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3952Re: When did Jazz die?

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  • spacelights
    Mar 17, 2007
      I feel that genre labels should be used for convenient identification
      rather than strict definition. Each piece of music--whether recorded
      or "live"--is a unique entity, so I think it's important not to
      over-generalize. I subscribe to Morton's view that jazz is a style.
      As such, it would seem to have characteristics, rather than qualities
      which define it absolutely. During our vintage period, there were
      many relatively unorthodox jazz performances (by jugbands for example,
      or in the case of Waller's pipe organ works).

      "Modern jazz" may as well begin with Art Tatum's solo piano sides of
      1933-34. Tatum was a devotee of Fats Waller--and yet a huge influence
      on Charlie Parker. I had thought that Parker's solos sounded like
      Tatum solos transposed; eventually I met an artist who'd been friends
      with Parker. He told me (unprompted) that during his early years,
      Parker listened to lots of Bach and Art Tatum. The point is that the
      chain of influences/evolution is, in a certain sense, unbroken.
      Ellington also had a great deal to do with the bop "revolution,"
      especially in his group with Jimmy Blanton and Ben Webster (the body
      of Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" is virtually identical to Duke's "Cotton
      Tail," and both Gillespie and Parker played in Duke's band).

      Regarding Parker's work, my experience has been almost entirely
      mental, meaning that I tend to think "this man has mastered the
      alto saxophone" but I don't feel much. For me, the "best" jazz
      achieves a balance between heart and head, and the problem with much
      modern jazz is that it's too much "head," not enough "heart" (perhaps
      vice versa for certain "Free jazz"). Still, I do feel each piece
      should be judged (if at all) on its own merits, and not by a
      surrounding context, though it may otherwise enhance our appreciation.

      John

      ps The delineation of certain "eras" is relevant: I think primarily
      the '20s (beginning with Prohibition and Mamie Smith's breakthrough,
      ending with the stock market crash) or Prohibition itself (ending
      prior to the commercial "Swing" era). The most important point of
      division is indeed World War II: after the war, one sees a huge
      difference throughout the cultural landscape, in literature, film, and
      music. Perhaps a sublimated cynicism brought about by fear of atomic
      power, although I blame commercial television for lowering aesthetic
      standards in general (we won't discuss fluoridation)...
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