Ben Allison in the new JazzTimes

Discussion in 'Bassists [DB]' started by musicman5string, Mar 6, 2006.

  1. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Anyone catch the blindfold test with Ben Allison in the new JazzTimes magazine?
    It's rather interesting. I've always had respect for Ben; he's made no mystery that bebop and the like is not for him, and I respect him for that. I've heard some of his music and seen him live. It was good, if not the greatest imo. But some of those recordings he was given in this "test" and his responses (i.e. the Ellington/Blanton duets, the Evans/Lafaro /Motion trio, etc.) really struck me as odd that he would not know them. And I was a little taken aback as well. One would think ANY bassist would pick up Blanton or LaFaro in about 1 measure, let alone a whole tune.
    Eh....just struck me as a little strange.
  2. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Some things he says are right on though; some even hilarious: Upon being presented with Brian Bromberg's latest recording: "This sounds like Van Halen on Double Bass". LOL!
    Also, he is brutally honest: "I hate the sound of bowed bass."

    I wonder if he's ever heard Edgar Meyer?
  3. Pcocobass


    Jun 16, 2005
    New York
    Well it's not like JB and Scotty revolutionized bass playing or anything... They're not THAT important...:meh:
  4. dperrott


    Oct 3, 2005
    I heard him on the Columbia Univ. radio station one time. The DJ
    asked him about Edger Meyer and he said he never heard of him.
    Allison is not the most well rounded player (in my opinion) but does
    his thing well.
  5. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006

  6. Farin


    Oct 19, 2004
    Akron, Ohio
    You gotta give it to the guy though. He's got more chops than me. I do find it a little odd that he wouldn't have picked those guys out.
  7. JPBass


    Aug 31, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    Why odd?

    I saw Ben Allison play in New York last week and thought he was awesome. He's developing his own thing and playing with like minded musicians. The fact that he hasn't studied Blanton or Lafaro means that he is not into copying from them. He is searching for his own sound. Thats what being an innovator is all about.

    Blanton and Lafaro may have revolutionized bass playing, but it doesn't mean we should all try to sound like them or that you cannot find your own sound without imitating them. Heaven knows theres more than enough bass players around who all sound the same.
  8. jazzbass72


    Jun 26, 2003
    New York, NY
    Wow wow wow! This is gonna be a *very* interesting thread :D

    -Marco (who'd rather not comment at this time)
  9. VTDB


    Oct 19, 2004
    I don't think that studying someones playing necessarily means that you are copying them and I don't think that copying someone means that you are going to sound like them. If you're learning to speak German you're going to get some books on tape so you hear and copy inflection and all that goes into speaking german. If you're going to play bebop you're going to learn to speak Charlie Parker, if you're going to play jazz you're going to learn to speak Louis Armstrong and Lester Young etc. Having an understanding of the tradition gives you a common ground on which to communicate. On the other hand if Ben Allison seems more interested in creating his own music seperate from the "jazz tradition" than there's really no reason for him to have that kind on knowledge. I really enjoy his playing and composing so , to me, it doesn't really matter that he can't pick out a Blanton/Ellington duet.
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    He who doesn't know history is doomed to repeat it -- and in your example, if he is very, very lucky.
  11. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    I read the interview yesterday. Among other things:

    -- Mr. Allison identifies the Duke & Blanton cut.
    -- Responding to that track, he states that he doesn't dig the sound of bowed bass and doesn't feel obliged to do it badly just to say that he does it at all. He notes that a few players do it well and basically says, 'More power to them.'
    -- He mis-identifies does the Evans & LaFaro cut as Evans & Eddie Gomez.
    -- He hears Gary Peacock instantly
    -- He vigorously states that Brian Bromberg is not his taste, but respectfully notes that the playing is the real deal in a style which Mr. Allison dislikes.

    In short, he says a lot of the same things that we say here. Y'know, I dig Jimmy Blanton but I don't listen to him four times a year, and I'd be shocked if I could spot Gary Peacock ever. No doubt the loss is mine and I will be sent back for another trip on the wheel instead of promoted to Garden of Bassitude when I draw my last.

    I listen to Allison's Medicine Wheel a lot. It swings and it stretches. (FWIW Mr. Allison employs somebody bowing an Almost-Bass -- er, 'cello -- throughout the record. I think that guy is the weak link on that disc.) I think the interview reflects a skilled, creative musian who spends his time working on skillful, creative acoustic jazz and watching his kid. He's not working on a doctorate.

    Finally, as a general point, I encourage people to read or listen to the article before responding to it even if it's rude of me to do that. It's not online yet but it will be in a few weeks at the JazzTimes site.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY


    I agree with everything above except that I think I'd spot Peacock pretty quick from my piano years as a "Keith-o-phile". Blanton was a great player, and a seminal figure in the history of jazz bass. Without his contribution, the bass world would be different, and likely much poorer. At the same time, I have to admit his playing is not really my cuppa personally. Neither is NHOP's, but I have great respect for both.

    It may be outside the purview of this thread, but since I feel it's related, and since my spring break starts in about 6 hours, I'll go ahead and say it:

    Tradition is important, because without it there is no frame of reference, and as Ray points out, it is easy to end up repeating history if you are not aware of it: "Look, Ma...I just invented this awesome new tool. I think I'll call it....the wheel!" On the other hand, there are many ways to absorb tradition, and it is inevitable that as more time goes on, some of the original sources will be felt more and more by influence than by direct exposure. Most people who read the Bible only know it as a work that has been translated and edited ______ (read: MANY) times, and in a way, that's a shame, since a lot of chaff has been added to the wheat (and a sizable amount of wheat has been omitted by those who didn't like the way it tasted). Still, for those who are interested in learning from it, there is enough of the original message there to still do some good, and that's a good thing...and it doesn't invalidate the views and/or experiences of those who have not taken the time to trace it back to its origins and read the oldest available version in the original language. Is there merit in doing so? Sure. Is it a prerequisite of being spiritual? I don't believe it is. YMMV.

    The bottom line is that in art, as in life, you are what you eat. If you consume what feeds your spirit, you're on the path. I shudder to think how many "seminal" bassists I would misidentify on a blindfold test, but I don't think that does much to "discredit" me in any way as a bassist or creative musician. In the end, you either sound good or you don't. If you do, it doesn't much matter how you got that way... likewise if you don't. I'd rather hear a player who sounds good but doesn't "know" a lot of history than one who can recite history chapter and verse but can't play a coherent chorus.

    No flames, please! Just my hillbilly, backwoods .02c. :)
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Tuppence? I hear there are tribes in your region that still speak the King's English and have no knowledge of the existence of the USA.

  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thou knowest not of what thou speakest, Yankee. Mayhap it be that we knowest all about the Unclotted Severed Artery. Fie on thee...Fie, says I. :spit:
  15. VTDB


    Oct 19, 2004
    I agree with pretty much everything you are saying, I would just add that you are probably more likely to find someone playing a coherent chorus who can also recite history chapter and verse than someone who happens to have an intuitive sense of the language without knowing a lot of the history, no?
  16. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    I think we are all being a little too politically (artistically?) correct here.

    I don't own every Beatles album, but to be sure you played a recording of theirs I'd be able to say it's The Beatles.

    Same with Art Tatum, Max Roach, Hank Jones, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Michael Jackson.

    And I don't even play piano, drums, guitar, or sing.

    Sometimes even a true "artist" deserves criticism. Certainly even if I consider myself one, I deserve a ton of it. Which by the way, I don't believe I ever actually criticized Ben Allison; in fact, I praised his playing and concept....I still think he could've recognized some of those players a little bit more.

    And for those who think not, that's cool too. We all have our own standards we hold others to.

    Peace and best wishes to Ben.
  17. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Actually, I do play piano and guitar, so I probably deserve to be criticized for that comment about not playing them.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Chapter? Maybe. Verse? Okay. But both? Not necessarily. My point was that one does not need to have read Sophocles and Homer to appreciate Kundera and/or Robertson fact, I bet there are many fine writers out there who learned their craft from more contemporary sources who would fail to recognize passages from the former group. And while I'm equally sure that somewhere out there there is a group of literary critics who would lampoon such a writer for holes in his knowledge of literary history, in my book this would diminish said writer's output not one iota.

    Like I said before, I certainly don't think there's anything wrong with learning as much of history as moves you, and the great figures in the history of each budding craftsman's craft should at least be examined in a cursory way. But at the same time, if a historical figure doesn't float yer boat, but you learn from someone who was directly or indirectly influenced by that figure, where's the harm in that?
  19. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    I don't fly airplanes but I can tell you who invented them.
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    But without google or a reference book, if shown a picture of any plane throughout the history of planes, could you name it and its manufacturer?