Monday, August 06, 2007

questions and answers

Peter Margasak's feature on Nicole Mitchell is excellent. The Indigo Trio album (with Harrison Bankhead and Hamid Drake) on Greenleaf is, too. I'd expected it to be a "mere" blowing session, but it's much more than that. Her background is impressively difficult for someone who seems to radiate positivity. [via Greenleaf]


The church-music-versus-devil's-music conflict lives on, as seen through the eyes of singer Ryan Shaw and guitarist Robert Randolph.

"It’s that Catch-22," [singer Ryan Shaw] explained backstage at Artscape. "The traditions of the church allow it to preserve musical styles that might otherwise be lost, but it can also make for stagnation...

"If the church gives in too easily to those changes, gospel music will lose its identity," he said, "but if it resists those changes too much, it will alienate the youth. That’s why you have all these battles about what is gospel music and what God wants to hear."
It's funny, Mr. Shaw said, what churches will and won’t accept. "When R&B started using jazzy chords like 7ths, 9ths and 13ths, you couldn’t use them in church because that was 'the devil's music,' " he said. "But as soon as R&B moved on to something else, suddenly it was O.K. to use those chords because the devil wasn’t using them anymore."
Randolph has actually been barred from playing in his own church because he "plays out." Maurice Beard, one of Randolph's mentors, puts it memorably: "I've had offers to play out in the world, but I made a promise to my grandmother to stay in the church, so I did."


visionsong asks if jazz can have its own Mahler:
I'm inclined to argue no- our music, unlike European art music, was built from a small scale, from three minute 45s, from brothels and the Cotton Club and Birdland and lofts and the 200-seat Knitting Factory, so by it's nature it's not as broad as Mahler, or Strauss, or Nixon in China. And when it tries to be- Kenton, Ellington's Sacred Concerts, the Rock-operas of the 70's- it falls flat on its face.
In jazz (for lack of better language) our brilliance is in many ways in the intimacy of it- watching Trane communicate his processes, technical, emotional and spiritual, seeing Miles break a room apart with three notes, hearing Billy Holiday seemingly wilt into the microphone or Johnny Hodges climb ten stories in a second during a ballad. And currently, watching Dave Douglas and The Bad Plus and Darcy and Ron Miles and so many others try to thread the needles of tradition and innovation, irony and passion that our time demands. Even at their most political, it's a most beautiful form of retail politics, hardly an international soapbox.

Hopefully, Steve Coleman will continue blogging like this for a good while to come.
I refuse to accept that 'Jazz' exists. 'Jazz' for me is the not-so-creative part that most people relate to when they hear some forms from the past. I don’t know if I am being clear, but I have never considered the music of people like Duke Ellington, Don Byas, Charlie Parker, Art Tatum, John Coltrane, Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill – I have never considered this creative tradition 'Jazz'. I don’t care what others call it and I don’t even pay much attention to what these people themselves (i.e. the musicians) call it.