Ethan Iverson at Do The Math points out in a recent (and lengthy, natch) post that in a class he taught at the Banff arts center, all 10 pianists in the class didn’t recognize a recording of “Carolina Shout” by James P. Johnson. Here’s part of what he says about this:
“When teaching at Banff this past summer, 10 out 10 jazz young pianists were working on their post-Brad Mehldau/post-Keith Jarrett conception. That’s cool – I am full-on post-Jarrett myself, and in fact I’m influenced by Brad too – but the same 10 pianists then didn’t recognize James P. Johnson’s “Carolina Shout” when I played it for them in a master class.”
“It’s really no big deal if any given young jazz pianist isn’t interested in James P. Johnson. One’s muses needn’t include early jazz if one wants to make good improvised music. But 10 out 10 pianists not recognizing “Carolina Shout” really bothered me.”
It sure bothers me. If these students at Banff can play convincingly in a contemporary style (enough at least to gain admission to Banff) and know nothing of arguably one of the most famous recordings of this early jazz piano giant, there is something seriously wrong with the jazz education system these students come from and a disturbing sign that jazz is becoming increasingly watered down. I hope this bothers in particular the admissions people at Banff who should be looking for a little more depth in who they admit and who will reap the musical and financial benefits of saying they went to Banff and studied with so-and-so etc.
I disagree with Iverson on one point though; maybe his phrase “improvised music” is key but I do think that a pianist needs to be aware of James P. and the other early pianists to be a good jazz improviser. Understanding the history of this music (or anything, really) is vitally important to being able to express oneself in a larger, deeper context. If jazz history is discarded in favor of teaching the latest lick, rather than seeing them both as pieces of the same whole, the art form begins to wither.
I’ve placed some sheet music of my compositions online:
Look for the section marked “Sheet Music”. They are all in PDF format and I’ll periodically (hopefully) post new tunes there. They are all licensed under a Creative Commons license which specifies what uses are permitted, namely non-commercial uses like playing at jam sessions and in schools. If someone wants to use the tunes in a commercial way, like a recording, they need to contact me first and get my OK. Creative Commons is a way of enhancing a copyright to make it more flexible and internet-friendly while retaining the legal rights granted under existing copyright law.
The CEOs claim that they need to fly private because of “security.” Right. Maybe they thought Congress would give them the $25B in cash and they didn’t want to bother trying to explain it to the TSA at Reagan National. Or maybe they just don’t like sitting next to “Joe Six-Pack” on Southwest? N5116, a chartered Gulfstream G-IV landed a while ago in Detroit – was it the CEO of GM, Ford or Chrysler?
I don’t make a habit of reading tmz.com but this came up in a Google blog search (the first listing for jazz today!?) and caught my eye:
OK, I’m sure Molly Ringwald is probably a fine singer, as good or or maybe even better than any other former 80′s teenage star who tries their hand at singing jazz, but let me think – Ella Fitzgerald, legend (check), Billie Holiday, legend (check), Molly Ringwald, ???????? If she’s serious about playing jazz she should tell her promoter to drop the legend stuff and let her music speak for itself.
Ornette Coleman and his band played at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last week (11/13/08). Here’s my take on the performance:
- Ornette Coleman; I don’t understand his dialect of improvising that well, but it seems he is fully committed to it. Whether on ballads or up-tempo tunes he plays from his heart – a big plus for me. He also has a plaintive tone on the alto which fits his compositions well.
- His electric bassist and to some degree, his acoustic bassist also, listen well to Coleman and complement him. Again, the dialect that they’re playing is a barrier for me, but I can tell they are interacting.
- Well-rehearsed arrangements. This was the last concert in a tour so that helps in this regard.
- I didn’t understand how the drummer (his son, Denardo) was relating to the group. Most of the night he seemed to be playing grooves based on a metric division of what the rest of the group was playing. Doing this for part of songs (a la Miles’ 2nd quintet) or maybe even a whole song might be OK but during every song in a 2 hour concert was distracting at best.
- Doctoring up Bach’s 1st Cello Suite. First off, Bach’s Cello Suites are written as solo pieces, with the cello accompanying itself, so expanding it to a group format needs to be carefully thought out and have a clear purpose. Second, I know bass players sometimes play the suites, but as any bass/player will tell you, bowing will show off any problems with intonation and there were plenty during that evening. Then there was the funk backbeat from the drums to drive the final nail in the coffin.
- While we’re on the bass, too much thumb position bowing. The bass player favored the upper register most of the evening which, for me, becomes texturally annoying after an hour or so. If the bowing is part of the group sound, why not try a cello?
Question: What’s the deal with Ornette playing the trumpet? He just picked it up for 8 measures here and there and played some random tones (I don’t know what it’s called musically – just moving your fingers a lot on the valves)? Is it a texture thing? A tribute to Don Cherry?
CNN has another article on jazz today, this time about Washington DC saxophonist and educator Davey Yarborough. Keep the articles coming CNN!
CNN has an article today on some lesser-known jazz clubs around the world:
I saw this today next to a polling place. I’m sure the ignorant, intolerant opinion implied by this sign isn’t representative of people who live in this area but it shows that there are people around who are very happy to spread hate.
Overall, McCain didn’t get the “game changer” that he was looking for in this debate. He spent more time (again) attacking Obama than he did outlining his policies. He frequently was condescending to Obama when he responded to points he didn’t agree with, unlike Obama, who stayed on message and stayed polite the whole night. McCain also kept bringing up a supporter named “Joe The Plumber,” tonight’s euphemism for “ordinary people,” again trying to subtly portray Obama (and by extension, his supporters) as outside foreigners meddling in the affairs of Joe Six Pack, hockey moms etc. Obama skillfuly addressed Joe The Plumber (JTP) later in the debate and McCain had trouble incorporating it any more in his arguments. (There does happen to be a Joe The Plumber in Amarillo, TX – www.joetheplumber.com – maybe McCain was hoping he could unclog his campaign.) Here are some points that I noted as the debate progressed:
9:03 Why does McCain always write things down before the debate really starts?
9:04 McCain looks uncomfortable
9:09 Obama gets the first laugh of the night for saying that McCain has been watching too many of his own ads
9:11 McCain accuses Obama of “class warfare” without much explanation
9:13 McCain again uses his poor comparison to Ireland re: tax rates
9:17 Schieffer is popping in and out of the frame of the video and it’s distracting
9:20 Obama brings up the Bush deficits
9:21 McCain says he’s not President Bush; annoyed at Obama bringing up that McCain voted for Bush’s budgets
9:23 Obama gets the second laugh for saying even Fox News disputes one of McCain’s accusations
9:27 McCain brings up Rep. John Lewis’s remarks about the McCain campaign
9:31 more Joe The Plumber references from McCain
9:32 Obama restates his mild repudiation of Rep. Lewis’ comments
9:35 Obama staying on track with emphasizing his focus on policy change vs. McCain mudslinging
9:37 Obama clearly and succinctly refutes the allegations against him re: Ayers and ACORN
9:40 McCain refuses to accept Obama’s statements
9:44 McCain says Palin’s husband is a tough guy too (??!!??) in response to a question about running mates.
9:48 McCain comes across as condescending frequently in these debates as he just did answering a question about energy policy
9:52 McCain takes a jab at Obama saying he never traveled south of the border and he would understand it better if he did. Neither have I so I guess I can’t say anything more.
9:53 Obama counters with “I understand it pretty well”
9:56 McCain comparing Obama to Herbert Hoover again
9:58 Obama outlining his health plan
10:00 More Joe The Plumber about health care (it’s getting real old by now) claiming Joe will get fined under Obama’s health care plan
10:01 Obama addresses Joe personally and says Joe will play no fines as McCain claims; McCain stunned, can’t believe it.
10:03 McCain says Joe is rich now. Wishes him congratulations.
10:05 McCain (accidentally?) calls Obama, “Senator Government”
10:09 Schieffer pressing McCain on whether he would appoint a Supreme Court justice who supports abortion rights
10:13 McCain brings up some of Obama’s votes about abortion in the Illinois State Senate which Obama has to address – a frequent tactic of McCain. Obama again skillfuly addresses the accusations.
10:16 Last question about education
10:18 Obama outlining his strategies for improving the education system including emphasizing the role of the parents (yay!)
10:19 McCain starts his response with something about civil rights and equal access to schools apparently in relation to charter schools
10:21 Obama says the Bush administration left the money behind with No Child Left Behind
10:27 McCain giddily sneaks in the last response before closing statements emphasizing his support for school vouchers
10:28 McCain – I’m a reformer, you can trust me, I’m in a “long line of McCain’s” serving their country.
10:30 Obama – We live with failed policies. We need tax cuts for middle class, health care and better education. “It’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be quick … [but] I’m sure we can do it.”