Jazz is dead: A Personal Take On The Modern Scene

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by BassistJ, Jun 10, 2001.

  1. BassistJ


    Mar 20, 2001
    Hemet, CA USA
    I just got done watching the Ken Burns' Jazz series on PBS. And I released something very quickly: The entire thing played out like a manifesto for a certain kind of jazz and certain kinds of players. While the skipped over most of the jazz going on in the late 60's, 70's, and early 80's you were treated to more Louis, more Duke, more Wynton. While the whole concept of jazz and playing improvisational music in a small group setting was being redefined for an entire generation, you got to hear about how much Wynton loved My Favorite Things. While I certainly didn't expect them to delve to deep into people like Joe Zawinul and Jaco, they did the entire fusion movement a disservice by not even acknowledge them. Any mention of fusion or anything progressive was mentioned nastily and in passing.

    It was coming, though. People don't like change, and especially not jazz fans. They want to feel like everything is as it was, with Diz and Bird still blowin' together and Miles with his first quintet. So, I came to something that I found very disheartening as a classically and jazz trained musician.

    Jazz is dead.
    And it ain't coming back.

    The scene is either dominated by the Young Lyin's, who do there damnedest to play EXACTLY like their heroes and have nothing in the form of innovation and exploration, or the Smooth Jazz Nazis who believe that jazz should both be easy to listen to and nice conversation background music. Jazz is, as Miles put, "museum music." I hate admitting it myself, but unfortunately it's true.

    Of course, it could be argued that fusion and progressive music is now the Jazz of our time, but I really don't feel like getting flamed.

    My two cents.
  2. White_Knight


    Mar 19, 2000
    I don't think that jazz is dead by any means. It's just at a low point innovation-wise currently. All it takes is one person to start a change and I'm sure that someone will come in and take the jazz scene by storm here in not too long. Music is never a static business for long, it's always changing and morphing. Thus, I'm not worried - the jazz scene will reawaken soon.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    This is an honest question and not an attempt to start a flame war, but which "heroes" do you think artists like Brad Mehldau and Kenny Werner are trying to be EXACTLY like? And do you find them to have nothing in the form of innovation or exploration?

    It also helps to define your terms. What exactly does it mean for a music to be "alive" as opposed to "dead"? If "alive" means record sales out the wazoo, then yes, jazz is quite dead, and has been for some time. But if "alive" means are there a bunch of folks out there still playing some serious sh*t, then I'd have to say it's very alive. It just doesn't get the press it used to.

    Jazz is still very much alive to me, and that's my personal take.
  4. BassistJ


    Mar 20, 2001
    Hemet, CA USA
    I look back at my post and I find tons of logic holes myself. I really have to learn to think things through before saying something like Jazz is dead. :)

    Anyway, regarding the Young Lyin's remark...I just find it very difficult to listen to these new cats and hear anything that has'nt been done a couple times in the past, only better. There's acceptions, of course, and you named two very good ones. I did'nt mean to generalize. But in general, yes, I feel that the jazz players of today are trying to sound like someone else. Hell, even me. I spent a good couple of years trying to sound like J.J. Johnson back when I played bone. It's just the environment that jazz is in, and is perputuated by the community. Well, the POPULAR jazz community. Not us bass players. We rock.

    As for the meaning of dead...I'm really going to have to think about how to phrase that before I answer that. I don't want to confuse and enrage any more people then I already have. I'm not ducking this, by any means!

    Anyway, the hour grows late. Sleep time now.
  5. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Music related. Off to Miscellaneous with ya!
  6. BassistJ


    Mar 20, 2001
    Hemet, CA USA
    Oh my! Forgiviness, please, O Great Moderator! :)

    Ok, now time to really go to sleep.
  7. I'm with CF on this one. I, too, think that jazz is very much alive, just not in recorded form. But that's okay, because as far as I'm concerned, jazz is an experience that goes beyond the recorded media. A great part of that experience is being in the same room as the musicians who are creating the music. And there are a lot of cats out there creating great jazz at small clubs everywhere. You just have to look a little to find them.
  8. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I've mentioned this before in another similar thread, but has anyone read the Nobel prize-winning novel "Magister Ludi" (the Glass Bead Game) by Hesse? I don't want to get too far out or esoteric here, but this book really blew my mind (at first) and then opened my eyes on the subject of "is ___________ dead? Nothing new seems to be happening". The book tells the story of a (presumably) futuristic society in which all art and all philosophical thought have been elevated (or reduced, depending on how you take it) to a game involving the decorative placement of glass beads which represent the essence of different artistic achievements from the history of our civilization.

    The message is open ended and can be interpreted to mean several things. For instance, at different times I have taken it to be saying that:

    1) At one time, art and all higher thought were very much alive, reflecting the fact that our civilization itslef was very much alive; but as time wore on, human life and its reflective art were reduced to simply repeating forms from the past in different guises, since the spark of creativity had gone out of our civilization. Summation: Art was once fresh and new, now it's dead because we killed it by worshipping superficial values for too long....... OR

    2) All art and higher thought have always been a version of the bead game, and it is only now that we understand and admit that fact; The idea of completely original creative thought is a fallacy, and throughout history, artists of all disciplines have always begun their journey by standing on the shoulders of their predecessors, thereby giving the illusion of originality and creative progress; but at some point one generation finds that when they try to stand, they are restricted by the ceiling of the room we all live in....Translation: the beads have already been arranged in so many ways, that it becomes like chess - when you move the first piece, people have seen so many chess games that they have a "name" for your opening move, whatever it may be. Art is not dead, it's as alive as it ever has been, but it NEVER HAS BEEN completely original; we're just now learning to recognize the different arrangement patterns that we've seen before, and wonder if our art is dead because we don't see any new ones, when in fact the number of possible patterns was always finite to begin with.

    Okay, I've paraphrased Hesse, now I'll bring this post down to earth a bit and paraphrase Fuqua: The real question is, when you play, ARE YOU SAYING SOMETHING THAT'S MEANINGFUL TO YOU? If so, your art is alive. If not, it's dead.
  9. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    I openly confess to liking "smooth jazz." However, I am not a jazz nazi. You listen to what you like; I'll listen to what I like. I buy Fourplay and Larry Carlton records. I even have a collaboration between Rick Braun and Boney James! I actually enjoy it. I have some Shakatak I enjoy too.

    Do I impose my substandard low rent district, low brow tastes on the other more intellectually endowed here who prefer "hard" jazz? No. Play what you want. Buy what you want. Support the jazz musicians you like. And I will do the same and we will live together in peaceful harmony, just like the Coca Cola ad.

    Let's not call each other nazis here. The posters who frequent TalkBass represent a cross section of many music tastes. Let's respect the human right to draw pleasure from whatever music speaks to us emotionally or on whatever level. It's all good.
  10. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    That's the tyranny of corporate music. The impact isn't felt just in jazz. Try reading a Nashville newspaper for a week and you'll see that exactly what you describe, Ed (I can't think of a cute name) is happening in country music, plus I'm certain, everything from metal to gospel to reggae to industrial to Hindu or whatever.

    The new, innovative, courageous music is pretty much underground and ignored because executives of the big music companies and their radio counterparts are scared to death of something refreshing, inventive and a departure from accepted proven formulas.
  11. Jazz isnt dead, its just sleeping...
    I dont feel there has been any real fresh, ground beaking stuff for a while. However, history tends to repeat itself and music is no exception. I feel that 'jazz' will be making a comeback as 'fusion' allowing for a wider, more diverse range of listeners both young & old. That is my hypothesis anyways....
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Another very real truth that those of us who are pursuing "progress" in this music some call JAZZ should consider is the following: Nothing is "old news" to an individual musician until they have tried it and tried to do it. It's easy to get caught up in the trap of, " Nah, I don't wanna do that....it's already been done." Question is, has it been done BY YOU?

    Why should it be important to walk a road that has never been walked by anybody before? Does that make it somehow a better path for being unexplored? I doubt if anybody has ever laid out a big twister board with note names on each dot, and then climbed onto a 12 foot stepladder and taken a dump onto the board while videotaping the whole event, and then made a melody out of the analysis if which turd hit which dot first (although I can think of a lot of music that SOUNDS LIKE it was written that way). Sorry if that was a gross image, but I think it makes the point - that would certainly be a new way of creating music, but why would you want to do that? What would the point be?

    In my opinion, and my opinion only, you should follow whatever path your heart and mind tell you to follow. The result will be the best and most honest music you can or will ever possibly make. Whether someone else has done something like it before is irrelevant. I believe that those who blazed new trails in the past were doing exactly this.
  13. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Tunnel vision Ed?! I never would have thought it.

    Just because something doesn't walk up to you and smack you in the face, doesn't mean it isn't there. Jazz will not die. Every time some kid growing up hears a John Coltrane CD for the first time, and is blown away and inspired by it, jazz will continue to grow and breathe. Just be patient.
  14. brewer9


    Jul 5, 2000
    Ya know this makes me wonder if I was on to something on my other post about the Theory nazis. I know I fanned the flames on that one and do not want to do that ever again. And I missed the point on that myself too.

    The real point is possibly this: Jazz has become a Theory and knowledge music when it really should be about just banging it out. Rock has gotten bigger and bigger and fragmented to the Nth degree because it is accessible to the masses in so many ways. Jazz was this same way decades ago but has since become the art form for the sophisticated top echelon players. You had to look right, and sound right, and do the right scales,etc. Jazz wasnt Jazz anymore.

    you see, Fusion was too "rock" sounding to be of any value to the Jazz sophisticates. Despite the fact that this is were so many amazing players were gravitating.

    Sorry, go ahead and flame me on this.
  15. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Brewer you ignorant slut! Ahhh, got that out of my system. Whew! :)

    And for all: by the way, my last post wasn't directed entirely at Ed, just that first statement, I don't know if that was clear or not. The second paragraph was just a general response. I'm not very clear sometimes. ;)

    In response to the idea that jazz is all about theory and rules and all that, I don't sincerely agree with that. It's easy to see that in some of the more mainstream jazz that is available. It's very formulaic. Wynton is probably a very obvious example, from the school of conformist thought. I hear other cats playing who just don't have that feel. I don't mind saying I'm definitely a Harry Connick Jr. fan, and when I hear him live, I see a living, breathing musician who is playing for the love of the music. I'm a huge fan of New Orleans jazz, and I would say the same about some of the cats down there like Dr. John, Lucien Barbarin, and Raymond Weber. These are guys who play it because it means something, not because Julliard or Berklee taught them this certain method. If you go back to the 80s, James Booker was breaking all sorts of rules with his rolling piano stomps, going back to Jelly Roll Morton days while mixing it Mozart melodies. I guess it's all in where you look, but I would definitely say to avoid the "smooth jazz (read: R&B)" stations if you're looking for original music. As much as I think George Duke is talented, he just doesn't swing to me.
  16. Tyler Dupont

    Tyler Dupont Wesly Headpush

    I haven't listened to alot of jazz .. I'm just developing a taste for it. The band that got me into it is Metalwood. I think it's a bit different then most jazz .. but like I said, I don't know much about it.. I highly recommend checking them out though.
  17. Jazz ain't dead or sleeping. It's alive and well, and wide awake if you're there to experience it. Jazz is evolving is in the liberation of the rythm section, in ensemble writing, the vocabulary is expanding in a way that uses expressive devices or extended techniques, things were once solely the domain of so-called free-jazz, the phrasing of lines is evolving. You have to be there, I mean here.
  18. KEWL!!!! Where is 'here'? some examples too..??
  19. brewer9


    Jul 5, 2000
    LOL! Hey look, New life on this thread! I may be an ignorant slut, but I'm proud of it man!

    Ignorance Rules.....well, at least I think it might but I'm not sure.
  20. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Jazz is still very much alive today and it's not going away. There was a time when music that made you want to get up an dance was "Jazz", it seems now that the term is primarily associated with improvisational music.

    Hip Hop is following along a similiar track that jazz has, though compared to jazz, hip hop is still in its infancy. At first it was looked at as some bizarre latino and black urban youth phenomena, but look at it today, it's mainstream and they're using real musicians, chord progressions, etc..