Our Ancestors--Randy Weston

26.  Saga--Weston

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26 minutes ago, Dub Modal said:

Searching by label could help.

One label that might be right up Don's alley is Sharp Nine 

https://www.discogs.com/label/197639-Sharp-Nine-Records

Don, their motto was "Straight ahead and in the pocket" and I was never disappointed by any of their releases.

You have an enormous amount of exploring to do and it could get very expensive.

22 minutes ago, Don said:

I have no position on the Wynton Wars because I just don't know his music very well. 

I don't reference his music but rather Wynton's oft-stated opinion that "true jazz" swings and has a blues feel.  So I was wondering if your tastes ran a lot wider than that to encompass electronics or free or avant guard styles.

Edited by Dan Gould

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Greg Osby put out a lot of material, mostly on BN.  In addition to Banned in New York, it may be worth checking out The Invisible Hand with Jim Hall and Andrew Hill!  (This was released in 2000 though it was recorded in 1999.)

It does look like a lot of the newer artists/groups l follow mostly were starting in the early 2000s.

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The irony of Wynton claiming that ""true jazz" swings and has a blues feel" and then proceeding for several eons to provide neither in his own music should not be overlooked! :g

 

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3 hours ago, Don said:

I'm happily stuck listening to Blue Note releases from the 50s and 60s, but I thought it'd be nice to try a more recent decade. Record recommendations welcome!

Which of these BN albums would you say are your favorites?

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34 minutes ago, JSngry said:

The irony of Wynton claiming that ""true jazz" swings and has a blues feel" and then proceeding for several eons to provide neither in his own music should not be overlooked! :g

 

Well I would just disagree a bit and point to the Soul Gestures in Southern Blue (?) volumes. 

(Funny story of how I got those, I was visiting my old college town of Tallahassee and it may be the only time I bought jazz at a mall store but it was release day for these three and I snagged the three volumes at one time - had no prior knowledge, being pre-internet, and at that time "swing" and "blues" as signifiers had a lot of pull with me, so I was all in.  The clerk goes "some guy reserved all three of those, he's a music major at FAMU, but since we put it on the rack, I guess I have to sell them to you." I said nothing and just took my CDs, wondering how they would deal with that poor guy who missed out.)

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I own a fair bit from the decade, considered myself to be actively following, worked in two of the world's great record stores, but still don't have the sense of what happened that I do for the '60s.  For instance  the M-Base thing was happening but I only nibbled around the edges.  So here are some '90s jazz albums notable to me:

1) Ask the Ages - Sonny Sharrock with P. Sanders, Elvin Jones, Charnet Moffet.  All the beauty, all the ugliness, all the joy, all the hurt, all the stuff of life, as much as you can get it on an album.  Produced by Bill Laswell.  As good as anything from anytime, anywhere, IMHO, YMMV.

2) Have a Little Faith - Bill Frisell with Don Byron, et al.   Doing Copeland, Sousa, Ives, Madonna, Rollins, Muddy Waters, Hiatt.  Is it jazz?  Yes!

3) Roots Revisited - Maceo Parker with Fred & Pee Wee from the JBs, Don Pullen on organ, Rodney Jones, Bill Stewart.  First album of his comeback, the most obviously jazz-ish.

4) Blue Light Til Dawn - Casandra Wilson, most significant jazz vocal record of the decade?

5) Sound Museum - Ornette with Geri Allen who totally deserved the honor of being the first piano player he'd worked with in decades.

6) Hand Jive - Scofield with Eddie Harris, Bill Stewart.  Groovy intelligent jazz.

7) Sound of Summer Running - Marc Johnson with Frisell, Metheny, Joey Baron.  Lots of Collaborations in the 90s.

8) When Elephants Dream of Music - Bob Moses with lots of people having a collective hallucination.

9) Extension - Dave Holland with Steve Coleman, Kevin Eubanks, Smitty Smith.  Holland became more famous and less interesting as the decade went along.

10) Sonny Rollins +3  Sonny Got generally better after his low point in the '70s.  By this one he was back to great.

11) The Rent - Steve Lacy, live here in Portland, I saw this and knew the label owner.

12) Wish - Joshua Redman with Metheny, Haden, Higgins. A star is born?

13) Don Byron - Bug Music.  This along with archival things like Hal Wilner's The Carl Stalling Project and Raymond Scott reissues marked Taking Cartoon Music Seriously.

Joe Lovano and David Murray made tons of records and I often wonder why I bought so many.

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57 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

I don't reference his music but rather Wynton's oft-stated opinion that "true jazz" swings and has a blues feel.  So I was wondering if your tastes ran a lot wider than that to encompass electronics or free or avant guard styles.

Right. I'm partial to the Wynton/Stanley Crouch argument, but some of the free and avant grade stuff can be cool (especially Andrew Hill... or Anthony Braxton, at least when Braxton plays the compositions of others). When I had a radio show I used to play Ornette Coleman a lot.

The times I saw Peter Brötzmann live count among my most treasured musical experiences. My wife doesn't care for jazz, but even she was riveted as we sat just a few feet away from him and Hamid Drake. But I never find myself reaching for my Brötzmann or Coleman records. I'm not sure that kind of thing really works on record.

Thank you all for the suggestions.

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