I’m playing around with some changes for the blog, which, believe it or not, still exists. I’ll be expanding from just music to include thoughts on food, drink and anything else I feel like writing about. I’m also going to have some guest writers jump in from time to time.
I’m not so great at the technical side of these things, so it may be a bumpy transition.
Most jazz musicians I know came to the music one of two ways. For some, it was part of their culture, either because of family or community. These are the children of musicians, the people who grew up in New Orleans with second lines or in New York amidst the great clubs. Jazz is second nature to them, part of who they are from an early age.
For the rest of us, jazz came later, often as the last musical frontier. We were the kids who started rock bands in middle school, taught ourselves Nirvana and Sex Pistols songs, challenged each other with faster and more intricate parts to separate the serious players from the pretenders. The guitarists worked up to Eddie Van Halen and Kirk Hammett, the bass players Les Claypool and John Entwistle. Drummers learned Lars Ulrich and John Bonham. And everyone learned Rush.
…but I needed to stop in and say you need to get the new Wayne Shorter record, Without A Net. I’d like to say I’ll have a full review up soon, but looking at the half written reviews in my drafts folder I know that that’s 50/50 at best.
I’ll start off by saying I’m a fan of Treme, David Simon’s series about post-Katrina New Orleans. I think the show is ambitious in its scope and courageous in its assessment of the problems faced by a devastated city and the people who inhabit it. Simon’s newsman background serves him well here, as it did on The Wire, as he isn’t only able to see the individual stories but he can connect the dots to show how all of the small problems compound each other and the solutions undercut each other, adding up to one insurmountable mess. The word “Dickensian” gets used frequently to describe Simon’s shows, and a lot of very smart people consider The Wire to be the greatest television series ever made. Having him helm the series that would dissect this great American tragedy seems like a match made in heaven. Why, then, is the show so…meh?
Paris is supposed to be one of the great jazz cities. They loved Monk before New York did, hailed Miles as a genius and provided a fertile, non-segregated arena for greats like James Reese Europe, Josephine Baker and Django Reinhardt between the two World Wars. There’s a great documentary called Harlem in Monmartre, based on the book by the same name written by William A. Shack, that does a good job exploring the scene that sprung up there between the wars. So when my wife and I decided that Paris would be our next big trip, I was excited to see if the old reputation held true.
I’ve been interested lately in music that exists on the outskirts of jazz, especially where accomplished musicians attempt to bring jazz ideas to music that is decidedly not jazz, or attempt to bring outside elements into a traditional jazz setting. While fusion is nothing new, for the most part it has been limited to jazz-rock or jazz-funk, and that idea started over 40 years ago. With the explosion in new and interesting styles in the decades since, jazz players have been slow to adopt the ideas of hip-hop, techno and other more modern (and often electronic) styles. Here are a few groups that can show them the way.