Jazz Neglected?

 

It began with a reference to a Firing Line episode by Kirkian Wanderer:

...If I’m going to link that, I feel I’m also obligated to post the Firing Line episode on jazz.

It’s equally wonderful, and informative, but takes quite a different tone. That tone being something in the lineage of ‘get off my lawn!’ as Bill Buckley tries to get Billy Taylor to explain that damned rock music to him. Honestly, it’s worth the price of admission just to hear Bill, full idiosyncratic aristo-Midatlantic-southern drawl, say “how about giving us something as Jelly Roll Morton might have.” (14:20)

The referenced 1980 episode is a wonderful exploration of jazz music for the uninitiated by two masters of the form, titled “Why is Jazz Neglected?”:

 

Jazz neglected? In 1980, Joni Mitchell was still fresh into her all-in jazz period, having released an album tribute to Charlie Mingus the year before. Frank Sinatra and such were still popular with the WWII generation, Blues Alley in DC was still a major venue with many jazz artists appearing, Weather Report was recording “Birdland” along with vital original compositions, and Jazz artists were playing many concerts in the major venues around DC. Mose Allison was wonderful, snappy, and delightfully caustic. John Coltrane did astonishing pieces. Dave Brubeck is as fresh today as he was then; try “Take Five.”

Was Jazz as big as Rock in 1980? No. Was it a rich and rewarding field for exploration? Very much so. And as is pointed out in the show, some of those Jazz Festivals saw kids line up three days in advance for tickets like was seen for the big Rock acts of the day. And Gershwin was offered up by 1980 as capital-C Culture on the most prestigious stages. I count most Jazz Rock fusion as Rock, but I expect Jazz to be more improvisational while Fusion is dressed with Jazz stylings yet is a more premeditated performance, usually. On that continuum, popular Jazz is all over the map. And this is hardly an exhaustive list; the joint was jumpin’.

And a lot of films showing on television were very much of the Jazz Age, They were products of the Big Band Era and Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Dorsey and Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, all Jazz artists.

I like that the artists on the Firing Line episode, Billy Taylor and Dick Wellstood, responded to the race question by saying that, as the community had developed, it was no longer possible (in 1980) to tell by merely listening what race the contemporary artists were. They would be canceled today for even suggesting that.

And for a surprise parting gift, here is the LoC Jazz Filmography, a slim 2,339 pages of “neglected” jazz and blues film performances published in 2019.

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  1. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

             “It began with a reference to a Firing Line episode by Kirkian Wanderer”

    As all good things do. (Kidding, kidding). 

    I’m glad this made it out of the PiT, though. It’s a sad commentary on the state of American culture that you would never expect to see anything like that Firing Line episode on a major network today, with the possible exception of PBS (where the show did spend a good part of its run), and there the focus would probably be on race. 

    • #1
  2. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    It’s hard for jazz to exist without live venues, particularly in our major cities.  I can’t help but wonder how any number of players are earning a living in the era of shutdowns.

    And let’s not forget the One Step Down Lounge in DC.

    • #2
  3. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    It’s hard for jazz to exist without live venues, particularly in our major cities. I can’t help but wonder how any number of players are earning a living in the era of shutdowns.

    And let’s not forget the One Step Down Lounge in DC.

    Birdland in NYC is on the brink of bankruptcy.

    • #3
  4. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    It’s hard for jazz to exist without live venues, particularly in our major cities. I can’t help but wonder how any number of players are earning a living in the era of shutdowns.

    And let’s not forget the One Step Down Lounge in DC.

    Birdland in NYC is on the brink of bankruptcy.

    I don’t know much about the major West Coast cities or even Chicago, but NYC alone is central to jazz..

    • #4
  5. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I did not know One Step Down closed. Damn.
    My favourite was DC Space. It was more punk, but they did jazz too.

    • #5
  6. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    It’s hard for jazz to exist without live venues, particularly in our major cities. I can’t help but wonder how any number of players are earning a living in the era of shutdowns.

    And let’s not forget the One Step Down Lounge in DC.

    Birdland in NYC is on the brink of bankruptcy.

    I don’t know much about the major West Coast cities or even Chicago, but NYC alone is central to jazz..

    New Orleans and Saint Louis have traditions as well.

    • #6
  7. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I did not know One Step Down closed. Damn.
    My favourite was DC Space. It was more punk, but they did jazz too.

    There’s nothing wrong with Blues Alley, but, if you were short of funds, One Step was preferable.  It’s been closed for at least ten years.

    • #7
  8. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Most of my listening is still old Blue Note stuff.  Not exclusively, but it’s just hard to get away from it.  

    • #8
  9. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    I guess, with venues disappearing, a massive Library of Congress filmography was a lucky find. Every performance can be fresh and improvisational on first viewing. Maybe we could share obscure but great performances.

    • #9
  10. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    I guess, with venues disappearing, a massive Library of Congress filmography was a lucky find. Every performance can be fresh and improvisational on first viewing. Maybe we could share obscure but great performances.

    Ronnie Scott’s in London (which was actually saved from bankruptcy in the mid-’80s by Charlie Watts), has been doing lockdown livestreams and posting them on YouTube. It’s a mixture of old performances, new-ish old performances, and sets by people they’ve gotten in to the empty club specifically for this purpose. It’s one of the premier Jazz destinations in the city, so they almost always have something good or at least interesting to offer up, from established artists and the up and coming. I’ll link the channel. 

    https://www.youtube.com/c/RonnieScottsClub/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid

    • #10
  11. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    I guess, with venues disappearing, a massive Library of Congress filmography was a lucky find. Every performance can be fresh and improvisational on first viewing. Maybe we could share obscure but great performances.

    Ronnie Scott’s in London (which was actually saved from bankruptcy in the mid-’80s by Charlie Watts), has been doing lockdown livestreams and posting them on YouTube. It’s a mixture of old performances, new-ish old performances, and sets by people they’ve gotten in to the empty club specifically for this purpose. It’s one of the premier Jazz destinations in the city, so they almost always have something good or at least interesting to offer up, from established artists and the up and coming. I’ll link the channel.

    https://www.youtube.com/c/RonnieScottsClub/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid

    Nice find.  Thanks.

    I have Blossom Dearie at Ronnie Scott’s, which I enjoy a lot.

    • #11
  12. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    I guess, with venues disappearing, a massive Library of Congress filmography was a lucky find. Every performance can be fresh and improvisational on first viewing. Maybe we could share obscure but great performances.

    There is supposedly a previously unreleased Thelonious Monk performance from a Palo Alto high school performance from back in 1968.    I haven’t heard it yet.

    https://www.npr.org/2020/06/19/880564012/a-previously-unreleased-thelonious-monk-concert-is-coming-next-month

    • #12
  13. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    I guess, with venues disappearing, a massive Library of Congress filmography was a lucky find. Every performance can be fresh and improvisational on first viewing. Maybe we could share obscure but great performances.

    Ronnie Scott’s in London (which was actually saved from bankruptcy in the mid-’80s by Charlie Watts), has been doing lockdown livestreams and posting them on YouTube. It’s a mixture of old performances, new-ish old performances, and sets by people they’ve gotten in to the empty club specifically for this purpose. It’s one of the premier Jazz destinations in the city, so they almost always have something good or at least interesting to offer up, from established artists and the up and coming. I’ll link the channel.

    https://www.youtube.com/c/RonnieScottsClub/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid

    Nice find. Thanks.

    I have Blossom Dearie at Ronnie Scott’s, which I enjoy a lot.

    If you like Charlie Parker or bebop, I would highly recommend “A Tribute to Charlie Parker with Strings” by the Charlie Watts Quintet. It was recorded at the club, and includes arrangements of Parker’s music tied together with readings by Bernard Fowler from a book on his written by Watts in the late 50s, and some singing from Fowler. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8uzFU4e5zI&list=PLtGDN7i8dXA5-TIfh80Y_779yiY6DJw4Z

    It’s a great club, so well run both in terms of staff/service and the choice of artists. The ultimate old school atmosphere, and one of the places in London where you could almost never have a bad night.

     

     

    • #13
  14. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    It’s a great club, so well run both in terms of staff/service and the choice of artists. The ultimate old school atmosphere, and one of the places in London where you could almost never have a bad night.

    I seem to recall you have Boston area roots. (?). Was the Jazz Workshop on Boylston St. across from the Pro before your time?

    • #14
  15. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    It’s a great club, so well run both in terms of staff/service and the choice of artists. The ultimate old school atmosphere, and one of the places in London where you could almost never have a bad night.

    I seem to recall you have Boston area roots. (?). Was the Jazz Workshop on Boylston St. across from the Pro before your time?

    I’m 21, so it probably was.* I was never really able to go to jazz clubs before I moved for college, most card and I was too young.

    *I’m from central-western MA, 30 minutes north of Worcester, but other than maybe a few places in Worcester, I would have had to go to Boston for live jazz.

    • #15
  16. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    One of my favs is an encomium to legendary bassist Jimmy Blanton.    Duke Ellington and Ray Brown.   That’s it.    Very minimal.  No horns, no percussion, no vocals.  Just Ellington and Brown  at their best.  It’s amazing.   This One’s For Blanton.   

    Jimmy Blanton was an incredible bassist.   Ellington discovered him when Blanton was like 19.    Before Blanton the bass player pretty much stood next to the drummer and went Thunka Thunka Thunk.   Blanton was playing melodies way up on the neck … trills and slurs … it was revolutionary in the day.   Ray Brown told stories about, as a kid, hanging out in alleys behind clubs so he could hear bits of Blanton playing.  Unfortunately, like lots of others, he died from complications of drugs and alcohol.   He was only in his 30’s.

    • #16
  17. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    It’s a great club, so well run both in terms of staff/service and the choice of artists. The ultimate old school atmosphere, and one of the places in London where you could almost never have a bad night.

    I seem to recall you have Boston area roots. (?). Was the Jazz Workshop on Boylston St. across from the Pro before your time?

     

     

     

    I’m 21, so probably. I was never really able to go to jazz clubs before I moved for college, most card and I was too young.

    OK, you seem too intelligent to be 21:). I thought you were a bit older.  That was the premier downtown Boston club.

    • #17
  18. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Sisyphus:

    And for a surprise parting gift, here is the LoC Jazz Filmography, a slim 2339 pages of “neglected” jazz and blues film performances published in 2019.

    I am going to refer this Jazz Filmography to my son, Bobby Thompson. He has been a performer in the Washington, DC area now for three decades and won a Wammie Award for the Best Blues Album in 2019. This past year has not been very good since he really depends on small live venues like bars and nightclubs, even restaurants since he does a lot of solo acoustic guitar. 

    With this lockdown he is doing many things to help establish new directions in order to broaden his field of endeavor for his livelihood as things open back up.

    • #18
  19. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    KirkianWanderer (View Comment):

    It’s a great club, so well run both in terms of staff/service and the choice of artists. The ultimate old school atmosphere, and one of the places in London where you could almost never have a bad night.

    I seem to recall you have Boston area roots. (?). Was the Jazz Workshop on Boylston St. across from the Pro before your time?

     

     

     

    I’m 21, so probably. I was never really able to go to jazz clubs before I moved for college, most card and I was too young.

    OK, you seem too intelligent to be 21:). I thought you were a bit older. That was the premier downtown Boston club.

    Haha, thanks. Most people think I’m older as well, and/or male. To be honest, I’m much more familiar with the jazz scene and how to find good clubs in Southeast England/London than in Boston, although even without the drinking age here I sometime had to do a little bit of sweet talking to get in (some have 21 for age of entry).

    • #19
  20. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    I saw Billy Taylor in concert a few years ago. He was terrific. His performance had a jazz seminar feel to it. He talked between each song and even took questions from the audience. Real smart guy, I believe he was also a college professor,  who had tremendous insights on all the songs he performed. 

    The firing line video isn’t able to play btw. Great post.

    • #20
  21. KirkianWanderer Coolidge
    KirkianWanderer
    @KirkianWanderer

    thelonious (View Comment):

    I saw Billy Taylor in concert a few years ago. He was terrific. His performance had a jazz seminar feel to it. He talked between each song and even took questions from the audience. Real smart guy, I believe he was also a college professor, who had tremendous insights on all the songs he performed.

    The firing line video isn’t able to play btw. Great post.

    Maybe this link will work: 

    • #21
  22. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Wow! Billy Taylor is a remarkable guy…just from knowing him the first time with this Firing Line video. He’s obviously a great talent, even though this video is a discussion and not a concert. But his intellect is enormously impressive. Nice piece @sisyphus

    • #22
  23. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Locally in the Seattle area, we have the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra. They are hanging on by a thread with online performances. Check out srjo.org. We watched one performance of a small subset of the group, and I felt so sorry for them. Nine players spaced six feet apart, wearing masks when not playing, and the horns wore masks!  My guess is no live music all this year. 

    • #23
  24. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Jazz is such an open genre.  It includes everything from just west of ragtime to just east of hip hop.  

    Rock and Roll is a form of jazz.  Country music is a form of jazz.

    But what we often call jazz is usually what we think of when we hear bebop or the like.

    If you were to pay attention to Ken Burns’ “Jazz” documentary, you would think only a few trumpet players truly wear the mantle of jazz musicians, and white people need not apply.  He almost never even acknowledges saxophones.

    I’m not much of a slouch in my musical pedigree, I was in my college jazz band.  I played second alto sax, which is in honesty the least important instrument in a jazz band.

    I go through periods, as I am now, of trying to listen to jazz and try to appreciate it.  I think Charlie Parker is one of the most talented musicians ever, and he can do things on the sax that are unbelievable.  But, especially when he teams up with the cacophonic Dizzy Gillespie, The Bird’s music is terribly difficult to listen to and enjoy.  If you know what he’s doing, it’s amazing, but honestly, bebop is to music as Jackson Pollock is to art.  I suppose people who study art might think Pollock’s work is nice, but it’s not very nice to look at for most of us.  

    Coltrane is more melodic than The Bird, but even his music is often very, um, difficult to appreciate.  

    Buckley’s interview is interesting, but Buckley is a classic snob.  That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but music must be pleasing to its audience.  Some people appreciate different styles of jazz, but most people have moved on to successor styles.  

    It’s a shame though, that modern “musicians” rely so heavily and overtly on auto-tune.

    • #24
  25. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    • #25
  26. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Skyler (View Comment):

     

    I’m not much of a slouch in my musical pedigree, I was in my college jazz band. I played second alto sax, which is in honesty the least important instrument in a jazz band.

    Alto is my jazz instrument of choice (I don’t play) along with piano.  There are some great alto players, but I’ll take Art Pepper.

     

    • #26
  27. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Jazz is such an open genre. It includes everything from just west of ragtime to just east of hip hop.

    Rock and Roll is a form of jazz. Country music is a form of jazz.

    But what we often call jazz is usually what we think of when we hear bebop or the like.

    If you were to pay attention to Ken Burns’ “Jazz” documentary, you would think only a few trumpet players truly wear the mantle of jazz musicians, and white people need not apply. He almost never even acknowledges saxophones.

    I’m not much of a slouch in my musical pedigree, I was in my college jazz band. I played second alto sax, which is in honesty the least important instrument in a jazz band.

    I go through periods, as I am now, of trying to listen to jazz and try to appreciate it. I think Charlie Parker is one of the most talented musicians ever, and he can do things on the sax that are unbelievable. But, especially when he teams up with the cacophonic Dizzy Gillespie, The Bird’s music is terribly difficult to listen to and enjoy. If you know what he’s doing, it’s amazing, but honestly, bebop is to music as Jackson Pollock is to art. I suppose people who study art might think Pollock’s work is nice, but it’s not very nice to look at for most of us.

    Coltrane is more melodic than The Bird, but even his music is often very, um, difficult to appreciate.

    Buckley’s interview is interesting, but Buckley is a classic snob. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, but music must be pleasing to its audience. Some people appreciate different styles of jazz, but most people have moved on to successor styles.

    It’s a shame though, that modern “musicians” rely so heavily and overtly on auto-tune.

    One guess as to my favorite jazz musician. That said, I spent Saturday evenings for several years sipping good coffee while the shop owner fronted a jazz combo with his friends. Most of the year this was under the stars on the patio. Sax, drums, upright base, vibraphone, and sometimes guitar. Yes, in a strip mall in the Valley of the Sun (AZ).

     

    • #27
  28. Sisyphus Member
    Sisyphus
    @Sisyphus

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):

    Sisyphus:

    And for a surprise parting gift, here is the LoC Jazz Filmography, a slim 2339 pages of “neglected” jazz and blues film performances published in 2019.

    I am going to refer this Jazz Filmography to my son, Bobby Thompson. He has been a performer in the Washington, DC area now for three decades and won a Wammie Award for the Best Blues Album in 2019. This past year has not been very good since he really depends on small live venues like bars and nightclubs, even restaurants since he does a lot of solo acoustic guitar.

    With this lockdown he is doing many things to help establish new directions in order to broaden his field of endeavor for his livelihood as things open back up.

    I pray that that turns around for Bobby quickly. I hope he enjoys the filmography, I started to read it and look for particular artists and composers and then realized that I might want to finish the post first.

    • #28
  29. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    When you listen to jazz you gotta listen to the notes they’re not playing.

    • #29
  30. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    thelonious (View Comment):

    When you listen to jazz you gotta listen to the notes they’re not playing.

     

    • #30