Friday, October 09, 2009

He's fair and he's true and he's boring as hell

Via Lucas Gillan, here is a guest post on Casa Valdez from Manhattan School of Music student Aaron Johnson, adding some contrarian commentary to the "Jazz Now" discussion. The "jazz problem" as Johnson calls it, or the state of jazz as it exists at the close of the first decade of the 21st century, is a topic that seems to come up frequently.

Johnson seems to take issue with every kind of jazz that isn't spang-a-langin'. I guess someone didn't tell him that the Jazz Wars are over. Fine. But both sides of the modern jazz coin that Johnson presents - suit-wearing, tradition-honouring, standards-learning young lions vs. skinny-jeans-clad, odd-meter obsessed Brooklynites - can exhibit all the same promise and all the same falsehoods. I love listening to tunes that swing hard delivered by a band that understands their history and that really gets inside the song - Amy Cervini's quartet was the most recent example of this, for me. On Cole Porter's "No Moon at All," Amy sang the song with her own interpretation of the story, spurred on and supported by a swinging and empathetic crew. By the same token, I love so many other kinds of music, and I truly appreciate artists that seamlessly integrate external influences into jazz. Musicians that have such a deep rhythmic understanding of hip-hop, for example, that it informs their phrasing throughout their entire repertoire, without having to resort to inviting freestyling MCs or having a boom-bap drum beat. Lionel Loueke fascinates me, for having integrated various African musics so seamlessly into his own work that it doesn't sound like forced, hybridized "world-jazz."

A lot of students and musicians become disenchanted with standards because we've played them, and heard them played, so many times without any underlying meaning attached to them. In essence, it's about playing the song - any tune, whether it's a standard, a pop tune, or a through-composed modern piece, has its own atmosphere and its own world that it occupies. To reduce it to a series of chord changes is to ignore the entirety of the music, and to invalidate its performance. Falsehoods can permeate all kinds of jazz - odd-metered tunes that are self-consciously "hipper-than-thou"; standards played by rote; or feeling obligated to transmogrify a standard with all sorts of metric and harmonic modulations because playing the tune straight-up might damage some ill-conceived notion of "modern jazz cred." Peter Hum sums up my sentiment quite well: "I'm not saying that it's all good, but it all can be good -- if it's personal, fully realized, and real."

I'm a totalist; an omnivore. That doesn't mean I've listened to everything, or listened to certain things as much as I probably should have, as Ethan Iverson's in-depth profiles of James P. Johnson, Keith Jarrett and Lester Young have reminded me. But when Jason Moran mentioned at the Ottawa Jazz Festival's Jazz Piano panel that he has some students that haven't ever listened to Monk, I was shocked. There's certain major figures in music that necessarily have to be addressed and absorbed, whether they're integral to one's personal playing or not. I think some musicians tend to only listen to what they like or what they plan on emulating, and not checking out either a) the lineage of where that player comes from, something easy enough to glean from interviews, liner notes and track lists; or b) music totally outside their realm. I can't play stride to save my life - I admit it, I accept it, and I deal with it. But I've still checked out some Fats Waller, James P. as well as the boogie-woogie greats Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. I even used to be able to play a passable "Bluebird Boogie Woogie" when I was younger. I truly appreciate a lot of music that comes out of the AACM; it doesn't necessarily manifest itself in my playing or writing, and it doesn't really matter. But I think we owe it to ourselves, as eternal students, to search out music, past and present, related directly, tangentially or perhaps not at all, to what we do. If we are educators, we owe it to our own students to pass on as much history as we can, and be open to the new variations on it that they present to us. As Don Byron said, "There is a lesson in everything. It's our job to find that lesson."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Playlists, October 4, 2009

Dobbin's Den #738 - The Final Salute
*Oliver Jones
- "Len's Den" (From Lush to Lively)
Kate McGarry - "Blue in Green" (The Target)
Amy Cervini - "Bye Bye Country Boy" (Lovefool)
Gretchen Parlato - "Doralice" (In a Dream)
Keith Jarrett - "Bop-be" (Bop-be)
Art Blakey - "Afrique" (The Witch Doctor)
Charles Tolliver - "Spur" (The Ringer)
Kurt Rosenwinkel - "The Cross" (Deep Song)
*ByProduct - "81" (Le mur)
*Joel Miller - "Big Tiny" (Tantramar)
Joe Lovano - "On a Misty Night" (52nd Street Themes)
Fresh Sound New Talent Orchestra - "Witch Hunt" (The Sound of NY Jazz Underground)
Sound Assembly - "Chuck 'n' Jinx" (Edge of the Mind)
Matt Wilson Quartet - "Two Bass Hit" (That's Gonna Leave a Mark)
JFJO - "Four in One" (One Day in Brooklyn)
*Tim Posgate Hornband - "Banjo Z" (Banjo Hockey)
Donny McCaslin - "Second Line Sally" (Seen From Above)
Freddie Hubbard - "A Night in Tunisia" (Without a Song: Live in Europe 1969)

The Goods
Herbie Hancock
- "Palm Grease"
Robert Glasper - "Butterfly"
*Rinsethealgorithm - "Hibiscus"
*Jon Day - "Spanish Sun"
Eddie Bo - "Check Your Bucket"
Roy Ayers - "Liquid Love"
Johnnie Taylor - "Who's Making Love"
Mark Ronson f/ Phantom Planet - "Just"
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - "Ballicki Bone"
Juba Dance - "Cachaca"
The Roots - "Long Time"
*AOT - "Work it Out"
G&D - "One"
illyB f/ Jennifer Charles & Miho Hatori - "Double Game"
Airto - "Xibaba"
Azymuth (Jazzanova rmx) - "Amazon Adventure"
Ed Motta - "Que bom voltar"
Curumin - "Caixa Preta"
Ocote Soul Sounds & Adrian Quesada
- "Vendede saude e fé"
Mercedes Sosa - "Gracias a la vida" [RIP]
Sir Shina Peters & his International Stars - "Yabis"
Lekan Babalola - "Ide Osun"

Friday, October 02, 2009

Autumn announcements

So I've broken out my gloves, and Pop Montreal has invaded. I guess it's really Fall!

On Sunday, October 4, I have the deep honour of hosting the absolutely final edition of Dobbin's Den on CKUT. This will be one final salute to the late Len Dobbin, his radio legacy, and the music he championed for so long. After many months of discussion among CKUT's jazz programmers and the CKUT Programming Committee, the Sunday morning 11 am-1 pm timeslot will be turned over to Swan Kennedy and Dave Macaulay of Freekick. Swan and Dave are good friends and colleagues in both the Jazz Euphorium and World Skip the Beat collectives; their show runs the gamut from jazz to hip-hop, afrobeat to tropicalia. I wish the Freekick crew the best of luck in their new timeslot, starting next Sunday.

On Tuesday, October 6, 2009, Indigone Trio will be playing at La Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent, between Villeneuve & St-Joseph). We are pleased to be the first half of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's Montreal EP launch for their new release, One Day in Brooklyn. I've been a fan of JFJO for years, back in their trio days. Their album The Sameness of Difference (Hyena) is a brilliant modern piano trio record, and their new EP with the new lineup of Chris Combs on lap steel, Josh Raymer on drums and Matt Hayes on bass, with founding pianist Brian Haas, is stellar as well. We are thrilled to be sharing the stage with them. Thanks to Ropeadope's David Chaitt for hooking us up. For those of you not in Montreal, we are working on webcasting this event. It will also be recorded, and tracks will go up on my MySpace in the near future.

TUESDAY October 6, 2009
JFJO lancement One Day In Brooklyn + INDIGONE TRIO
(4848 St-Laurent)
10$ - 8:00 pm

Indigone Trio: David Ryshpan - piano; Sébastien Pellerin - bass; Philippe Melanson - drums
JFJO: Brian Haas - piano; Chris Combs - lap steel guitar; Matt Hayes - bass; Josh Raymer - drums

A reminder that CKUT's Funding Drive runs from October 15-25. We are aiming for a goal of $50,000 - money that goes towards the maintenance and development of our station. Programmers are volunteers, and the staff are paid very little considering the immense amounts of amazing work that they do. Your pledges keep jazz, improvised music, and independent music of all kinds on Montreal's airwaves. You can find pledge information on the CKUT website. I've been a member, programmer and volunteer at CKUT for 6 years - it was a fundamental part of my musical education and it continues to be an anchor of the musical, cultural and social community of Montreal. Please tune in and pledge!