Tuesday, March 20, 2007

audioOne, Roach, Shteamer

Ken Vandermark has sent out the second issue of his AudioOne e-zine. I didn't get the first issue, but this one interestingly deals with Vandermark's view of jazz, which I call the "historical toolbox" view and which is close to my own, but explained far better than I could probably ever manage.

If you've read my interview with him, and even if you haven't, you won't be surprised that he says that "Jazz is usually considered as a style of music. To my way of thinking it is not a style, however, it is a methodology." In the first part, he starts by pointing to a common analytical problem: content being considered more important than form. Then he sets up the evolution of jazz as an "ongoing dialectic that takes place between improvisation and composition," leading to the conclusion that "the improviser/composer dialectic created formal issues which then affected content issues, not the other way around. Lasting art is motivated by ideas and the need to articulate them, not by meeting the aesthetic requirements of a certain style."

It's in its second part, entitled "IMPROVISATION, COMPOSITION, AND HISTORY" and led off with a - steady yourselves - CEF-ish Steve Lacy quote, that the essay really takes off, though.

Jazz can be described as a series of overlapping arcs. And unlike in a concept of style, these arcs do not describe progress and improvement; they describe the change and innovation of ideas (...) The changes in content and construction that have occurred over the last century are not steps in the same direction, towards the same goal. Ideas move in many directions at once. Frequently concepts that appear to be a dead end during their initial exposure become a creative spark for a later generation, or peripheral components become the line that leads to a new set of vocabulary; perhaps the ideas don’t develop into a language until they leapfrog to another time and place. Considered in this way, Jazz becomes a complex of musical thought built by artists whose work can stand side by side in greatness, no matter what time and place.

Coincidentally, the first few photos in the issue are sort of more serious-minded cousins to the ones I put in the interview (I hope the connection between the photos and the interview was clear, but if not, the photos, especially the third one, modular elements placed on a grid, echoing Vandermark's methodology, while the materials used evoked the roughness of the music. Also, they were taken at deSingel the same day).


Tom Myron's memorable master-class encounter with Max Roach.


Hank Shteamer's memorable interview-cum-lesson with Chico Hamilton (the photo of Hamilton makes him look like a wax statue, doesn't it?).

Hank's blog continues to be great. I particularly liked the capsule summaries of various national flavours of free jazz found in a post on Japanese musical extremists:
[ps--isn't it crazy how every region has its own free jazz vibe? American stuff, like Ayler, is connected real heavily to elemental blues and gospel, just super emotional and heartrending; British stuff, like early Spontaneous Music Ensemble, is as extreme, but totally controlled and pointillistic; German stuff, like Brotzmann, is gruff, cacophonous, gritty and relentless; Dutch stuff, like Bennink and Mengelberg, is whimsical and pastiche-oriented; and here we have the Japanese stuff, which is just ends-of-the-earth material--real endurance-test-ish. interesante]
Okay, but what about Italy, France, the Scandinavian countries, etc.?