The Washington Post Says Jazz is Dead — Again? Really? Seriously?

If jazz is dead, then why are the would-be hipsters trying so hard to kill it?

Last week, the New Yorker ran an unfunny and rather mean-spirited “satire” of Sonny Rollins, titled “In His Own Words.” Rather than offering a genuine interview with the 84-year-old jazz legend, the publication wasted space on a humor piece that didn’t even touch on several of the key episodes in the saxophonist’s career.

dunce cap

And now, another major publication, the Washington Post, hammers on jazz with a piece that reads like satire but, sadly, is not.

“Jazz has run out of ideas, and yet it’s still getting applause,” someone named Justin Moyer writes, in a column titled “All that jazz isn’t all that great.”

Right up front, Moyer admits that, while he studied with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Pheeroan akLaff and Jay Hoggard at Wesleyan, he found jazz “hard to grasp.” In his humble opinion, he has decided that jazz is “insubstantia.” and “hard to grasp.”

So, really, Washington Post, you assign someone who admittedly is clueless about jazz … to write about jazz? Smart thinking.

And why doesn’t poor Justin like jazz? Well, gosh, jazz is instrumental music, so it doesn’t have lyrics. Imagine the guy trying to come to terms with classical music. If only those loser composers had written lyrics …

And also, Johnny Hates Jazz, I mean, Moyer doesn’t like jazz because improvisation is involved — undoubtedly an art that’s far inferior to, you know, playing a tune exactly the way it was played on hit radio. Moyer has decided — all by himself — that the great and influential jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery was “serviceable, forgettable.” How astonishingly ignorant can one writer be? Also: Eric Dolphy played “an atonal bass-clarinet solo” on the Charles Mingus Sextet’s version of “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

Moyer has also concluded that “jazz stopped evolving,” “jazz is mushy” (commercial) and “jazz let itself be co-opted.” In other words, Moyer hasn’t bothered to listen to any jazz since his college days, when he made a noble but failed attempt to understand the music. File under: a perfectly good jazz education wasted on youth.

“Jazz is plastic,” Moyer writes. “It’s a genre loosely defined by little more than improvisation, sunglasses and berets.”

Berets? does Moyer imagine that he’s still living in the Beat era? Somebody give the guy some bongos, and call it a day.

Here in 2014, during a time when more forward-thinking jazz is being played, recorded and distributed (online) than ever before, a click-baiting column like Moyer’s is loosely defined by little more than smoke and mirrors.

Next time, maybe the Post will assign a jazz column to a writer with jazz knowledge and experience, rather than a know-nothing simply looking to provoke a reaction. Unless, of course, the paper doesn’t care if and when its credibility is damaged.

 

SPC Jazz Fest: John Lindberg, Powell Brothers, Guisando Caliente, Helios Jazz Orchestra

Free-minded bassist John Lindberg, and a quintet co-led by saxophonist Jeremy Powell and trumpeter Jonathan Powell will play the second annual St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival, kicking off Thursday night (Feb. 4).

I interviewed fest direct David Manson for a story to be published in tomorrow’s edition of the St. Petersburg Times. Click here to read the story online, or see below for an extended version of the piece.

————————-

David Manson (left) had a straightforward goal in mind when he put together the bill for the second annual St. Petersburg College Jazz Festival. The three-day event opens Thursday night at the 320-seat SPC Music Center on the school’s St. Petersburg/Gibbs campus.

“We wanted to do a true jazz festival in St. Petersburg,” said Manson, a trombonist, composer, and head of jazz studies at SPC. “And we wanted variety — an evening of big band, an evening of Latin jazz, and a third night that’s kind of on the edge.”

Thursday night’s “Big Band Big Bang!”  program has SPC’s resident ensemble, the Manson-directed Helios Jazz Orchestra, joined by two singers – Sasha Tuck (right), who teaches in the college’s Music Industry Recording Arts (MIRA) program, and Dale Williams, who made his name singing in Detroit groups.

Friday night’s “Hot Latin Jazz!” show features Guisando Caliente (left), an all-star group of Florida players with acclaimed pianist Kenny Drew, Jr., percussionist Frankie Pineiro, saxophonist Jeff Rupert, drummer John Jenkins, and bassist Mauricio Rodriguez.

Edgy fare will close out the festival on Saturday, with a double-bill concert featuring the Powell Brothers Quintet, with saxophonist Jeremy (left) and trumpeter Jonathan (right)  joined by guitarist LaRue Nickelson, bassist Alejandro Arenas, and drummer Ian Goodman, and an opening set by renowned bassist John Lindberg (below, left)

Lindberg, in town for a two-week residency at SPC, co-founded the String Trio of New York, and has played with such free-jazz luminaries as saxophonist Anthony Braxton and trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff. He has been heard on more than 90 recordings, and in 2009 released his “Year 50 Album” and, with his Blob group, a CD titled “You Can’t Get There From Here.”

Last weekend at the Dali Museum, the bassist gave an unamplified, mostly unaccompanied performance during which he demonstrated his ability to improvise on bassist Jimmy Garrison‘s “Ascendant” and play expansively on several of his own compositions, all abetted by his creative, percussive use of his bow. On a new tune, “Floating Figures, Shifting Slips,” he was joined by Manson, and SPC faculty member David Irwin, on clarinet and bass clarinet.

The Powells both have roots in the Tampa Bay area, and both have experience playing and recording in New York City. Jeremy still lives here, and plays with Infinite Groove Orchestra, Swamp Logic and other groups. Last month he released two CDs – Amizade, with guitarist Nickelson, and his own Fluorinescence. Jonathan has worked with saxophonist Sam Rivers, bassist Reggie Workman, and hip-hoppers Q-Tip and Snoop Dogg. Recently the recipient of the “Latin Jazz Corner” website’s award for the best Latin jazz trumpeter of 2009, Jonathan will soon release an album titled Transcend.

The group will play all original compositions, plus an arrangement of “Here’s to Life” with guest singer Whitney James.

“I’ve been wanting to put Jonathan and Jeremy together on a show,” Manson said. “Unlike a lot of young players, they’re not really emulating or copying someone — they have their own style.”

Festival site: http://www.spcollege.edu/spg/music/jazzfest2010.htm

Best Jazz CDs of 2008? Down Beat Looks Back

Down Beat’s official critics poll, which isn’t hinged to the calendar year, won’t arrive until August.

But the January issue of the magazine (to which I’m a longtime contributor) offers a list of the jazz CDs that notched the best reviews – highest star ratings – in 2008.

The five-star releases, although all deserving of high praise, may or may not deserve to be called “New Masterpieces”; a decade from now, will these recordings still resonate? Still, I was particularly impressed by the Caine, Haden, and McLaughlin discs. Here’s the list:

  • Gunther Schuller, Journey Into Jazz (BMOP Sound)
  • Uri Caine Ensemble, The Othello Syndrome (Winter & Winter)Uri Caine - The Othello Syndrome
  • Otis Taylor, Recapturing the Banjo (Telarc)
  • John McLaughlin, Floating Point (Abstract Logix)
  • Charlie Haden Family and Friends, Rambling Boy (Decca)

A step down are the 4.5-star releases, including several of my ’08 favorites – Clark, Corea/Burton, Herwig, and Frisell.

Here’s that list:

  • Anthony Braxton, Trio (Victoriaville)
  • Mike Clark, Blueprints of Jazz Volume 1 (Talking House)
  • Chick Corea and Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence (Concord)
  • Marilyn Crispell, Vignettes (ECM)
  • Prieto Dafnis Sextet, Taking the Soul for a Walk (Dafnison Music)
  • Die Enttauschung, Die Enttauschung (Intakt)
  • Bill Frisell, History, Mystery (Nonesuch)
  • Mike Garson, Conversations With My Family (Resonance)
  • Jon Gordon, Within Words (ArtistShare)
  • Conrad Herwig, The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter (Half Note)Chick Corea & Gary Burton, The New Crystal Silence
  • Grace Kelly and Lee Konitz, GRACEfulLee (Pazz)
  • Moss, Moss (Sunnyside)
  • Rosa Passos, Romance (Telarc)
  • Mario Pavone, Trio Arc (Playscape)
  • Herb Robertson and the NY Downtown Allstars, Real Aberration (Clean Feed)
  • Wadada Leo Smith and the Golden Quartet, Tabligh (Cueniform)
  • Gebhard Ullmann, New Basement Research (Soul Note)
  • Norma Winstone, Distances (ECM)

It’s interesting to note that the music deemed among the best jazz of the year is spread out on nearly as many labels as there are releases. The exceptions – two are on ECM, and two are on Telarc.

The next level down, the four-star CDs, features 124 releases, including several, below, that struck me as particularly outstanding (and in some cases, deserving of higher star ratings):

  • Brian Blade, Season of Changes (Verve)
  • The Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans (TimeLife)
  • Anat Cohen, Notes From the Village (Anzic)
  • John Ellis and Double-Wide, Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)
  • Drew Gress, The Irrational Numbers (Premonition)
  • Lionel Loueke, Karibu (Blue Note)
  • Pat Metheny, Day Trip (Nonesuch)Pat Metheny, Day Trip
  • Radiohead, In Rainbows (ATO) – not jazz, I know, but how could this CD NOT be on anyone’s best-of list?
  • Josh Roseman, New Constellations (Accurate)
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel Group, The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard (ArtistShare)
  • Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza (Heads Up)
  • Susan Tedeschi, Back to the River (Verve Forecast)

Yes, I’ll be getting around to submitting my Top 10 CD list(s) to one or more publications. But not quite yet.