by carl wilson

Destination: Now?


My favourite jazz blog, Destination: Out, is doing a terrific series in which they've polled musicians, critics and bloggers for lists of the best jazz albums of the '90s - trying to do for that period what last year's flurry of discussion did for jazz of the '70s-'80s. Here are parts one, two and three. Now we just need a best-of-2000-05 list and we're set.

But I'm not wholly convinced by these exercises, if the point is to say not just that jazz 1970-2000 has produced countless riches, but that jazz is "still incredibly vibrant." There are issues in the life-cycle of a genre that lists of great albums don't answer, ones having to do with where it's practised, by whom, its rate of stylistic evolution, the generic features that are retained or dropped, who the audience is and in what way fans and non-fans alike recognize the genre. The fact that great artists work in the field doesn't automatically mean the genre is vibrant on its own terms or in cross-generic comparison.

The fact that "classical" (notational, compositional, whatever) music still has great composers and performers doesn't mean that it's a "vibrant" genre in the sense we might mean when we talk about popular culture. (I'm not saying it's necessarily not, either, but most of my reasons to say it might be have to do with developments aside from purely artistic ones.) Jazz isn't as extreme a case but it still has similar issues - eg., how much of its audience regards it as a contemporary living genre rather than as a museum-like, repertory genre? Blame that on Wynton and Ken if you want, but it still seems a significant issue for a genre if you look at it in social and not just creative terms.

Not that I have an answer - part of me wants to say "let's start calling new music that grows out of this tradition by new names" and part of me wants to start calling all beat-based improvisation-including music (like six or seven brands of electronic music) "jazz." Just saying that I'm not sure great-album lists are a sufficient response to the anxieties around these issues. Though they sure are wonderful in their own right.

On a less cranky note, here's an interview with Toronto-born, L.A.-established, New York-resident, West Africa-travelling jazz composer/percussionist Harris Eisenstadt. Also, for Alice Coltrane/Zeena Parkins (and Joanna Newsom) fans, a nice feature from Kevin Whitehead on emusic today about jazz harpists through the years.

General | Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, May 23 at 4:13 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)



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Your comments on 'jazz' and 'classical' music are well taken.
The fact that jazz, like classical, has begun to pull up the drawbridge and engage in dogmatic consolidation is something that happened to classical music a coupla centuries ago (I've heard of some guy in France who gets good $$ to play Bill Evans improvs note for note...nostalgia's not what it used to be, eh?!)
By getting nervous about the implications of that pesky process known as improvisation.
Improvisation, in it's purest form, knows no stylistic, political, ethnic or cultural limitation and any injection of context, be it punk rock to new age has to be seriously considered in it's entry into the form(less).
When bright moments happen and music is made by these interventions, then it becomes music of integrity regardless if the initial motivation was bebop, gregorian chant or emo.
Taxonomy or the naming of things is a somewhat normal, if irritating human trait and seems to be the province of media translation of creative output and will constantly be under review/atttack 'til, possibly, everyone will get sick and fucking tired of it and just listen to MUSIC.
Which will probably cause some music critics to lose $$$ and ad agencies to wither....ah, a beautiful dream!!

Posted by nilan on May 26, 2007 8:58 AM



And what is maddening is that Taylor is playing the same night as the Kenny Wheeler Tribute at the Distillery District ...

Posted by Paul M on May 24, 2007 9:45 AM



Hey Carl, I know you're too busy when you don't update the gig guide. When it comes to jazz of any decade, one of the names on many lists is coming June 1st to the Jane Mallet Theatre. I thought I'd post this reminder to see Cecil Taylor.

Posted by Half on May 23, 2007 8:23 PM



"Best of" year or decade is meaningless.

The only thing that matters is -- what made it into my personal pantheon? Or yours or his or hers.

"Best of" implies dryasdust judgment.

Personal pantheon implies mad love.

Keep doing those Best-Of lists every year -- they're popular, people like them -- but please, Carl, tell us -- what makes it into Your personal pantheon? And why? And how? (And how!)

(If answering this must wait until your book is done, that's fine. Godspeed!)

Posted by john on May 23, 2007 5:56 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson