Friday, February 17, 2006

a quick survey

Steve Smith's Bill McHenry concert review is a fantastic piece of writing.

The Bad Plus's mention of Herbie Hancock's "Rockit" reminds me that French car-maker Renault is currently using "Rockit" in an ad that exploits the synergies between the original music video and choreographed car-building robot arms.

Dark Funk currently has a 1973 Headhunters-era concert for download. The sound quality is dreadful, but the music is wild. The lack of crowd reaction to the famous "Chameleon" opening indicates that the album hadn't been released yet, which Hancock confirms at the end of the song.

Doug Ramsey prints an incendiary Monk quote, but the final line gives the game away. "Jazz must first of all tell a story that anyone can understand:" sure, but not many understood Monk's story back in the '40s. Pretty much everybody understands Ornette Coleman's early '60s story, today. And Hancock's "Chameleon" and "Rockit" stories were understood by millions right away, but they're not jazz, right?

1973 was 33 years ago. 33 years before 1973, in 1940, bebop was just barely being born. Considering the ground covered and created in those years, it's stunning that people can still think of talking of "pure jazz" as if that really meant something.


As a counterweight to the Monk quote, excerpts of a classic comment by Charles Mingus:

"You didn’t play anything by Ornette Coleman. I’ll comment on him anyway...

Now, he is really an old-fashioned alto player. He’s not as modern as Bird. He plays in C and F and G and B Flat only; he does not play in all the keys. Basically, you can hit a pedal point C all the time, and it’ll have some relationship to what he’s playing.

Now aside from the fact that I doubt he can even play a C scale in whole notes—tied whole notes, a couple of bars apiece—in tune, the fact remains that his notes and lines are so fresh. So when Symphony Sid played his record, it made everything else he was playing, even my own record that he played, sound terrible.

I’m not saying everybody’s going to have to play like Coleman. But they’re going to have to stop copying Bird. Nobody can play Bird right yet but him...

It doesn’t matter about the key he’s playing in—he’s got a percussional sound, like a cat on a whole lot of bongos. He’s brought a thing in—it’s not new. I won’t say who started it, but whoever started it, people overlooked it. It’s like not having anything to do with what’s around you, and being right in your own world. You can’t put you finger on what he’s doing.

It’s like organized disorganization, or playing wrong right. And it gets to you emotionally, like a drummer. That’s what Coleman means to me."