Thursday, December 1, 2011

Paul Motian

Paul Motian was a fixture in my neighborhood. I've probably seen him live more than I've seen any other jazz musician and I liked him more each time. He was so active and so vibrant that I was surprised to learn that he was 80 years old when he died. He seemed younger. His death is a huge loss to jazz and I will miss him.

As always, Ethan Iverson says it best.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beyond The Canon (Relativity Suite)

Jazz has a pretty well-established canon. There's some tinkering around the edges, but generally a few artists and albums come up time and again, with good reason.

But it's fun and worthwhile, on occasion, to revisit some of the forgotten classics -- or simply the forgotten.

Over the next few posts, I want to throw out the names of a few albums I really like that I don't hear mentioned too often. Coincidentally, the first few I have in mind are all from the 70's, a sort of lost decade perhaps, but which produced plenty of good jazz.

For starters:

Don Cherry, Relativity Suite (1973)

Don Cherry is certainly in my personal canon -- as I mentioned in an earlier post, Complete Communion is one of my all-time favorite albums and is itself overlooked. This one gets even less attention.

First off, Relativity Suite is worth hearing for the personnel alone: Cherry, Haden, Redman, Carla Bley, Paul Motian, the scarcely recorded Charles Brackeen, Leroy Jenkins and others...sort of a beefed up Liberation Music Orchestra, but the music here is Cherry through and through (I don't actually know that he wrote everything, but it has his feel for sure).

Don Cherry was a brilliant assimilator of sounds. Here, he melds India, China, some straight New York City and Midwestern free jazz and New Orleans. And it always sounds organic, never contrived, not just ok, I'm gonna hire a sitar player for this date. In other words, it's not that one Indian sounding song on a Beatles album. No, Cherry's experiments are always thoroughly thought-out and really well-executed. The pieces fit together.

I think that's probably because he was a guy who actually went out into the world, devoured its music and understood that the diversity of music on the planet truly is relative.

I love that Don Cherry wasn't content with his place on the cutting edge of a massively important innovation in American music, but insisted on getting the rest of the world in on it as well.

He's also got a way with melody. Like his cohort Ornette Coleman, he has a seemingly endless store of them.

Check out the soaring strings, searing horns, chants, pretty melodies (Trans-Love Airways in particular) and the inimitable Ed Blackwell bringing it home.

Edit: that video was's another track from the album.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Syncopated and Sanctified

It's hard to describe exactly, he contributed so many different elements. A lotta guys played fast. Rapid! I mean in one, these cats. But they didn't play the notes Charlie Parker played. His modus operandi was different, the way he attacked and how he swung...Charlie Parker played very syncopated and sanctified. There was nobody playing like that in our style...but Charlie Parker, when he came onto the scene, had it down to a T personified. Charlie Parker's contribution to our music was mostly melody, accents and bluesy interpretation. And the notes! "Bird" has some notes in his melodies, the lines that he wrote, that are deep, deep notes, as deep as anything Beethoven ever wrote.

-Dizzy Gillespie on his co-revolutionary, Charlie Parker

Happy birthday Bird!