Thursday, July 20, 2006

further down the forked road

Settled in Shipping adds some excellent points to the US/EU debate (which I also touched upon late last year).

As I've seen it, the contentious issue regarding the acceptance of European approaches to jazz music is the non-linearity with which many European musicians regard the jazz tradition.
Excellent point (which is developed further), but wouldn't apprehending the tradition in a rigourously linear way mean confronting everything from ragtime to Armstrong to bebop to Ornette and Cecil and the AEC to Miles in the 60s and 70s to Zorn, etc.? I don't think that's even possible for an individual to do. So isn't everybody picking and choosing, and it's just that certain pick 'n' mixes have been canonised?

SiS states (and then dismantles) a couple of well-worn clichés:
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Europeans are either regarded as inherently incapable of swinging, or of willingly ignoring it as an essential part of jazzdom.
It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation: Europeans can't swing, but if they can, they're merely derivative. That said, many, many European musicians love to swing and play swinging music. The whole Europe = 70s free jazz/improv equation is quite false.

Peer beyond the free jazz/straight-ahead dichotomy, and you'll see that Steve Coleman's Hot Brass recordings from the early 90s had a huge impact (in France, but also in other countries, I think) on musicians and listeners.
Europeans, by virtue of their non-American status, do not understand the jazz tradition at all. It is impossible to gloss over the bebop section of the history, and equate the early jazz and Dixieland with the avant-garde rumblings of the late '60s.
Sorry David, I don't get what you're saying in the second sentence.
I'm surprised that critics and some musicians alike still regard the treatment of repertoire from artists like Bjork, Paul Simon, Radiohead or Nick Drake (to cite only the people I've covered in my own groups) as mere novelty, and that the inevitable next step - to write music evocative of these artists - is considered as some sort of jazz heresy.
I think lots of critics are fine with it, but opinions are still pretty strongly divided (cf. the controversy around The Bad Plus playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on a major label (if you do it on a small label like FSNT, it doesn't matter)). I wonder if Miles got the same reactions when he played "Someday My Prince Will Come."