Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wayne and Trane

The mainstream stardom of Lil Wayne with his croaking voice and minimal appreciation for artists other than himself is a feature of contemporary popular music that I struggle to understand. That being said, I don’t want to give the impression that I am anti-rap, nor do I want to conceal the fact that I have a couple Lil Wayne songs on my running playlist. Many jazz and classical fans tend to fall into such purist traps and I’m trying my best to avoid doing so, but the fact that Lil Wayne is even considered by some to be on the same hip-hop level as performers like Jay-z, Drake and Kanye West baffles me. I strongly believe that, in musicality at least, Lil Wayne lags far behind his contemporaries in both technique and lyrical clarity as a rapper. I suppose his unique timbre—his stoned delivery, in other words—must be the most important feature of his raps that makes them catchy to fans.

                However, my point here is not to argue my views on the best rapper or pop performer. Rather, I want to bring attention to a few amusing similarities between the superstar I can’t take seriously and a man many jazz fans practically worship (and for good reason): the legendary tenner saxophone player John Coltrane.

                In terms of pure musical devices, both men are improvisers and more specifically they both have a somewhat abrasive tone.

Lil Wayne makes percussive use of various rasps and wheezes in his rapping and “singing.” Listen to the timbre of his voice on the chorus of his famous song “Drop the World”:


                Now listen to the variety of not necessarily pleasant sounds John Coltrane makes with his saxophone while devouring and regurgitating the harmonic on this 1965 performance:

                Neither of these examples is very melodic in the traditional sense.

                Historically speaking, these two musicians have some commonalities as well. For one, they both had to kick drug habits: Coltrane struggled with heroine until he found spirituality and Lil Wayne says he gave up cough syrup.

                Both artists also released ballads in the midst of some of their more tumultuous work. Lil Wayne recorded the infamous “How to Love” on Tha Carter IV. Learn to live with and love the Auto-Tune.

                Back in 1963, Coltrane recorded an entire album of ballads with Johnny Hartman that has been highly regarded by jazz critics. It is a surprising melodic contrast to the highly exploratory work he recorded shortly after in the last few years of his career.

                I’ll stop there before I start doing actual damage. Just saying music history might be trying to tell us something hilarious, though.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Some Live Selections from the Library of Tommy Carroll

One of the main, if not the sole determining factor, to whether or not I grow to love an artist’s music, is the quality of the individual/group’s live performance. The live setting allows musicians to stretch out, be more expressive and play off the audience while leaving no room for do-overs and limited technological processing; it is, I think, the clearest image of an artist's ability and personality.

However, without unlimited travel capabilities---including time travel to watch deceased musicians perform---and only a finite amount of money, it is nearly impossible to see all the performances required to make such an estimation of a satisfying number of artists. Fortunately, live recordings of artists both past and present are readily available in modern times, rarely requiring any travel further than the ITunes store or Amazon.com, and they often cost less than concert tickets.

The following are a list of some of the recordings I greatly enjoy and most highly recommend in no particular order of ranking or value. Basically, these are random albums---some more famous than others---that I think jazz and rock fans should give a listen, time permitting. I hope you are able to find something new that you like from this brief list.


Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra “Live at the Village Vanguard”: This 1967 live album catches the band at their smokin best; by the transition segments, it sounds to me as if the audience at the time was not nearly enthusiastic enough. The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band was known as being very aggressive musically while still managing to retain their professional level of refinement. This recording captures that aspect of the group perfectly; the reeds demonstrate their classic serene yet crisp section sound, the brass sounds mighty without overblowing, and Lewis and the rhythm section are dynamic, supporting the band through great things. The musicality of every player in the band amazes me, from inventive soloists taking just the right amount of choruses while allowing the rhythm section to shine underneath to the emotional section interplay throughout every ensemble passage. No one boasts, they simply prove their expertise through energetic well-crafted playing. I also like the shouts of encouragement by several band members during some of the transition sections; the orchestra was certainly having a fun time that night. Don’t believe me? Check out how hard “A-That’s Freedom” swings or witness the raw power and fluidity of “Bachafillen” and “The Little Pixie.”

Count Basie Orchestra “Count Basie at Newport 1957”: To me, the Basie band in its prime is the essence of pure jazz---I will forever be enthralled by how hard that band swung (and I wasn’t even alive then). I love most Newport Festival recordings because the audience is almost always intensely energized by the performance and this album is no exception---more of an extreme than anything. This record should please Basie collectors due to the high level of performance, but it is also an excellent introductory record because it presents musicians from several eras of the Basie band. After a memorably swinging introduction (“Swingin at Newport”), we get to hear Joe Jones, the original Basie drummer, for 5 tunes; the style of the band is significantly different than with the showman Sonny Payne, both are great, its fortunate they both coexist on one record. Lester Young joins the band on several tracks, including the ballad “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” (a tune he frequently played with the group as a full-time member) and an up-tempo “Lester Leaps In” which showcases Young in surprisingly good spirits for that time late in his career. Two great Basie singers---Jimmy Rushing and Joe Williams---both appear as well, adding flavor and soul. The performance charges to a finish with a 13 minute jam session on “One O’clock Jump” with famous solos by Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, and Roy Eldridge---an impressive early swing horn trifecta.


O.A.R. “Live From Madison Square Garden” 2007: I was on the fence about being an O.A.R. fan until I got this album for my birthday last year. The band puts on an exhibition of both storytelling prowess and jamming mastery. If the instrumentation for “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” and “Black Rock” don’t keep you interested, Marc Roberge’s extensive lyrical expansion should keep you listening to those tunes to find out what happens or what he even means. O.A.R.’s stories are often gloomy or cynical, but there are also typical (only lyrically) love songs such as “Lay Down.” Also, a must hear portion of the show is the dark extended jam on “Anyway”, I was not expecting it---I’m a fan now if you were wondering.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals “Live at the Philmore”: This live album offers listeners an opportunity to hear a great new band play in a classic venue. Grace is fantastic---a driving and wildly talented vocalist as always---and the absence of studio clarity lets the band’s raw bluesy nature finally show itself (what is it with engineers using so many compressors these days?). The setlist includes old Nocturnals material (“Joey”, “Some Kind of Ride”, etc) as well as material off their 2010 self-titled album (tracks in clued “Medicine” and “Paris”). This upcoming group of musicians makes up for any musical shortcomings with a ferocious onstage bond---their rock star stage presence is evident in the music itself. Also, Grace’s banter is an entertaining addition to this fine product.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Essential Jam Bands

Throughout all the talks about music I’ve ever had with anyone and all the joint listening sessions in which I’ve participated with close friends, I have been able to deduce that there is a general love-hate relationship between music lovers and jam bands. For the most part, people either obsess over the spontaneous, sometimes brilliant, other times sloppy nature of jam bands’ music, or they decide they can’t put up with the music for one or more of several reasons (to name a few): it’s too long and can’t keep their attention, it’s not scripted out enough to fulfill their tastes, the songs aren’t catchy enough, or---my least favorite---they simply can’t put up with the culture associated with the music.

In this post, I want to provide a list of some of the “essential” jam bands, ranked in an order based on a system combining my personal preferences---which I acknowledge are quirky---and what I believe might suit the average uninitiated listener. I admit, some jam bands are an acquired taste, so I hope that what I have to say helps some people find an enjoyable beginning to their exploration of jam bands or can aid those people who like a couple jam bands find some more musical groups to add to their list of recordings. Experts, in my opinion all jam bands are great in their own right, so don’t get too angry if you don’t agree with my “rankings” (although, internet wars over the supremacy of individual bands can get quite entertaining, definitely a stockpile of some of the dumbest quotes posted on the web for sure).

1. Umphrey’s McGee: These guys are one of the tightest (musically in sync) jam bands out there, especially when you consider the shear amount of improvisation over different styles they pull off successfully. They play lots of heavy yet melodic metal, with intricate harmonized guitar lines exemplifying the bands high level of musicianship. They also have recorded and performed several nice country flavored tunes with skilled guest artists; these songs still have the classic Umphrey’s sound, but they are certainly a nice change of pace. So far I’ve only named the extremes---Umphrey’s incorporates elements of dirty funk, chilled out reggae, Latin music, and even some jazz (both of the group’s percussionists are phenomenal and interlock seamlessly). And I can’t forget! The band has a sense of humor; jokes about body odor and bowel movements frequently punctuate Umphreys McGee compositions. They’re catchy songwriters, check ‘em out.

2. Phish: I think it’s safe to say Phish can be considered one of the classic jam bands. They weren’t among the first, but they have established themselves forcefully over the last 25 or so years and they keep getting better. Phish is definitely one of the more psychedelic jam bands, at least when compared to groups like Umphreys, but they also frequently demonstrate refined musicianship. Drummer John Phishman and bassist Mike Gordon provide a generally funky foundation for the band, while guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell provide a blend of solid fusion leads and trippy textures through use of various affects and tones. They have a distinct sound that may seem odd to first time listeners, but once acclimated audiences can easily enjoy hours of adventurous jamming. As with all jam bands, a good way to get started is search around for shows with generally high praise from dedicated listeners and tapers.

Once you’ve found a show you think might be worth giving a solid listen, you can purchase soundboard recordings from the artist websites, or find free audience recordings online.

A comprehensive database of live Phish downloads can be found at phishows.com
For a huge selection of free recordings from a wide variety of bands, try

the internet archive.

3. The Grateful Dead: The Dead were the original true free-spirited jam band and the music lives on in the projects of the still-living members. The reason I didn’t put the Grateful Dead at the top of the list is that, although so much of their music is fantastic and thought shaping, their sound is a bit dated, at least for listeners of the current generation who now, by conditioning, expect a certain crispness in music. The Dead were a loose band and they thrived on it; at one point their band was comprised of two guitarists, a bassist, two keyboardists, and their famous two drummer combo. You’ll have to search, but when you find shows during which the band was really on the top of their musical game, you might have trouble stopping listening because the happiness exuded by the band on good nights is incomparable to anything else in music. If spacey blues/folk/country/funk interests you, in addition to a wonderfully entertaining history documented in several fine pieces of literature such as Phil Lesh’s autobiography “Searching for the Sound: My Life with the grateful Dead”, then the dead are more than worth exploring. In addition to the Internet Archive, try Grateful Dead Radio for streamed historic shows, and the special program “The Grateful Dead Hour.” At the very leaset, please check out some of the drums/space segments from some of the top shows (these are segments comprising of either all percussion instruments or all electric instruments, far out!).

4. STS 9: Electro city, what else is there to say? Actually a lot. STS 9, or “Sound Tribe Sector 9” is a great relatively new band combining real instruments and well orchestrated lush electronics. They stretch out live, but always keep a dance pulse present, which really helps those attending the show more so than those listening to the tapes. Not to discredit the music, though, they do a great job of mixing and matching themes from different songs off their studio albums with improvised grooves, providing a texturally different experience each individual performance. They are definitely worth giving a listen, especially if you’re looking for more innovative jam bands who focus more on rhythm than soloing.

5. Dave Mathews Band: I didn’t put “Dave” higher on the list simply because so many people already know the group. They are certainly less of a jam band than others on this list, but they are such outstanding musicians---from versatile drummer Carter Beauford to progressive multireedist Jeff Coffin---that I had to put them in the top 5. DMB is a great band to help people who enjoy pop music at least appreciate the art of jamming. Dave and the boys frequently sandwich complex energetic jams in between segments of exquisite pop creations to form a musically hardy concert experience.

Besides these, see also:

Bluegrass: Hot Buttered Rum and The String Cheese Incident---the latter is a “progressive bluegrass” group who mixes other styles of funk with their electric bluegrass feel in long full-sounding jams while the former is more authentic bluegrass, with burning solos performed on acoustic instruments.

More Livetronica: Lotus---a band with less fully developed electronics than STS 9, but more of a live rock band feel… They groove hard.

Poppier Jams: O.A.R.---one of the most underrated jam bands, O.A.R. has a knack for creating catchy pop tunes that tell stories and emphasizing the emotions in these stories with thrilling saxophone-and-guitar driven jams.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Foray Into World Music

One of the hobbies I have adopted musically this summer, both for playing and listening, is world percussion. As a percussionist, world music has so much to offer including a plethora of diverse rhythms that can be adopted for fusion styles as well as a whole new catalog of instruments for experimentation and study.

My world music exploration began as a result of my love for the Grateful Dead. The Dead’s second drummer/extra percussionist, Mickey Hart, is a published musicologist and has become quite connected to the “World Beat” scene. After hearing his use of interesting percussion instruments in ‘dead’ jams as well as his work with Bill Kreutzmann on the Apocalypse Now soundtrack, I decided I wanted to look more into world percussion---or at the very least its use in fusion styles.

Having forged solid relationships with many of the world's best percussionists through study, Hart decided to produce several albums employing the skills of his teachers. The first major release of this concept was “Planet Drum” in 1991, and in 2007 Hart released “The Global Drum Project”, widely considered his second major album. To clarify, Heart released world music oriented albums with many of the same musicians before and between “Planet Drum” and “The Global Drum Project”, but those two were the most ambitious projects (Planet Drum won a Grammy for best world music album in 1991).

These albums are a good introduction to world percussion, but not outstanding compared to the works of individual percussionists. “Planet Drum” focuses on combining the percussion styles of various countries to create a global sound, while “The Global Drum Project” focuses more on roughly replicating the percussion traditions of various cultures---but for some reason it contains more electronic samples than the first.

Neither of the albums offer a technically complicated group of works. Instead they focus on building thick grooves and layering on dreamy ambience as well as insistent chance to provide the listener with an auditory journey rather than a musical masterpiece. The albums are enjoyable, but they sound a bit too commercial for me. The heavy presence of a drum set on some tracks is a downside; in percussion music it is generally good to have the drum set to maintain a central groove, but the kit (presumably played by Hart) is way too prominent in the mix.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend these albums if you don’t want to jump into world percussion too quickly. They---as well as many of Hart’s other albums---contain solid playing from magnificent musicians such as the Indian Tabla player, Zakir Hussain; the Puerto Rican congero Giovanni Hidalgo; the Nigerian talking drum player, Sikiru Adepoju; as well as another Nigerian master drummer, Babatunde Olatunji. The two percussionists I want to briefly expand upon are Hussain and Olatunji.

Zakir Hussain has quickly become one of my favorite percussionists of all time. He is a rhythmic and tamboral genius; hearing him play tabla is an essential experience for all musicians, especially percussionists. He is adept in all the major skills: speed, time, feel, tonality, harmony, and musicality. Moreover, he loves to play and his inner energy is apparent in his playing.

A good way to introduce yourself to Zakir is to hear him play with American musicians. Check out “The Melody of Rhythm”, a triple concerto Hussain performs with outrageously versatile bassist Edgar Meyer and the prolific banjo player Bela Fleck accompanied by the Detroit Symphony. The CD also includes several songs performed by the trio exclusively, which I find even more exciting than the moving concerto.

Check out this sample!

Also highly recommended, and on an equal level in terms of high quality musicianship with the added bonus of improvisation, is Hussain’s work on multireedist Charles Lloyd’s live album “Sangam” with the impressive and grooving modern jazz drummer Eric Harland. The music is both powerful and ethereal and Hussain’s full ability shines in a less restricted setting.

Check out a track now.

For those interested in African polyrhythms, check out some of Babatunde Olatunji’s albums. His first album, “Drums of Passion” is a raw energetic experience. A massive percussion ensemble lays down infectious grooves while an equally large vocal ensemble chants and sings, certainly bringing me to my feet at points. For a smaller group recording (relatively speaking) more concentrated on rhythmic complexity, go grab “Circle of Drums” and for more of an Americanized pop feel, try “Love Drum Talk.” The former is a percussionists dream with various instruments exploring permeations of different grooves as well as rapid tempo and time modulations while the latter is far more relaxed with beautiful acoustic guitars, a good album to bring yourself some peace.

Friday, August 19, 2011

An Attempt at an Objective Rave Review of the Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack

Easily one of the most enjoyable easy listening albums in my ITunes library is the “Music from the Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy” compilation. The album is a prime example of top-notch orchestral pops music as well as a catchy standalone movie soundtrack.

The first tracks comprise a “best of” Klaus Badelt’s work on the first ‘Pirates’ movie. From the melancholy “Moonlight Serenade”, to the epic “To the Pirates Cave/Skull and Cross bones” (which contains the series trademark “He’s a Pirate!” theme), through more brooding pieces such as the “Black Pearl” theme, and back to an emotionally adventurous “Barbossa is Hungry”, the first part of the album runs together with exceptional flow.

The orchestra (the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra) sounds painstakingly refined---typical of Disney productions---with sensational if not over-commercialized strings and a blaring yet incredibly clear sounding brass section. Badelt’s writing for percussion gives the pieces all the drive they need to accompany an action packed movie and overall, every track is completely memorable as their catchy melodies call various scenes from the adventures of Jack, Elizabeth and Will to mind---not to say I wouldn’t recommend this music for those who have not seen the film, it’s great pump up music regardless of your connection to the franchize (I personally enjoy the soundtrack more than the movie itself).

The second portion of the album, and the majority of the music, is selections from Hans Zimmer’s work on the second two ‘Pirates’ movies (he was asked to compose the music for the first installment, but declined to lead the project due to other commitments).

Zimmer’s compositions, also performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic, exude far more evil and darkness than those of Badelt, obviously fitting for the less playful content of the second and third films. “Davie Jones” begins with a light ominous theme played on a bell set, which is quickly joined by a mournful string section. The piece quickly creshendos into a minor gloom-and-doom march in 3, with terrifying synthesizer organs on top and roaring gongs in the background.

“The Kraken” is a percussion stampede with string basses and piano providing a heavy minor foundation while brass and chorus contribute repetitive yet affective exclamations to create a true feeling of danger. The drums provide a back beat at points, illustrating Zimmer’s idea that pirates are the rock and rollers of the seas.

Zimmer’s ‘Pirates’ compositions also include a contemplative “I See Dead People in Boats”, which begins with a beautiful obo solo; an exciting “Up is Down”, with a bouncy feel reminiscent of Badelt’s work on the first film; and “Drink up Me Hardies”, which should be playful do to the fact that an accordion plays the intro theme, but the dark orchestration denies the piece the required level of contentment associated with something truly playful. This latter piece was used in the movies when something major had been accomplished by the protagonists, but everyone (both characters and audience) knew that the adventure was just getting started.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Jazz: Musicianship and Scholarship

I recently had a startlingly gratifying yet thought provoking discussion about jazz at an unlikely place: a longtime friend’s high school graduation party. One of his family’s close friends is a local rock musician, and quite a talented one at that. He’s not famous, but he’s just one of those guys who can pull out an acoustic guitar and sing a couple songs, bringing anyone in earshot an ample dose of satisfaction in addition to his ability to put on a fun full-blown show.

Naturally, since we were at a graduation party and I am heading off to college soon myself, our discussion turned to my personal plans. When I mentioned that I was planning to pursue a minor in Jazz Studies, Mr. Adams replied, “Holy [crap], you’re a jazzer, you know way too much for me, you’re going to be great.”

This response astounded me. While I find most jazz playing generally more demanding than even some of the more complicated derivative forms of rock, this response---the assumption that I must be a stellar musician simply because I play and study jazz---lead me to think more about what jazz has become and how it relates to other music.

When the jazz movement began to take hold in the 1920s, “hot jazz” most certainly was not seen by critics and highbrow society as a sophisticated genre of music. Americans of the European-music-is-the-only-music-worth-immitating mindset condemned the wild improvisations of Louis Armstrong and the jungle music of Duke Elington as being barbaric. This didn’t last long, though. As big bands such as those lead by Cab Calloway and Ellington began to find major success, jazz slowly grew to become accepted as possibly the first true authentic American music. However, at that point the music was more about swinging like crazy rather than harmonic complexity; soloists played almost soley based on the chords provided by the band behind them, occasionally providing 9th or 13th extensions.

Things began to change when players like Charlie Parker hit the scene and bebop was born. Melodies became more rapid and challenging and with the help of rhythm section masters like Max Roach and Thiloneous Monk, the interplay behind soloists began to require more and more coordination and dexterity. In my opinion, though, jazz hit its point of no return in terms of complexity in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s with the first explorations of modal playing. Sure, jazz musicians have made many steps forward in rhythmic and harmonic complexity since then, but the modal playing exemplified in Miles Davis’s groups and the change-devouring saxophone work of John Coltrane sealed the deal: jazz was destined to become an academic and cerebral art form… That is if you wanted to keep up; plenty of great musicians---Count Basie, Lionel Hampton---didn’t, and still recorded highly entertaining music for years, but they were no longer at the cutting edge.

Before I continue, I’d just like to mention I find that it’s interesting that at around the same time, Rock and Roll---one of the most simple forms of music created in the last several centuries---became a popular form of music. Also interesting, jazz as mainstream music has never really been popular since the swing era, when it was less complicated! Now we have House Music.

Today the average level of musicianship in the jazz world is far above where it was half a century ago. Virtually all professional drummers are fairly versatile with great chops and seemingly perfect time. Trumpeters can blast high notes with almost endless stamina, sax players keep achieving greater things in both the worlds of speed and harmonic sophistication, trombone players get to solo far more regularly (and yes obviously their standard level of technical facility has risen immensely), and piano players… Well modern professional piano players can do pretty much anything, more on that in a bit actually. Is this really surprising, though? Is this a good thing?

Before I answer these questions with my personal views, I feel I must first briefly look back at my discussion with Mr. Addams. With all this jazz history in mind, his reaction should really not surprise me. To be a modern jazz artist, you have a lot to study. If you want to be successful, you have to be great, so Mr. Adams assumed that since I was willing and apparently able to take my jazz studies to the collegiate level, I must at least be decent, and definitely know a lot.

Is this right or fair? I admit I enjoy appreciating music that seems sophisticated and the prestige of being a jazz musician, but at the same time I respect musicians that don’t play jazz and I want them to receive ample recognition as well (I personally started as and still largely am a rock musician).

It’s hard, though, especially amongst those who have participated in or experienced the jazz world to see other types of music as measuring up to the high standards set by jazz. In my opinion, many of the alternative and indie scenes’ D.I.Y. musicians are as interesting and inspirational as my jazz heroes, but they stereotypically don’t study music to the degree that jazzers do, and usually their actual technical abilities are less honed.

An example of indie music that I find inspiring if not simply thought provoking is the math rock duo “Hella.” The drummer, Zach Hill, regularly puts on a clinic in rhythmic insanity: whirlwind chops and a barrage of shifting time signatures. It’s not what one would call sophisticated, at least from a jazz musicians point of view. Zach has never taken a lesson in his life and his bombastic technique has lead him to serious physical injury in the past. I love the pure energy in the music though, and it’s cool that these guys became so original (and virtuosic in their own right) without any academic intervention.

These days, the only music giving jazz any competition in the category of academic nature is classical music, and the classical conservatory has existed far longer than the jazz studies course.

I recently read a fascinating article about the level of increasing virtuosity in classical music and how virtuosos are becoming “a dime a dozen.” The article discussed how concert pianists used to be divided into two basic categories: expressive pianists whose interpretations of pieces focused on emotion more so than flash, and dazzling young pianists with little more than “competition chops.”

Today, according to the article, rising concert pianists almost all both have the ability to accurately execute the most complicated and difficult passages as well as shine on more emotional and mood-based works. In classical/symphonic music, compositions continue to grow in complexity and musicians improve and adapt, causing works once considered challenging to be little more than standard repertory for the devoted student. What does this do to the value of certain pieces and is the ascent to virtuosity in jazz any different?

I would argue that this trend in some ways helps the classical /symphonic music scene more so than the jazz world. Yes, maybe having virtually a 100% chance of seeing compositions performed nearly flawlessly in any major concert hall decreases audiences’ appreciation of the work musicians must do to get to that point---and it certainly decreases their tolerance for mistakes, putting more pressure on musicians than they have ever experienced in the past---but I feel as if this is a sign that more and more classical musicians are reaching one of the genres goals: recitations of composers’ pieces as they were written and in a way that would make the composer proud for having written the piece.

In modern jazz, I feel that, barring groups such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who maintain traditional values and still put time into jazz suites, the focus of the music is on the individual and his/her own technical abilities, usually awestriking as a professional standard, rather than the value of the specific compositions. A lot of it, probably most of it, is really cool. Musicians are doing things their predecessors decades ago most likely never dreamed about. But there is something about the old jazz that still appeals to me, and I can’t find it so often in the modern music. Sometimes I feel that jazz used to be more authentic; players completely hammering out a new craft; the shift from the stomping 2 to the swinging 4; and the first thrilling unstructured solos ever taken. Today is any sax player as chill as Lester Young? Can any trumpeter truly match the raw swingingness of Roy Eldridge? Or will anyone ever drive a combo like Art Blakey did? Technically many musicians have passed these old giants up, but that their approaches were so original is something that should always be respected. Now we base everything we do somewhat off of what they did, every young jazz musician must study them alongside with the contemporary output.

Overall, it is safe to say that as a jazz musician you are also a scholar. You must scrutinize developments in rhythm, harmony and theory to learn what is possible, but also be a historian and draw on all the great material produced in the past. Jazz is a music of individual voices and to develop your own (a process of a lifetime), you must take influences from a diverse range of other voices/styles.

On that note, I’m going to put on some Roy Hargrove quintet for a great mix of modern and traditional jazz. This was a fun first blog post to write, stay tuned for more.