One King, and notable seekers in the School of Monk

I was scavenging through the old web site (1996-2004) and came across a page of recommended recordings having to do with what I term The School of Monk. In turn, The School of Monk has to do with the Kingdom of Ellington.

Without getting into it at all, it is enough to tell you that my love for jazz piano is primarily oriented to the synthesis obtained by Ellington, Monk, and those pianists who followed in their giant foot steps.

What follows is a brief selection of recommended recordings by one King and by notable seekers in the School of Monk. In an updated addendum, I will feature the cream of Monk’s recordings and update the list of followers to reflect the 17 years that have flown by since this listing was first published.

I also will re-publish the Monk materials featured on the old web site.

The King: Duke Ellington’s Piano Gems

1. Duke Ellington 1940-41 [including the Ellington-Blanton duets] (RCA/BMG)
2. Money Jungle (Blue Note)
3. Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn Duos (OJC-Fantasy)
4. Duke Ellington Trios (Capitol)
5. This One’s For Blanton (Pablo-Fantasy)
6. Live at the Whitney (GRP)

The School of Monk:
Three exemplars from the Fifties and Sixties
1. Herbie Nichols – The Third World (op:Blue Note; fully reissued on CD in ’97)
2. Carl Perkins – Introducing… (reissue: Fresh Sounds)
3. Elmo Hope – Plays Elmo Hope (reissue: Fresh Sounds)

The Best Teachers of the Moment
1. Jaki Byard – To Them, To Us (Soul Note)
2. Don Pullen – The Fifth Sense (Black Saint)
3. Stan Tracey – Plays Duke Ellington (Mole Jazz)
4. Horace Tapscott – The Tapscott Sessions, Vol. 1-8 (Nimbus)
5. Jimmy Rowles – As Long As There’s Music (op:Xanadu)
6. Kenny Barron – Two As One (Red)
7. Andrew Hill – Shades (Soul Note)
8. Tommy Flanagan – Thelonica (Enja)
9. Walter Davis – In Walked Thelonious (Mapleshade)

Path Weavers and Dancers
1. Irene Schweizer – with Andrew Cyrille (Intakt)
2. Marilyn Crispell – with Irene Schweizer; Overlapping Hands (FMP)
3. Geri Allen – Twenty One (Blue Note)
4. Jessica Williams – And Then There’s This (Timeless)

At the Feet of the Master
Cecil Taylor
1. The Feel Trio (FMP)
2. Looking: Berlin version (FMP)
3. Garden (Hat Art)

Randy Weston
1. Portraits of Monk (Verve)
2. In the Cool Night of Marrakesh (Verve)
3. The Spirits of Our Ancestors (Verve)

Mal Waldron
1. Super Quartet with Steve Lacy at Sweet Basil (Evidence)
2. Moods (Enja)
3. Git-Go (Soul Note)

Abdullah Ibrahim
1.. African Dawn (Enja)
2. Fats, Duke and Monk (Sackville)
3. Autobiography (Plainesphere)

Jazz Alive & Tubed

Alaska Jazz Cruise 2008 via tradjazzvideos

Here are links to more curated jazz video sites.

Best Jazz Videos (Not crisply curated as far as tags go, but lots and lots of gems.)

All About Jazz Daily Videos (Eclectic and current and obscure equals a good selection from which to pick up on unfamiliar artistry.)

ClassicalTV (Sparse collection actually makes it easy to locate the documentary section  and a documentary Play Your Own Thing.)

The Jazz Video Cafe (Mosaic Records is serious about its video curation too!)

Jazz On the Tube (Over 600 musicians in their directory. The advertisements are distracting so best to go to youtube to view.)

2012 Jazz I Deep Dove With

Ten-Freedom-Summers-cover

Wadada Leo Smith – Ten Freedom Summers
Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo – Ancestors

Ravi Coltrane – Spirit Fiction
Sam Rivers – Reunion Live in New York 2007
Irene Schweizer – To Whom It May Concern – Piano Solo Tonhalle Zürich
William Parker – Centering Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987
Jason Robinson – Tiresian Symmetry
Marilyn Crispell – Play Braxton
Fred Ho & Quincy Saul – The Music Of Cal Massey
Aki Takase – New Blues
Andrew Lamb – Rhapsody in Black
Bill Evans – Live At Art D’Lugoff’s
The Group f. Billy Bang – Live 1987
Branford Marsalis – Four MFs Playin’ Tunes [Bonus Track]
Dave Douglas – Be Still
Han Bennink Trio – Bennink & Co.
Chris Vasi – Monk’s Playground
Jessica Williams – Songs of the Earth
Orrin Evans – Flip the Script
Eric Reed – The Baddest Monk
Eric Revis – Parallax
The Cookers – Believe

Improv is where I felt the pinch of the dilation of my leisure time last year. Yet, I have to face the cold fact brought to the surface by boxing up the giant collection of jazz vinyl that listening, especially deep listening, is becoming a particularly zen-like encounter with sound spun in the precise moment. In other words, the/my fool’s game is in relief: I won’t be listening to many of the, for example, sixty or so Dexter Gordon records ever again.

I haven’t really dealt with Wadada Leo Smith and William Parker from last year; their contribution totals eleven plus hours and dealing with it means consorting with the giants for some multiple of those hours. I’m sure to make the time, and urge you to do so, too.

Dub Collision mix: Common Folk Song (jazz traditions 2011)

Common-Folk-Song-lg

1 Ambrose Akinmusire – What’s New 3:04
2 Eric Reed – Ruby, My Dear 6:02
3 Christian McBride & Russell Malone – Sister Rosa 6:37
4 Joe Lovano Us Five – Passport 5:27
5 Jessica Williams – Lonnie’s Lament 6:19
6 The New Gary Burton Quartet – Common Ground 6:59
7 Avishai Cohen – Worksong 2:44
8 Stefan Harris – Congo 6:30
9 Keith Jarrett – Rio, Pt. 12 6:09
10 Paul Motian – Tennessee Waltz 3:50
11 Erena Terakubo f. Kenny Barron – Oriental Folksong 6:13
12 Captain Black Big Band – Here’s The Captain 9:05

So many great mainstream records came out in 2011. This mix can only showcase only a handful of the supreme moments. Consider the veterans Burton and Jarrett; each released new milestones in their illustrious discography. Then juxtapose Erena Terakubo, who is 19 years old, and, after playing alto saxophone for ten years, strikes me as having set a new standard for precocity. Put it this way: she’s mastered the alto styles of Charlie Parker and Jackie McLean and Joe Henderson.


Dub Collision mix: Crunch Dance (jazz fusions 2011)

CrunchDance-lg

1 Nicole Mitchell-F.O.C. 6:07
2 Carlo De Rosa’s Cross-Fade Brain Dance 2:37
3 Animation-Spanish Key 10:58
4 Laïka-Watch Your Back (Appointement In Ghana) 5:32
5 Iro Haarla Quintet-Satoyama 4:49
6 Peter Evans Quintet-The Big Crunch 2:56
7 Tied & Tickled Trio
f. Billy Hart-Lonely Woman/Exit La Place Demon/The Electronic Family 11:13
8 Shift-Gavotte 5:03
9 New Zion Trio-Gates 4:59
10 Harriet Tubman-Sideral Flux 4:03
11 The Jack Dejohnette Group-One For Eric 21:18

There is so much improv being woven between musics not having much to do with the narrow term ‘jazz’ that I’ve come to understand jazz proper has recently entered its next developmental phase. The gist of it is young and youngish improvisors from every continent are no longer beholden to the conventions of classicism or the avant-garde.

So it is the term ‘fusion’ has become vital again as a marker of unfussy experiments and shaking up of genre conventions.

Dub Collision mix: Groovin’ High

GroovinHigh-sm
1 Dizzy Gillespie-Groovin’ High 2:44
2 Billy Eckstine-Good Jelly Blues 2:54
3 Bud Powell-It Could Happen To You 3:16
4 Milt Jackson-Evidence 2:34
5 Dexter Gordon-The Chase (Parts One & Two) 6:49
6 Dizzy Gillespie w. Charlie Parker-All The Things You Are 2:49
7 Dizzy Gillespie-Manteca 3:08
8 Thelonious Monk-Eronel 3:04
9 Fats Navarro-Dextivity 3:01
10 Bud Powell-Un Poco Loco 4:46
11 Howard McGhee-The Skunk 3:03
12 Wardell Gray-Easy Living 4:24
13 James Moody-The Fuller Bop Man 2:59
14 Al Haig-Yardbird Suite 3:06
15 Dizzy Gillespie-Cubana Be 2:43
16 Dizzy Gillespie-Cubana Bop 3:21
17 Tadd Dameron-Lady Bird 2:52
18 Miles Davis-Webb’s Delight 2:54
19 Charlie Parker-Klactoveesedstene 3:05
20 Don Byas-Mad Monk 2:42
21 Charlie Parker-Salt Peanuts 7:37

Moving backwards through jazz’s recorded history, as I did while hiking into the past from the contemporary epiphany evoked by Miles Davis in 1973, I came to the golden bebop moment very early in my investigation.

Prior to this my friend and mentor Dooz had played for me something from Charlie Parker’s Jazz at Massey Hall, and this didn’t register. However, when I heard Manteca by Dizzy Gillespie, available then on a RCA Vintage volume, I was blown away.

1973 was on the cusp of the flood of jazz reissues on LP which would come tumbling my way over the next ten years. At the time, most of the classic bebop sides recorded between 1945-1955 were not readily available. Still, some of the Parker Dials and live broadcasts were obtainable on small, low-end, labels. Then, soon enough, the dam burst and I could dive into the great catalogs of Dial, Savoy, Prestige, Blue Note, Musicraft and the like.

This meant a big swim in the glorious artistry of Gillespie, Parker, Powell, Monk, Jackson, Moody, Gray, McGhee, Navarro, Gordon, and many more–each of whom offered up golden moments in the birth of a jazz revolution. It was Dizzy Gillespie that rocked my world the hardest; my jazz radio show on WRMC-fm from 1976-1986 was named Groovin’ High in recognition of the glorious side from 1945.

In the history of music has there ever been such an intense upwelling of virtuosity across the spectrum of individual instruments?

This compilation doesn’t range beyond well-known masterpieces. If you’ve never received your bebop baptism, here you go.

Tracking M-Basics

Steve-Coleman-Harvesting-Semblances-and-Affinities

…one of last year’s improv highlights.

Steve Coleman, who has been producing his distinctive and innovative music for over twenty-five years, could typify the problem of contextualizing jazz artistry in our current era. The basic challenge is this: jazz has been traveling its entrepreneurial epoch for several decades. This has come about as the necessary artistic response to the amped-up vagaries of the music business, a business that, obviously, has been sundered by its own challenges over the last fifteen or so years.

Although I strongly stand against the insipid myth-making and ranking mechanisms that have tended toward making close to arbitrary distinctions about artistic merit, I also understand even intelligible distinctions have become difficult to promote in the non-stop shuffling of artistic ‘profiles’ in the current environment. The requirement, for the adept listener, I would argue is to become a tenacious tracker of singular and committed artists. And, yet, one can’t track them all.

Coleman (bio) has been worth keeping track of right from the beginning when his debut recording in 1985. Motherland Pulse served to introduce his artistry, and, the artistry of Geri Allen, Cassandra Wilson, and, Graham Haynes. It is one of those lantern-like recordings, showing the way, and it came into play right in the midst of the neo-classical jazz frenzy. Coleman at this time was the main creator of the M-Base Collective, a cooperative based in Fort Green that aimed, as I saw it, to reestablish an accessible and innovative original post-bop music that would prove resistant to being hijacked by the dominant culture. In other words, the M-Base instigation was never to become a brand or a fashion.

Coleman’s artistry is very important both for its musical boldness and acuity, and, because he has thought deeply about his music’s context. Subjectively, given the totality of his opus and his thinking about its context, Steve Coleman reminds me of the composer and jazz auteur and teacher George Russell.

Russell, who developed the Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, is one of the great masters of the music, and similar to Coleman, he invoked his artistry in a determined effort to advance the music on multiple fronts, as composer and bandleader of course, but also did this by teaching and philosophizing and mentoring. Russell’s own musical context, viewed normatively, stretched the boundaries of what were, during the late fifties, sixties, and seventies, presented as a small range of artistic possibilities. So, that range of traditional, swing, be-bop, hard bop, groove bop, free bop, free music, came under a lot of pressure from Russell’s eclectic and rigorously organized music.

Coleman, like Russell, is onto what I’d term a comprehensive approach. He expands this to consider the political and economic factors bearing down on what it is to work as a creative musician too. This isn’t a necessary move, yet it isn’t surprising either because, unlike the jazz eras of the fifties to the seventies, artistic choices have furiously expanded over the past thirty years, the core jazz audience has aged, and, music business has been transformed radically.

Although I could speak of what Coleman’s M-Base vision seems to me to be, it would be much harder to reduce a description to a concise characterization of what his music sounds like. Coleman has been developing his music in a number of different and innovative directions over more than two decades. It might be possible to string together a bunch of labels too, a time-honored descriptive short cut one can employ, yet Coleman’s music strikes me as having developed far beyond facile touchstones.

Fortunately for those who might want to venture farther into Coleman’s music, he makes it easy. Actually, he is second-to-none as a contemporary artist in putting his music and thoughts in the so-called open source. Just go to M-Base and download the many hours of his music he’s made available for free*, read his writing, especially the Symmetrical Music Concept, and, please consider his seriousness and commitment.

One doesn’t have to agree with Coleman’s pretensions to engage his sonic experiments.

Steve Coleman and Five Elements, currently configured with the leader on saxophones, and Jen Shyu, vocals, Jonathan Finlayson, trumpet, David Virelles, keyboards, piano Miles Okazaki, guitar, is one of the most compelling groups in music, period. Coleman has recently been touring as a trio with Shyu and Okazaki. Shyu is especially intriguing in capturing something like the flavor of the spirited high-wire vocalizing of Jeanne Lee.

<hr>

*Many people have asked me what are my reasons for giving away music for free. Well, why not?  Why should everything always cost something?  For me music is organized sound that can be used as sonic symbols to communicate ideas.  Since my main goal is the communication of these ideas to the people, then why not provide this music for free and thereby facilitating the distribution of this music to the people. (Why Do I Give Away Some of My Music)

Dub Collision mix – Spiral Dilemma

Spiral-Dilemma

1 MJT+3::Richie’s Dilemma 7:17
2 Booker Ervin::Sweet Pea 5:34
3 Lee Morgan::Ceora 6:23
4 Bill Barron::Playhouse March 5:23
5 Joe Harriott::Pictures 5:08
6 Bobby Hutcherson-Harold Land::Spiral 13:40
7 Freddie Redd::Melanie (Alternate Take) 5:24
8 Wayne Shorter::Virgo (Alternate Take) 7:02
9 Elvin Jones::Cecilia is Love 10:07

Some favorites and rareties… Six of nine from the prime Blue Note era, and three, sort of, outliers. Here is hard bop and also hard bop coming to be stretched and reconfigured into music not at all routine.

Taster:
Bill Barron::Playhouse March –Joe Harriott::Pictures

[audio:http://nogutsnoglorystudios.squareone-learning.com/wp-content/uploads/Spiral-Dilemma-taste.mp3|titles=Spiral-Dilemma-taste]

Download 320kbs mp3 tagged for iPOD | Megaupload (151mb)

 

Dave Holland documentary

milesdavis1970

My guess is this concert photograph is from 1970.

Most of time I’m amazed by how old many of my favorite musicians have become. It’s not that I haven’t integrated the mere passage of time, it’s that their vitality remains undiminished, whether, for example I’m thinking of Sonny Rollins (80), Cecil Taylor (81), Randy Weston (84), Abdullah Ibrahim (76), Roy Haynes (85) and others. Heck, Herbie Hancock will turn 70 on April 12.

However, it’s different with, for example, Anthony Braxton (65) and Dave Holland, who is all of 64. When I grant the immensity of their body of work, it still amazes me Braxton and Holland began recording in 1968. (I turned 14 that year.) Both continue to add masterful documents of their artistry; Braxton to the tune of three-plus recordings every year. I have to remind myself we’re all in the baby boomer cohort.

Dave Holland released one of my favorite records last year, Pathways. He also released a stirring record of jazz-flavored flamenco with guitarist Pepe Habichuela, Hands.

 

Also, in what counted as one of the most thrilling archival issues of last year, Columbia Records put out Bitches Brew: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. It includes material material not included in the previous Bitches Brew extravaganza, and, a concert video from Copenhagen that is a priceless capture of an evening of revolutionary jazz.

(I first got seriously bitten by the serious jazz bug when the owner of the record store I worked in dropped the spike on A Tribute to Jack Johnson, and, In a Silent Way. This probably was in 1971.)

Dave Holland, 22 years old when he brought his virtuosity to the Miles Davis band, is all over these essential testaments. Over his 42 year career as a major jazz player, as sideman, he has no peer as a contributor to various iconic sessions in the jazz canon. This catalog includes famous sessions, such as those made with the Circle Quartet, and Sam Rivers, as well as lesser known masterpieces. For example there are the two brilliant recordings made for Muse by drummer Barry Altschul, Another Time/Another Place and You Can’t Name Your Own Tune. There are tens of recordings where Holland exemplifies peerless.

His run with ECM Records established his reputation as a composer and bandleader right from the beginning with his solo debut Emerald Tears (1977.) He has not made a misstep. More due to the fragmented political-economy of the jazz business, he remains under-appreciated as a composer, although he is every bit in the league of, for example, the late Andrew Hill, or Wynton Marsalis. His artistry seems unbounded. He has proven as much in solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, little big bands, and big band.

His virtues as an improviser are many and deeply realized. Two that stand out for me are his horn-like lines and his canny ability to listen and respond to his fellow players. He is an outstanding rhythmic colleague in the conventional ‘rhythm section’ sense, yet he’s a terrific instant composer, to use Paul Bley’s pithy formulation, of striking ‘songful’ solos.

DAVE HOLLAND a short documentary from Ulli Gruber on Vimeo.

This documentary is a must-see. Also, Holland’s web site is gracious and interactive and oriented to his fans in a way other musicians might aspire to.

Wrapping Up 2010 II. Jazz Carousel

 

Dennis-Gonzalez-Cape-of-Storms

As I pointed out in a previous post my enjoyment of Jazz over forty years has been keyed by my understanding its all about immersing myself in the individuated artistry of the player. I do not go to the music through the conventional grid that supposes there are luminaries of innovation and each obtains historical position in a genealogy given by the degree the music is advanced. My own iconoclastic view proposes this kind of myth-mongering does not, and cannot, encompass the actual process of artistry.

What then results is my preoccupation with checking out where the artist’s music stands as a statement of where he or she is “at.” If I want to experience where David Murray or Myra Melford or Tom Harrell is “at” I need only make the time to check out what each has to play as each renders the current state of their personal art.

(In Ben Ratliff‘s NYT podcast review of the best of 2010 his and Nate Chinen parse their choices along conventional lines. From my perspective, this seems more ad hoc than refined because the given’s of the cultural political-economy of Jazz don’t figure into it, and, in a cultural field where thousands of records are issued every year, the reduction to so-called importance comes off as arbitrary.)

My point is: every year is a good year for jazz. This follows, and has followed in my almost forty year experience, from the singular verity supposing that each artistic statement is positioned as the development of artistry rather than as a commentary on jazz history.

Once again, then, a recently past year showcases the annual self-fulfilling prophecy!

[FMP]http://nogutsnoglorystudios.squareone-learning.com/wp-content/uploads/Jazz-Carousel-2010.flv[/FMP]

I bring some order to the wave of new music from last year by highlighting the sessions that soared up and into my listening. Although there’s no way this order can be fixed in place, I’ve selected here, and put in what I call my Jazz Carousel for 2010, about 30 prime instances. I easily could have put another fifty records into play. One thing I know is it will take a lot more time to truly deal with all the artistry.

A few highlights… Geri Allen has been a masterful pianist for decades and yet her solo recording Flying Toward the Sound strikes me as a superb recapitulation of her deeply felt commitments. There were numerous terrific piano-centric records last and none of the finest–Jason Moran, Jessica Williams, Keith Jarrett, Vijay Iyer, –should be discounted against Geri’s outing. Still, Geri travels to the top on possibly my favorite of her recordings so far.

Charles Lloyd has been on the jazz scene for fifty years. He began recording for ECM 1989 and has settled into an elder’s predictable path. He plays his heart. Mirror, a quartet record with Jason Moran at the piano, uses the classic sax and rhythm format, and provides essays on standards, two Monk pieces and some originals. It is stately in its mostly slow tempos. The record is full of searching and soulful playing and completely realized ensemble interplay.

Roswell Rudd over the last few years experimented to fine results with matching his burry trombone to zesty folkloric contexts. Not so for this record he made with the working quartet of pianist Riccardo Fassi. Rudd is a musician’s musician and this is the first time in quite a while he’s enjoined a format where his playing is the main feature. He’s a great trombone player, has been for decades, and Fassi and his group are up to the task of giving Rudd an ideal setting.

I’m going to defer to the BBC’s review of Isla, by The Portico Quartet.

Portico Quartet are one such act to have flourished. Following their Mercury-nominated 2007 debut Knee-Deep in the North Sea – a sprightly, fleet-fingered album of post-jazz ambience with a glistening, sinewy thread of minimalism that saw the four-piece nod appreciatively the way of Terry Riley, Philip Glass and Steve Reich – the four-piece have made a follow up that makes their beginnings busking on the South Bank seem like a myth propagated by publicists. Receiving a nod of approval for their pigeonhole-defying venture really has emboldened them.

The group’s folkloric inclinations are born by Nick Mulvey‘s hang drum. The group has carved out something like a tribal chamber jazz. Their antecedents are few, yet would include Oregon and Jan Garbarek. Stunning.

Finally, although no single record could possibly claim the mantle of ‘the best of 2010,’ I easily nominate Cape of Storms by trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez to be my second-to-none favorite for last year. I’ve been following Gonzalez since his debut for his own DIY label Daagnim in 1987, Catechism. Since then he’s released on average a record every year. However, he would also be counted as an unsung genius likely unknown to all but the most tenacious jazz fans.

I can circle back to my point about how the sophisticated listener might contextualize jazz year in and year out and point out that the history of jazz cant be intelligently spoken of without making room for Dennis Gonzalez. His artistry mixes a combination of freebop, African melody and rhythm, and, experimentation, in different quantities on different occasions.

He is an astonishing trumpeter in the vein of Don Cherry and Bobby Bradford, and his cascading lines can be said to dance. On Cape of Storms, he’s joined by Aaron González, double bass; Stefan González, drums, percussion; Louis Moholo-Moholo, drums, percussion; Tim Green, tenor sax. The South African percussion giant Moholo-Moholo is the ringer. This band is a family affair going on ten years. The two sons comprise a unique rhythm section; having internalized–no doubt–the rhythmic gospel of their father. The new record is tipped toward freebop, yet the underpinning is drumming.

(A brief excerpt is heard as the backing for the carousel.)

Some of the cream of 2010.

Aki Takase – A Week Went By
Charles Lloyd – Mirror
Cookers – Warriors
Dave Douglas – Spark of Being
Dave Holland – Pathway
Dave Liebman – Turnaround_(Music of Ornette Coleman)
David Binney – Aliso
Decoy & Joe McPhee – Oto
Dennis Gonzalez – Yells At Eels – Cape Of Storms
Evan Parker – Whitstable Solo
Fight the Big Bull – All Is Gladness in The Kingdom
Geri Allen – Flying Toward The Sound
Henry Threadgill Zooid – This Brings Us To Volume
Ideal Bread – Transmit
Jason Moran – Ten
Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden – Jasmine
Lee Konitz – Live at the Village
Michael Formanek – The Rub And Spare Change
Odeon Pope – Fresh Breeze
Perry Robinson – From A to Z
Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra – Presents
Portico Quartet – Isla
Riccardo Fassi – Roswell Rudd – Double Exposure
Steve Coleman – Harvesting Semblances And Affinities
Ted Nash – (LCJO) Portrait In Seven Shades
The Marsalis Family – Music Redeems
World Saxophone Quartet – Yes We Can

Dub Collision jazz mix: Open Shadows

DC-Open-Shadows-FRONT

 

I’m fortunate, or, perhaps better to say, my nature affords a certain advantage, when it comes to my (close to) forty year experience with jazz. I never thought to articulate, even to myself, my personal outlook when it comes to jazz. I’ve never read much at all in aesthetics, but eventually found my way to John Dewey. So, in a modest respect, I am able to articulate my outlook.

I also owe this to ending up being a jazzbo in Vermont, during my formative experience as a listener. There weren’t jazz clubs to go hang out in. It seemed obvious the way to go was through the recorded history. Also, I owe a huge debt to John and Luke, Philly boys who were in college and both a few years younger than I was, and many times more worldly about jazz. Their attitude was open and receptive. We went after it all.

By the time I had forged the record department I managed into a reputable locale for jazz fans far and (New England and Quebec) wide, I had already figured out the singular personally compelling point about the art of the improviser: to get in the sonic atmosphere of the artist’s soul, you had to deal yourself in. And, crucial to this is that all such moments of performance and recording reflect what is almost always a unique creative thrust, of a persons, persons, in a particular place and time.

What this attitude promoted was my desire to take long and thorough drinks of almost innumerable wellsprings of artistry. I wasn’t even thirty when I at least understood that the genetic conceit of jazz mythology was nothing but a kind of minor obstacle with its loopy set-in-quicksand biases. Actually, I left it behind only to be reminded of one of its consequences, that moldy fig and unreconstructed bebopper and cosmopolitan ‘collector’ possessed an endless resource for telling me what was wrong with this or that record. No, tell me what delights!

Meanwhile I’m pursuing every last note in a kind of endless climb. For, it was apparent to me that to deal yourself into the apprehension of, say, the soul of Art Pepper, or, Mal Waldron, or Pee Wee Russell, meant for me to acquaint myself with long chains of their soulful being, captured as-it-were, in those moments when the tape reels were spinning. In light of this, I’m reminded of Paul Bley, who termed this art form “instant composing,” and so, the only way to get its instance is to prepare one’s receptivity.

Assertions such as, Sonny Rollins is better or is more important than David Murray, are absurd. The open listener is unable to experience and understand Mr. Murray by listening to Mr. Rollins. This is simple. This isn’t to say that the almost feudal structuring of jazz’s critical history is without benefit. Still, for me, this is more like a menu of possibilities. I get the differentiation of saxophonists who played with Count Basie, but my point of deep contact are rendered as: Evans! Byas! Warren! rather than as lesser orders of Lester.

Did some guy once say to me Warne Marsh was “as cold as ice.” Did another yank a Booker Ervin Prestige record out of the bins and angrily tell me. “long solos have killed jazz.” The danger in some kinds of shallow received ‘wisdom’ is that one doesn’t deal themselves in at all. Someone once went on and on to me about the jazz avant-garde and how it turned potential jazz fans away from the core of the jazz tradition, and it became clear this person wouldn’t be able tell me what was the specific fault of a particular recording because he had never listened to any of the music he was intensely irked by. I’m not a party to these kinds of interactions anymore. (Oh, now and then somebody amuses me with a silly pronouncement.)

A good friend did say to me recently “that this past year was a better year for jazz than 2009.” I suppose this sentiment has something to with attitude. Again, it would be impossible for me to even have that kind of experience of a jazz year. One thing I know is that a year isn’t long enough to get into the soul of even many of the extant artists. Rough guess: 4,000 jazz recording are issued every year. This abundance is divorced from socio-economics. Maybe I will have dealt with 100 records and their 100 instances of instant compositions–released this year–and evidence of yet another great year, just like last year and the year before, going back to 1972.

The torch is always being passed. Jazz is global. One is blessed to scratch the surface. I was myself blessed when I was in my early twenties to land with a couple of comrades in the sound of surprise, and deal in over and over again without knowing much beyond how wondrous it was, and could be. I remember pulling out a Milford Graves ESP record from the library at WRMC-FM (Middlebury College) and being delivered to omigod quite rapidly. Well, then I have to hear all of Milford Graves, and at the time, say 1978, there wasn’t much anyway. But, then you wait. And, it was, and will be, worth it.

Every last note.

 

1-Tisziji Muñoz-Fatherhood 4:26
2-Jeanne Lee & Ran Blake-Living Up To Life 3:02
3-Steve Lehman-Open Music 3:30
4-Sonny Sharrock-Soon 7:58
5-Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra-Eric Dolphy Medley · The Prophet ·
Serene · Hat and Beard 17:07
6-Wadada Leo Smith-Growing to be Shadows 9:09
7-Satoko Fujii Orchestra-Around The Corner 4:25
8-Cecil Taylor-Last 25:48