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HutchFan

More Favorites: Reflections on Jazz in the 1980s

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Posted (edited)

Beginning in January, I'm kicking off another year-long jazz blog project.  This time, I'm partnering with a friend of mine, Dan Robey, and we'll be exploring jazz recordings from the 1980s.  Since this is a duo project, I won't have to do all the heavy lifting myself.  For my 1970s jazz project, I selected 366 records, one for each day of the year.  That was a lot of work, and I couldn't keep up.  (It didn't help that the pandemic hit in early 2020, and my workload at the office went through the roof.)  As a consequence, many of the entries in my 1970s blog are "bare-bones" -- with little or no commentary.  

For our upcoming project, each of us have selected fewer recordings.  The plan is for each of us to post three recordings per week over the course of 50 weeks -- so by the end of the year we'll have a total 300 recordings in our survey (150 each).  I'm hoping that I'll be able to keep up this time. 

Dan and I are following the same "rules" that I devised for my 1970s blog project:

  • The music must have been recorded between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1989; the release date does not matter.
  • We've only selected albums, no compilations or box sets.
  • Each of us can select one recording per leader -- plus one more recording from the same artist as a co-leader. For example, I selected one recording by David Liebman (as a leader) and one recording by the band Liebman co-leads, Quest.  (Please note that Dan can also select Liebman recordings as a leader & co-leader.  Just because I selected them doesn't mean that he cannot.)  

A few more notes on the selection process: Dan and I compiled our lists separately.  We wanted to explore and select our recordings independently.  As a result, there are some albums that appear on both of our lists -- and, as you'd expect, many artists appear on both lists.   However, as we were finalizing our choices, we began to compare notes.  In a few cases, I deleted recordings when I saw that Dan would be covering them, freeing me up to add other recordings that I'd considered.  Dan did the same.  This allowed us to broaden the reach of our survey.

Also, please note the important word, Favorites, which again appears in the blog title.  Neither Dan nor I have approached this with any intention of selecting the "best" records or "most important" records or even the "most influential" records.  Historical or musicological objectivity is not our goal.  We'll leave it to others to write the history books.  Our choices reflect the particularities of our tastes and predilections.  Plus, you've got to factor in the fact each of us has selected 150 recordings from the decade -- unlike the 366 I chose last time -- so, if only from a numbers point of view, this project will have an even more personal slant than the other one.

Finally, I hope this project will prompt some good discussion here on the forum!  

I'll post more details as Dan and I approach the launch date.  :)

 

Edited by HutchFan

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This is exciting!  I'm looking forward to it.

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I revisited your 1970s blog recently to see what I'd missed. I am very much looking forward to this one.

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Yes, very much looking forward to this too!!  I'll bet the 80's are just as unfairly maligned as the 70's -- or at least the first half of the 80's at least (which, after all, are more similar at least to the late 70's, an extension really).  But then as one gets into 1985, and 86, 87 especially and after -- I think that's starting to feel like quite a different time.

I feel the same way about pop music too (specifically about the 80s').  Not at all suggesting "I'm right" in that perception, but it is a rather strong feeling I've had for the last 10 or 20 years.

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Good news indeed ....

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2 hours ago, Rooster_Ties said:

I feel the same way about pop music too (specifically about the 80s').

In pop and rock 1985 was a turning point, the second half of the decade being VERY different from the first.

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Posted (edited)

On 10/6/2021 at 11:58 AM, Rooster_Ties said:

Yes, very much looking forward to this too!!  I'll bet the 80's are just as unfairly maligned as the 70's -- or at least the first half of the 80's at least (which, after all, are more similar at least to the late 70's, an extension really).  But then as one gets into 1985, and 86, 87 especially and after -- I think that's starting to feel like quite a different time.

Rooster,

Along the lines of what you describe above, I sorta expected to find the most interesting stuff in the early-80s.  But the exact opposite occurred.  The two years that have the most representation in my survey are 1988 and 1989.  A full 33% of my selections are from those two years. (!)  Of course, these numbers are skewed by the "rules" I describe above (and the fully subjective approach we're taking).  I'm limited to choosing one (or possibly two) of each artist's records.  I'm not sure how my numbers would look if I selected every recording I like by my favorite artists throughout the 80s -- instead of just one or two.  I think it might be more consistent across the decade.  Not sure though.

As far as changes in the middle of the 80s...  That's tough.  Nothing jumped out at me like that.  Again, this might just be a reflection of what I'm listening to.  But, if I were to generalize, I think a bigger change happened in the latter half of the 70s, when it seems like many artists began a new rapprochement with the tradition.  Of course, the traditionalists never stopped... but I think both middle-of-the-road guys and avant-gardists began to see more value in looking backwards -- and some were able to do it without being regressive.

Taking a macro view, I think the familiar narrative of a the "return to Tradition" in the 80s, Reagan, and Wynton and all that is true -- especially with regards to "Neo-Conservativism" in jazz and record sales (the reissue boom!) -- and the wider culture in general.  Obviously true, yes.  But, on another level, this "new dialogue with the past" thing was already well under way before 1980.  It started in the 70s.  On the conservative end of the spectrum, think about Dexter's return to the US and VSOP in the late-70s.  But it was happening in less conservative circles too.  Some examples: Anthony Davis' nascent classicism (which came to full flower in the 80s) or Beaver Harris' 360° Music Experience or even Old and New Dreams.  There are many other examples across the spectrum.  All this stuff was underway before Reagan and Wynton.  Naturally, some folks hoe their own row and ignore wider trends -- but, broadly speaking, I do think there was a general movement in this direction that contrasts with the first half of 70s.  Steve Lacy talks about it in his book of interviews, a kind of re-consolidation in the latter half of the 70s that was needed (inevitable?) after the freedoms of the late-60s and early-70s -- how the pendulum swings back-and-forth, correction after correction, always responding to what came before it. 

So, if I were to speak of any general trend in the 1980s, it would be along these lines:  Think of John Carter's brilliant "Roots and Folklore" series.  It looks backwards and forwards at the same time. 

Everything all at once.

 

Edited by HutchFan

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18 minutes ago, HutchFan said:

 All this stuff was underway before Reagan and Wynton. 

Doing something from native instinct is not the same as pursuing a sledgehammer agenda, especially once the hammer gets slung once and comes up with a deep-pocketed sponsor happy to pay for more swings/less swing, just swing that hammer John Henry, THIS time you will get paid in riches beyond your wildest dreams, NEW YORK REAL-ESTATE MONEY!!!!

Oh, ok, your music gets killed off and taken up by the same people who take over every dead thing, but hey, YOU WILL BE RICH so you can afford to live with that.

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Just now, JSngry said:

Doing something from native instinct is not the same as pursuing a sledgehammer agenda, especially once the hammer gets slung once and comes up with a deep-pocketed sponsor happy to pay for more swings/less swing, just swing that hammer John Henry, THIS time you will get paid in riches beyond your wildest dreams, NEW YORK REAL-ESTATE MONEY!!!!

Oh, ok, your music gets killed off and taken up by the same people who take over every dead thing, but hey, YOU WILL BE RICH so you can afford to live with that.

You'll get no disagreement from me on that, Jim. 

I think what you're describing -- the "let's cash in on this!" impulse -- made quite a bit of the music from the 1980s boring as hell.  ... Of course, there were plenty of dull-as-dishwater fusion records in the 70s too.  Cashing in is cashing in, regardless of the decade, no? 

To paraphrase Duke, I want to focus on the good stuff -- regardless of where it may fall on the musical spectrum -- and ignore "the other kind." 

Of course, Duke's seemingly-tidy-but-difficult-to-apply-in-the-real-world dichotomy means each of us has to listen and make our own determinations ... I think that's the tricky part.

 

 

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Just now, HutchFan said:

Cashing in is cashing in, regardless of the decade, no? 

Not when the fad becomes the ongoing business model.

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1 minute ago, JSngry said:

Not when the fad becomes the ongoing business model.

O.K.  I'm not interested in debating.

I'll stop now and stick to the albums. ... Besides, the particulars are always more interesting than the broad outlines.  

 

 

Incidentally, one of my 150 selections is a Wynton record.  Does that mean I'll be "voted off the island," banished for life, and ultimately damned to everlasting torment?  

If so, I suppose I need to prepare for it.  

 

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Thanks for the warning.:g

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Milestones said:

Is it Black Codes?

Could be! 

You'll have to read the blog -- or this thread, since I'll share my weekly posts here too -- throughout 2022 to find out.  ;) 

 

Edited by HutchFan

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Really a great idea. I´m looking forward to it. 

Will there be also some Miles of the 80´s ?  I really liked it in the early 80´s with the first sextet that still played jazz-related stuff and was not so heavy on synthi sounds. 

Then was a lot of boring stuff (IMHO), and in 1989 at last again an album that sounded more like "jazz" (Amandla). 

Will there also be room for the Max Roach Double quartet (with strings) ? And Woody Shaw .....

And, at the  beginning of the 80´s I still "hoped" that Wynton will become a major new voice in jazz. 

But there was a lot of so called "young lions", some of them very good but much in the tradition, and some got record contracts and later you didn´t hear anymore from them. Wasn´t there a guy who played exactly like Jackie McLean and did an album with some fast company but later he disappeard (is Christopher Holiday his name ? ). 

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Miles in early 1990 was the best I heard him in that whole comeback period (the other times being 1982 and 1985).

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I do intermittently enjoy a bit of 80s Miles, but have never really understood why I should not just listen to Prince. 

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Looking forward to this new 1980's review.

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7 hours ago, Rabshakeh said:

I do intermittently enjoy a bit of 80s Miles, but have never really understood why I should not just listen to Prince. 

Because Miles doesn't play on Prince's records. 

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And Prince never used Kenny Garrett or Marcus Miller.

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2 minutes ago, JSngry said:

And Prince never used Kenny Garrett or Marcus Miller.

Cosign 

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23 minutes ago, Mark Stryker said:

Because Miles doesn't play on Prince's records. 

I think there are some things online of Miles with Prince. Not the best work of either. 

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Love Miles and hate Prince.

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Don't like Prince or Miles after the late 1960's.

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12 minutes ago, kh1958 said:

Love Miles and hate Prince.

Can I ask why?  Not judging.  Just wondering.

As a teen & young adult in the 80s, I never grooved to (most) popular music during that time -- but Prince always struck me as an interesting exception, a bright spot. 

Just my take.

 

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