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