Saturday, 9 June 2018

Jazz - This time it's personal

So far on the Jazz journey I have suggested some labels to start with, and talked about the current state of things. What I haven't done is tell you what's on my iPod. Of 1200 odd albums 267 are jazz, with Jazz Rock, Jazz Funk and other variations on top of that. Here's this weeks top picks, but ask me tomorrow and it will all be different.

Sonny Clark - Cool Struttin'
Clark. like Hank Mobley below was "forgotten" for a long time, but has been found again and is getting his due of praise. This is what Soul Jazz should sound like. Great band with Clark and Jackie McLean particularly bluesey. One of Miles best rhythm sections, Paul Chambers on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums and Art Farmer on trumpet. 
Duke Ellington - At Newport
Ellington was truly the greatest american composer of the 20th Century, and also the best band leader. Paul Gonsalves performance on Diminuendo In Blue And Crescendo In Blue is rightly highlighted as one of the outstanding Jazz solos

Kamasi Washington - The Epic
When a Jazz artist gets a write up in Mojo you know he's made it. Ok there's really nothing that Miles or Coltrane didn't originate but the dense arrangements, including voices, strings and stream of consciousness soloing mean you get swept up in it and suddenly 3 hours have gone by. Epic oh yes. Get it you won't regret it

Weather Report - Mr Gone
Notoriously got a 1 star review in Downbeat, don't know why it has always been my favourite Weather report album. Anything with Jaco on it is ok by me. The Legendary Live tapes album includes material recorded at the same time, and is the best bet for live WR.

Herbie Hancock - Manchild
Better more developed ideas than Headhunters for me. Jazz you can dance to.

Sun Ra - Somewhere Else
Jazz from Saturn. You have to work at "getting" the Arkestra but once you do avoid the "easy" compilations and go for this or Space Is The Place and blast off from there

Hank Mobley, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and John Coltrane all get regular play across lots of albums, and if you want to try them you are on safe ground with most of there albums. Maybe try Blue Train or Giant Steps as a route into Coltrane.

And that's Jazz. I promise not to mention it for a bit now so it's safe to come out...

Friday, 1 June 2018

Jazz Again - Where are we now?.

Jazz has evolved over the last century or so. When it stopped being a "popular" music in the early sixties it turned to blending itself with other genres and has pretty much stayed that way.

The best known blends are with Rock, Soul and Funk which created Jazz-Rock, Jazz-Funk, and the dreaded Fusion. If you can get it Stuart Nicholson's book on the evolution of these styles is excellent. I pointed you towards the Miles Davis end of Jazz Rock last time. Jazz Funk begins and almost ends with Herbie Hancock's "Headhunters" album. So much of the rest of this and the easy listening that often calls itself Fusion is bland and featureless. For me you can pretty much discard anything on the GRP label, but feel free to disagree! The best Jazz-Funk grew out of  the Hard Bop and Soul Jazz of the sixties. There are a lot of really good Jazz-Funk compilations about, pick a couple and see if it works for you.

Adding world music elements has been happening since before we knew it was called world music. If I'm honest it's an area that I don't do very well. One artist I do like is Susheela Raman who has mixed Indian music with Western styles more successfully than most others, try her.

Western classical music has been added to Jazz right from the beginning, Ravel and Stravinsky were early supporters. The Modern Jazz Quartet have been as described as Chamber Jazz and that style has evolved into much of ECM record's output. You see what I mean about "house styles" for record labels.

With the current generation of artists the blending of styles and genres has been absorbed as they learnt their instruments so there isn't the rather obvious stapling together of different musics. Electric doesn't mean fusion so much anymore and so on. Portico Quartet use ambient electronic styles. Snarky Puppy bring the attitude of that peculiarly American concept the Jam Band to Jazz with a cast of thousands. Live they are a totally different prospect than their albums. Try this.

My new favourites are a London band The Lydian Collective, they can even sound like the calmer bits of Discipline era King Crimson at times. Try their album on Bandcamp, and look at a couple of their videos. Jazz Mandolin anyone?

This post has become quite long enough already so next time I will talk about the Jazz that is actually on my iPod.