Thursday, December 13, 2007

the three ages of jazz pt. 1a: the nursery

the early bird

Running on pure adrenaline from the gig (I don't realize this until it start wearing our a few days later), we march off to to hear one of MH’s pal’s performances.
We arrive at the venue. The contrast with Free Jazz Central is stark: the age of the Early Bird’s audience is, on balance, approximately half that of Free Jazz Central. They are younger, but otherwise more visibly diverse (in terms of race, gender, but possibly not in terms of class and education ). There’s also a lot more of them: it’s a noisy club where conversation competes with the band.

The band.

Well, it’s not often you can hear the Aebersolds quite so clearly. I haven’t encountered such copybook ’bop licks in a long, loooong time. Kinda refreshing, kinda stale; kinda cool, kinda sad… also oddly mind-numbing. BC and MH tell me that the Early Bird is the platform for the local music school students. Ah, I think, that explains it.
The conversation later turns to the fact that, when we were students (in formal education), we were never particularly good with changes.

I’ll confess it now: I was terrible in my attempts at ’bop.

Another confession: I get a real kick from hearing guitar players who can play those long ’bop lines. Really, I love ’em. Maybe it’s ’cause I sacrificed/neglected that facet of guitar playing for others. (I hear a little of those long lines in some non-’bop players such as Berne, of course, but that’s a pretty difficult trick… and a story for some other time.)

To be continued…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the three ages of jazz pt. 0: middle age

free jazz central

This gig was, well, not exactly hard work, but it definitely wasn’t effortless. Fun and educational, but it kept me on my toes.
Just before we start, I confessed to JS (the other guitarist) that it’s been about ten years since I shared the stage with another guitarist. Before the gig, I’d expected that impressing (or at least not pissing-off) the elders (one of whom a friend referred to, half-tongue-in-cheek, as a ‘giant’) in the ensemble would be my main concern, but by the end of the first set, I’m surprised as anyone that just about all I was worried about was staying out of the other guitarist’s way.
Actually, that’s pretty much sums up my tactic for the evening (and, I believe, JS’ as well).
Electric guitars are mid-range heavy. That’s fine in that ’bop setting in which the ride fills up the top end, fine in ’metal where the mid’s scooped out, but in this drummer-less improv setting, JS and I are in danger of creating an oppressive sound (especially as neither the horns nor the bass are going to add much above a few kHz).
After the gig, MH (who was there listening) tells me that all guitarists seem to have a love-hate relationship with their instrument. I respond that I love the physical/physiological relationship with the guitar—not every instrument rests against (hugs) your body while allowing for more-or-less full mobility of your arms—but the ‘sound’ (the raw audio content), well, that’s the problem; it just doesn’t always sit very well in an ensemble.
By the beginning of the second set, both JS and I feel like we’re running out of ideas. Between, Arto, Berne, Bill, Derek and Fred, say… or Annette and Keith… or Jimi, David and Sonny… isn’t that pretty much the scope of improvising guitar(ists)? What I mean by that is, as far as breeds of latter-day improvisers go, electric guitarist have a relatively small pool of models. At one point JS plays something, and I think, wait, I could do that too. I stop myself; it’s tempting, but I don’t think I would have been adding anything to the mix by aping JS doing a pseudo-Derek.

By the way, how’s this for the economics of free jazz: I sold a few CDs, but gave away just as many. Conclusion: it’s a good thing I’m not an accountant.

After the gig, a few of us journey on to witness jazz’s adolescent stage…

Saturday, December 08, 2007

this is not an obituary

Regarding the recently deceased Dead, White, German Dude, I’m not about to say

  1. he was a swell guy
  2. his music rocked
  3. he will be missed
  1. you gotta be joking me
  2. okay, maybe exactly two of his pieces really did (and, granted, a lot of the rest were fascinating failures), and
  3. hey, if there’s a post-War Avant-Garde Composer underrepresented and underdocumented, he ain’t it.

…anyone who could compel the Arditti to make fools of themselves has more than a little going for them. Every time this Nut From The Dog Star managed to squeeze more funds from institutions ’round the world for his crazy plans, my respect for the man would skyrocket, but my view of those institutions would go down the drain.

Friday, December 07, 2007

the three ages of jazz: preamble

the jet-set improviser

As the plane approach the destination, I’m looking over The City at night. All those lights, I think. Beautiful as it is (the interconnection of metropolitan and suburban street patterns, for example), I wonder how much fuel we’re burning to get that effect. Then I wonder again what my carbon footprint from this journey is going to be.
I’ll be reminded of this sometime later when I hear CH’s description (and critique) of the latter day “jet-set improviser”; I am, after all, flying in to sit-in with a band.