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Bebop Spoken There

Dewey Redman: "When Trane came to Bop City in San Francisco and told me he liked the way I played, I stayed high off that forever." - (Downbeat June 1980.)

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Nick Brignola: “I got to talk to John Coltrane before he was John Coltrane!” – (Jazz Journal April 1991)

Archives.

Today Wednesday January 18

Afternoon.
Vieux Carre Jazzmen - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.
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Evening.
Take it to the Bridge - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. £1. 8pm.
Ruth Lambert w. Alan Law Trio - Cherry Tree Restaurant, 9 Osborne Rd., Jesmond, Newcastle. 7:30pm. No cover charge.
Levee Ramblers NOJB - Springwell Village Community Venue, Fell Road, Springwell, Gateshead NE9 7RP. 8:30pm. £3.00. Note earlier start and a small increase in admission.
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Tees Hot Club - Cleveland Bay, 718 Yarm Rd., Eaglescliffe, TS16 0JE. 9pm. Free.
To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What is Jazz? With Alyn Shipton and Alan Barnes @ Ushaw Jazz Festival August 27. + Improvisation Workshop.

(Report by Steve T)
Pre-empting the discussion, I asked the Artist in Residence his basis for including a painting of Tom Waits among artists more widely recognised as Jazz.
He seemed surprised that the question was asked and we agreed that his music has much in common with Jazz: improvisation, innovation and outside the box, but this could equally apply to Captain Beefheart, the Grateful Dead, King Crimson and many others.
He’d either singled out Waits as a special case or recognised no difference, or perhaps more pertinently, difference (coined by French Post-Structuralist Jacques Derrida) anticipating that he will become more widely thought of as part of the Jazz lineage.
The discussion began with Alyn Shipton playing bass and Alan Barnes playing alto. So far, so good.
They then attempted to address the question, which skimmed past my thinning grey hair on its way to the ceiling. Lance, HELP. Hope FDT and the other Early Birds are taking notes – fat chance.
What are the components that make up Jazz?
Time/ Swing. Are they the same thing? Perhaps I could write a poem.
Pitch, harmony, melody – vertical or horizontal?
Coleman Hawkins played vertically while Lester Young played melodically, chords being less important. This I can just about follow.
They tried to demonstrate how to play blues without Jazz feel, which must be like asking an Olympic swimmer to drown.
As a lay-person and a soul fan, this translated to me as playing Jazz without ‘soul’, perfectly feasible but distinctly lacking. I always say there is more to blues (in the sense of Muddy Waters and BB King) than mere chords and scales.
The one hundred notes per second guitarists are routinely accused of a lack of soul, which is an unfair generalisation.
Barnes talked about it in terms of playing above or below and just after or just before.
We learned that Louis Armstrong’s gift to the world was syncopation, the Duke brought a selection of saxophonists with a variety of styles and strengths, Bird brought intellectuality and bebop in general, with an element of onomatopoeia, was a rhythmic and harmonic revolution, even though all the elements were already in place as part of the language of Jazz.
Miles played trumpet the same, whether bebop, hard-bop, orchestral, modal, freebop or fusion, which is also the claim of the Bluffers Guide to Jazz, while Coleman Hawkins changed his style about every ten years.
This begged the question as to whether change is inevitable and always for the better and Barnes seemed to take the view that it isn’t, claiming much recent Jazz lacks feeling.
It also came up that some people – and Wynton Marsalis was one of them – claimed that nothing worthwhile has happened in Jazz since a Love Supreme which, even if you dismiss fusion entirely, seems arbitrary since Trane was still in his prime and Miles had a couple more years before going electric, while Mingus never did.
They felt that virtuosity is now deemed essential, even at the expense of ‘hip’, observing that Hank Mobley was considered a lesser saxophonist than Trane, even though he had a sound which was distinctly him.
If you think I’d lost the thread, you’d probably be right but Shipton asked where they were going only for Barnes to retort it’s Jazz, we’re improvising.
Many musicians and observers have questioned the ratio of repeating to improvisation and Lee Konitz has famously claimed everything should be improvised, while another sax player Dick Morrisey said that a solo was prepared over a lifetime. The current issue of Jazz Journal claims that Ornette Coleman said Albert Ayler only had one solo, but it was a really good one.     
Alan Barnes was witty, at times hilarious, teasing latecomers though wisely leaving teenagers at a self-conscious age. He doesn’t seem to hold critics in very high regard and seemed to keep looking at me on my own in the front row with a notebook and pen. Somebody suggested that critics should be able to play a musical instrument but, while I certainly don’t consider myself a critic, I don’t think music belongs to composers and musicians any more than houses belong to architects and builders.
He also poured scorn on smooth Jazz, a soft target but a prickly one, as there’s more to it than just Russel G’s brother Kenny and Najee, with many listeners I know preferring people like Sanborn and – sorry guitarists – Pat Metheny.
My contribution was highlighting some of the artists featured on the latest Jazz compilation, including Robbie Williams, Duffy, Imelda May, Alison Moyet and Paulo Nutini, and quoting Wayne Shorter from the March issue of Jazz Journal that Jazz means I dare you, which I think they liked.
I tend to agree with the artist in residence that people like Tom Waits, though not necessarily Tom Waits, will be welcomed into the family of Jazz, which will become part of the classical music of the American Century. 
Discuss!
Steve T.
Improvisation Workshop
Apart from the obvious, one of the good things about a festival on the doorstep is that you get to go home for driving, dog-walking and shopping duties. One of the bad things is you’ve got to go home for driving, dog-walking and shopping duties.
I’m reliably informed that the above took place in the theatre with Lord Paul teaching, for anybody who has the faintest what any of this means: guide tones, soloing on three notes and 2-5-1 progressions, with three Early Birds on drums, guitar and trumpet, and others playing piano, trombone, another trumpet and alto/flute.
This was followed by What is Jazz which I have reviewed above with the vain hope of continuing the discussion, Mark Williams and Joel McCullough in the lounge and then the highlight of a festival full of highlights, Alan Barnes, Bruce Adams and the Paul Edis Trio presenting the best example I’ve seen in years of one of the great inventions of the C20th – the standard Jazz quintet.

Russell will review this far more eloquently than I ever could, not least because the obvious benefit of living nearby was kicking in, with me now fetching bottles of Stella two at a time, and the theatre beginning to look like something from a fairy-tale.

4 comments :

  1. Steve, interesting to see it from your point of view. Seems you missed the bit where Alan showed how different saxophonists brought their personality to a piece - showing Adderley and Pepper bringing different emphasis and timing to the same phrasing. And we did play for several minutes showing how many great tunes were based on I Got Rhythm - I think I counted about ten.... But thanks for your questions! Alyn

    ReplyDelete
  2. Didn't really intend it to be comprehensive. I'm sure there's lots of other stuff I missed out, like Bird and bebop also bringing new levels of virtuosity.
    As I said, it was mostly over my head, but I think most people there know there's lots of stuff based on I Got Rhythm.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This presentation was at quite a high level for the non-musician (like me). I enjoyed it though and came away (in Reithian style) educated, informed and entertained.

    ReplyDelete

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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