As Mark Twain said upon reading his obituary in the morning paper, "The reports of my death have been greatly exagerated." We constantly hear this "Jazz is dead." hooey. But American Classical Music, as it has been called, is vibrant, alive and flourishing. It can be heard bending the strains of rock in such bands and Medeski, Martin and Wood and it can be heard in straight ahead traditional forms reinterpreted and fresh sounding. Try Kurt Rosenwinkel's "The Next Step" with the awesome Mark Turner on tenor sax. Like the best jazz, Mingus and Rashaan Roland Kirk come to mind, it looks back and pays homage to past jazz traditions while also ushering the medium into a new future. And that future is bright with a whole new generation of young lions ready to take jazz further than before. The big question mark is will the record companies and record buying public support the recorded works of these artists? If the answer is no, you'll just have to catch the act at the corner club. But I am far more optimistic than that. Jazz is here to stay!
Miles Davis and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin are the last greats.There is no one on the horizon.
Some say that David Brubeck may have influenced Miles ... can't say, but Brubeck is still alive and kicking. Innovation since Miles: Look at Corea, Passport, Barbieri (sp?), Weather Report (and those are over a decade old) ... I'm sure there are more, but I've been trying to build my collection of older talent first. I'm not a scholar of jazz, but I do study people -- there may be lulls, but there are never ends to innovation. Of course, the appreciation of innovation requires an audience who accepts and appreciates change (that is a constant struggle for me and I both recognize that and strive to embrace it).
The term used to describe the releases over the past 20 years---fuzak----about sums it up. Few and far between are top notch albums but that seems to be the way most music is anyway; a short brilliant period and then lulls.
Ozfly, good observation. Appreciation/absorbtion of innovation does usually seem to lag way behind the work produced by artists who are outside of the mainstream. The (inaccutate) assertion that interesting and challenging music is not being made bears this out. The best releases by the artists listed below may not print in the brain easily, but can deliver big high quality intoxication to the attentive listener:
Massacre (Fred Frith)
X Legged Sally
Like F.Z. said, " It's *#!%[@ to be alive"
check out Evan Parker, a british sax player, part of the 'free improvisation' movement (mostly european) from way back but who has recently matured into a truly innovative (and finally listenable) artist. Look for: Solar Wind, Breaths and Heartbeats, Obliquities, and Drawn Inward.
I would also recommend The Art Ensemble of Chicago's late 60's into early 70's work. This stuff is being rereleased now for a good reason - their stuff is incredibly creative and the musicianship is astounding (I think their bassist is one of the best ever)
And don't forget to wade into the humongous Sun Ra catalog - his sax player, John Gilmore, is one of the greatest ever. He never pursued a solo career (which he could have anytime he chose) because of his loyalty to Sun Ra (RIP) himself.
The best jazz has always been challenging to the status quo. If it sounds 'difficult', that may just mean you need to stretch your mind a little. Somewhere along the line, jazz became background music, makeout music, etc. Fortunately, the abundance of small labels and ease of self-producing CDs is keeping interesting music alive and vital. You just need to seek it out!
I'm not a jazz scholar but here goes. Miles Davis worked with the best musicians available-including those who inovated. He and Gil Evans invented cool. He worked with Bill Evans in the modern idiom and Coltrane in the Hard Bop idiom.
But special attention should go to Wayne Shorter. Shorter wrote and arranged hard bob stuff for Blakey andthe Messangers. His worked with Davis-Hancock-Carter-Williams mainly on Nefertiti was the beginning of a new style. Then he helped invent fussion with the first three weather report albums.
So yes,I'd say shorter is a post (as well as pre) Davis inovator.
The nature of Jazz is to be an evolving, cutting edge type of art form. Thus, it cannot remain in any status-quo for long, and remain true to its nature. I agree with many of the above statements about later Jazz artists. Some are great, like Shorter, Pastorius, Zawinul, Doldinger, groups like Passport, Brand X, Weather Report, etc.. Some are what was called "Fuzak"(fusion muzak?) in one of the posts above. A great description, to whoever coined that one. One of the characteristics of Jazz is that it is out-of-the-mainstream and you have to look for the great artists. Creativity is still alive and kicking.
I am not a jazz scholar either, but would certainly agree that jazz is far past it's golden age, with the 'critical mass' date hovering somewhere around 1974. In recent years, it seems that some interesting stuff has been happening however. This is, of course, overwhelmed by a blanket of overproduced and overmarketed artists and the burden of the 'fuzak' scene to some degree. Some of the folks involved with the AACM collective seem to be producing some intriguing music. I picked up a disc recently by the Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble that is farily astounding. Henry Threadgill is still producing very innovative music in most of his guises and just about anything that Kahil El'Zabar produces as a solo artist, in collaboration or with the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is fairly crucial music. I have a few discs that Randy Weston did in the mid to late '90's that are quite excellent as well. If you are into free jazz, there still seems to be quite a bit of activity and vital music in this scene currently happening. It requires careful digging, but it seems that quite a bit is still happening, even if we're not able to strut into the Village Vanguard to witness some of the bop-era greats laying down serious grooves as they did in the days of yore. Suffice to say, I haven't given up hope yet!
By the mid sixties Miles refrained from calling his music jazz. He saw it as a commercial kiss of death. His albums always said "new directions in music". Never ending innovation and constantly challenging your audience is admirable, but I believe it was Carlos Santana who once said, "I want my mother to recognize me when they play me on the radio."
Jazz is probably my favorite music form. Miles Davis one of my favorite musicians. Jazz is not in a "golden age". I wonder if this is due to marketing.Too many players are pushed to the fore front because they are the right age or present the right image. Has MTV contaminated a true American art form? Many of the young artist do have the manners to respect their predecessors but seem to lack the ability to (or are prevented from)presenting their own unique presentation (this is a major component of this art form!). Every once in a while (rarely) I hear no name musicians playing good refreshing new and origianal arrangements. Unfortunately all too rarely. I love the standards, but after thirty years of listening to too much of the same music, no matter how good it is I'm anxious for a fresh idea. Too many Jazz musicians think showing off how well they can play scales is comperable to brilliant improvistation. Another crutch is the plagerizing the licks of others rather than learning to listen and express. Jazz is a highly demanding art form that requires one to innatley undderstand music theory or better yet create their own (such as Parker's Horthology). Another problem with many jazz compostions is the inability to make a complete statement, with a beginning, a middle and this the problem an end. I'm tired of jazz compositions ending with the typical free form jam. Some of the most vile Jazz productions have been "Jazzy" versions of other popular formats. While potentily able to be legtimate forms of art, all too often they come across as the insincere, lazy, money grubbing efforts that they are. moey Many jazz musicians seem to have little respect for their audience. They come ill prepared with out rehearsing using the free form and improvistaional aspects as a lazy excuse for the lack of a professional presentation. I'm tired of paying to see shows that are just fun (sometimes obviously just the opposite) practice/jam sessions. I realize that spontaneity, improvisation and jam sessions are all part of a rich tradition but using these traditions as an excuse for lack of preparation has become abused. Another gripe I have is the use of way too much amplification in small jazz clubs. Why they need it in the first place, I don't know? I think it hurts the art form. The musicians aren't listening to each other as carfully and as such the interplay suffers. Many musicians just seem to be in competion as to who can play louder and as such don't develop the art of using contrasting dynamics. Vocalists are particularly guiltiy of never deveolping their chops. Too often it appears as though the musicians are just patiently waiting to solo with little regard for the piece as a whole. Ther does seem to be some interesting new Afro beat stuff comming along. As it tends to emphazize group more than individual playing maybe it will bring back some of the maturity that seems to have been lost in this art form. Let hope some refreshing stuff comes with it.