5/20/07

Cookoo's nest- talks with Bob Mover


I was talking to Bob Mover the other evening about what was happening to Jazz education these days. Bob had just played a senior recital at the New School with one of his private students. He played 'I Remember You' with the student group. The pianist kept playing the wrong change over and over again, no matter how clear Bob was while blowing over it. "He just thought he knew the tune!", said Bob. Younger players may learn a tune from the Real Book and that's that, they don't listen to a bunch of different versions or learn the word anymore. Mover said that the rest of the recital nothing else was in 4/4, "That way you can disguise that fact that you can't swing", Bob quipped. Mover finally was driven out of the recital hall by all of the odd-time signatures. After the recital Bob went to dinner with some of the students, include a few tenor players. He asked them if they had ever listened to Johnny Griffin, they said they had only heard that one record he did with Monk (Live at the Five Spot). Bob said," What about the stuff with Lockjaw? What about the other 30 years of recordings?!". All these kids were listening to were young players like Josh Redman, Chris Potter, Mark Turner and Seamus Blake. Maybe they had also checked out a little Warne Marsh because Turner was so influenced by him (Bob said about Mark, "He plays so much altissimo, why doesn't he just buy an alto?"). You now have tons of these young players being turned out into the world, sounding like just a few young NYC players.

Who wants to hear a bunch of super technical saxophonists who sound like they're reading out of the Slonimsky book and never learned to swing their 8th notes?!

Now let me say that I think Mark Turner is a fabulous player and a great cat. I don't think that Mark would even think it was a good idea that young players tried to sound just like him and never bothered to learn the 20th century body of Jazz recordings that the true masters created.

Hey, it's called swing, and it's what made American Jazz different than (and in my mind better) continental Jazz.

Bob told me that he had just proposed a course to the New School in NYC, since he is already on the private teaching roster. He was trying to sell a new course that dealt with Jazz standards to the head of the Jazz department. He was told that the New School isn't focusing on 20th century music anymore. Who needs to learn standards if all you play are odd-time signatured originals?! I was shocked," They're not even teaching Jazz anymore, they're just teaching the kids exactly what they're already into!".

Mover replied," That's right, the inmates are running the asylum!".

28 comments:

Aaron Johnson said...

Bob was telling me all about this the other day. I just cannot fathom (as a young player) how my generation tends to just totally bypass bop. My best friend (Who is my age and plays tenor) sound exactly like the description given in the blog. It seems like he only listens to Mark Turner, Chris Cheek, Tony Malaby and Seamus Blake with footnotes for Sonny Rollins, Trane and Wayne Shorter. He is also a fabulous musician however I haven't heard him play anything close to bop. Maybe its just not his thing? I don't know but there are soooooo many other kids that are the same way. Has bop officially died? I believe that organizations like the IAJE and establishments such as Berklee, The New School are f***** the over the next generation of musicians by not emphasizing the listening and studying of the masters.

Anonymous said...

This sort of thing has always bothered me. I think that the majority of young players (who may favor the newer players in their top influences) would say that the entire history of players has lead up to what jazz is today. And many of those players were important innovators and built the foundation for what jazz is today.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be idolized above all others, just because they were somewhere early in the timeline of jazz. Sure, Warne Marsh was a great player – one who the older generation seems to say that young players should lean towards in their major influences. But, what about what was before him? Why not go to Franky Trambauer, a great saxophonist who came before? Why isn’t it more important to idolize Hawk more than Marsh? I’m sure Hawk was one of Marsh’s most important influences.

Here’s my theory: because Marsh’s style may speak more clearly to that generation, just as Chris Potter’s sound may be more desirable to today’s young generation of players. Of course, they’re both products of what came before them, and that lineage should be studied as a whole. But to say that someone is more of a “true master” just because he came earlier? Why not keep going back, before Satchmo, before King Oliver, before Gershwin, Cole Porter, Bartok, Debussey, etc? Why does it mysteriously end at bebop or swing?

No one has a problem with a player idolizing Bird, but Bird’s influences went back to Hawk and even Stravinksy. Why not have the same disdain for players that don’t idolize Stravinsky over Konitz?

It’s not like the new players haven’t innovated. Brecker, for example created and innovated as much as he learned from those before him.

Also, in regards to whether or not bop is being taught at schools, I have the same sort of thoughts. During my time at school, I spent a significant amount of time studying the bop masters, transcribing “Eternal Triangle,” and the rest of the bebop anthems. And, sure that’s great. But, we spent very little time dealing with learning how to play the music of Satchmo in that old style. Why isn’t this just as much of a tragedy? After all, that lead to swing, which led to bebop.

Of course, it’s not an absolute tragedy, just as it isn’t when schools teach kids how to play in odd meters with a straight-eighth rock feel. In fact, it’s good that they are doing that because the fact is, that’s what the new audience of jazz wants to listen to. If you go to the majority of the clubs in New York, listeners will encounter the ‘modern’ sound far more often than they will hear straight-ahead bop and certainly more than they will hear any Benny Goodman-style swing.

Those older styles (which, again are undeniably important in the lineage of the music) are starting to die out, not because they’re less valuable musically, but because the newest generations of listeners just don’t find them as interesting and appealing. It’s no mystery what Joshua Redman, Chris Potter, Chris Cheek, etc, have a ton more gigs than the players who are re-hashing bebop over and over again. The music keeps evolving, and it’s good that music education reflects that.

Again, I think the entire lineage is important and should be studied. But, I also don’t think there’s any shame in enjoying listening to and studying the new stuff more than the older music which may have lost touch with the newer generations.

David Valdez said...

Wait a second, I never said that just because a player was older that they were better. Not at all. However to focus exclusively on the most recent generation without checking out what came before is like trying to be a diplomat in a foreign country and never studying that countries history. When I came up I listened to modern players (like Brecker, Bob Berg, Kenny Garrett) but also really studied players all the way back to the roots, and yes, because of Bird I listened to a lot of Stravinski.
The true masters of Jazz ARE NOT alive today. The latest generation
isn't innovating like Trane or Bird
did. How many alto players today have a sound as good as Dolphy or Rabbit? Maybe Charles Macpherson does, and he's still playing his ass off at in his 70s. I can't name one alto player with a sound that comes close to these masters, not a one.

It's a matter of have a narrow and incomplete education, not of undue nostalgia for the past. A Jazz education isn't complete without learning the styles of the prior generations. Would I want any other type of liberal arts degree where I was only exposed to the last 10 years of innovations?

About Warne Marsh, he has always been a under appreciated musician.
He was never well known until Mark Turner brought him to the public eye. His style did not speak clearly to his generation, he died in relative obscurity.

NYC is quite different than most of the world as far as what is going on there musically. Freaky odd-time
shit may be everywhere there, but that's not the case in the rest of the world. There are still planty of swing and Bop players all over Asia, Eastern Europe, the Midwest- all over. NYC just puts out more recordings and has a much more visible Jazz scene than anywhere else.

If music education only teaches about the latest trends in music then what happens if those trends die out like so many other momentary musical fads? Foundations
and the history of Jazz should be taught so students can create their own personal styles drawn from a wide swath of Jazz history. I would never want someone to be able to listen to me and only hear the two or three influences that I modeled my entire style after. I want listeners to hear the entire history of Jazz, and hell, Classical music as well.

Speaking of all these young NYC tenor players, why would you bother with the students when the real master is right there? Every one of these young guys studied with George Garzone- Seamus, Chris Cheek, Donny McCaslin, Mark Turner, Bob Reynolds, Chris Speed, Kenny Brooks, Douglas Yeates, Matt Otto,
John Gunther, ect.

IMHO none of them can hold a candle to George. He is the real master on the NYC and Boston scene. Ever hear Tony Malaby do a gig with George? No contest. George even makes Lovano or Bergonzi sound a bit light in the panties when they play together with him. Garzone is the guy to pay attention to, not his slew of students (me included).

Isn't Joshua re-hashing all the old shit himself? Since he was in high-school he has always been strictly a derivative player. You can always tell who he is copping at any given time.

So why would anyone want to sound exactly like a player without their own unique sound? I hear Potter on the radio and all I can hear are his influences, it's not like hearing a couple of notes from Griff and knowing who it is.
My train of thought usually goes something like this- the lines and phrasing sound just like Lovano, the tone and articulation are totally generic, modern harmony without being unique, great technique, oh it's Potter. It's more a matter of elimination than being able to recognize a unique personal sound and style. I can also ways tell Mark Turner immediately because he sounds exactly like Warne Marsh up an octave.

Now I can tell it's Garzone because
no one swings harder, has hipper lines or bigger balls.

Huge balls, insane lines, more emotional content, insane technique, relaxed confidence and a massive dark sound, that has to be Garzone.....

Anonymous said...

I think it's 75% Garzone's fault:) Well...he has to take some of the blame, now.

He's taught all those guys & alot of the youngin's that are gettin' all over Bob's nerves w/this stuff.

He's kinda become a mascot for chromatic playing, of sorts, yeah, he's a great player in that bag, possibly rivaling Liebs, but its just ONE BAG.

So George's harmonic stuff, minus the balls = today's kiddies.

Its all ONE BAG that these kids are in, it's all one dimensional.

"Potter & Chris CHeek getiing all the gigs", Chris Cheek? Have you seen his apart.? He ain't livin' large. Eric Alexander does alot better than him. The kids arent playing like that.

This kind of playing has NOTHING TO DO WITH GIGS!! The kids imitating them DONT WORK, are not EQUIPTED to WORK, except a $10 or free original gig in some little bar in Bushwick or something--and they act like its a big deal, they've got a "gig" in NYC.

Its an "Indie Rock" sensibilty to jazz--its not about being able to work with anybody as a sideman then find your own thing, its about "my original band doing shows" for NO BREAD, NO AUDIENCE, JUST ALL ATTITUDE.

How do they do it??? The First National Bank of MOM & DAD!!! Mommmy & Daddy are so proud of thier little geniuses, out there, "finding thier bliss" while they send the checks.

OK. Im done.

chicken little said...

Anonymous sounds like a 20 something with no real idea of what they are talking about. There are many (too many) things listed which are specious and ignorant. When your argument is "Geez, old music is cool but who the fuck wants to listen to that crap", you are an idiot.

David Valdez said...

Beautiful. Amen and thank you Anon.

David Valdez said...

Chicken Little is referring to the first Anon poster I believe.

George tears up straight ahead also, not just the free bag. Listen to his Stan Getz tribute album Alone. The reason he's such a strong free player is his total mastery of Bebop. Mover doesn't agree with me on this point but I've heard Garzone play hotel lobbies and rip up standards into tiny little pieces.

He really is the invisible force behind this new movement of young tenor players and he probably is partially to blame for their excesses. Garzone always stressed hard swinging 8th notes and that's what is lacking with some of the young lions.

Anonymous said...

I admit that I am a 24 and I hope my age does not completely discount my opinion (if you think it does then stop reading please). My experience getting into jazz and other art forms, is to find an in, a person that I really like and am drawn too. This could be anyone from Bird to Brecker or Mark Turner.

As I find a jumping off point I look at the people who influenced these musicians and those who played/play with them. This has allowed me to gradually find different players and open my mind. It is a process that could start at James P Johnson and move forward or at Brad Mehldau and move backward.

As a student I have always found it hard to totally latch onto something my teacher would give me until I could connect to it on a personal level. For example, about one year ago one of my teachers kept telling me to get Now He Sings Now He Sobs. He played me a couple of tracks and I listened but it sort of slid off my back. About last week I kind of discovered it for myself (something emotionally, artistically clicked for me) and was blown away. I immediately called my teacher and thanked him. Clearly it took a long time to sink in.

Continue suggesting listening for young players, but understand that sometimes it takes a while to sink in. It seems like we each have our own path and that when each of us is ready we will pick up that Johnny Griffin album or that Lester Young record. To me it just seems like something you can't force. If there is a personal interest and connection then the music will sink in, but if it is forced I have found it hard to really get into something.

Perhaps a key to education is to offer a large number of players to students, not just Miles, Bird etc. but contemporary guys and older guys. The more exposure students have to a variety of musicians at the onset of their education, it seems like there is a good chance that they will remain open minded, hopefully realizing that there are many bags, and thus that many more to study and connect to in some personal way.

When it comes down to it, it just seems like preference in listening and playing is so subjective (and personal). Educators: keep suggesting great players, but do not expect immediate appreciation or understanding for that matter, I think sometimes students will come around and really dig suggestions, but other times they don't (and miss out) or it just takes a really long time.....

MonksDream said...

These are really interesting postings but it seems like a lot of different issues are getting conflated here. I know I'm going to get in hot water for this, but there's the study of "tradition," perhaps an idiomatic sensibility, based around Bebop, and the "stylistic" development of a player that can only come about from either transcribing, or in my opinion, better yet, learning solos note-for-note aurally and playing them back along with the records.

Anyhow, this posting coincides with my rereading Porter's "John Coltrane," and he goes over Trane's devotion to learning Charlie Parker, who, remember was still alive during his formative professional years, and subsequent study of Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins etc., also still alive at the time. (These are my observations.)

Well, yesterday, my dear wife put on the Miles Davis and Coltrane live in Stockholm from 1960, in which the Swedish interviewer asks Trane what his relationship was to tradition, and he launches into a brief talk about Sydney Bechet and some of the older styles and how he planned to get the records and study them.

Although I'm taking a stab in the dark here, I would venture to say that, from the pace at which Trane moved stylistically in the sixties, he probably never really got around to studying the Sydney Bechet and older styles of jazz, but this is of course pure conjecture.

In my opinion, anyone might begin with Sonny Rollins, in the late fifties for example, and not really study "Bebop." At that point (I'm thinking Saxophone Colossus, The Bridge, and the Contemporary Leaders,) he had moved out of Bird's idiom into a tension and release approach to soloing that one might easily apply to improvising generally. ( I do acknowledge that he has a heavy debt to bebop at this point.)

I think that Bob Mover's frustration might be partly just because of the "openness" of the New School in a sense. I visited a friend there around 1999 and got to learn some things from Garzone as he lead his ensemble, and I was amazed at the patience he had. One kid seemed to be on some kind of Albert Ayler kick and would just go off to the point where George would say, "sometimes what we might need is a little psychotherapy."

I don't know who Chris Cheek is, and I haven't really heard much by Mark Turner that I liked, mostly because the recordings were too slick sounding, but I think that Chris Potter, Tony Malaby, Seamus Blake, etc. are playing a lot of horn. Potter sounds a hell of a lot more interesting live than on recordings, and I suspect that the same is true for Mark Turner. But don't forget that Anthony Braxton formulated a lot of his improvizational ideas listening to Warne Marsh.

Well, I'll try and avoid digressing too much further, but, taking Steve Lacy for an example, I think that he side-stepped the Bebop idiom and developed a stylistically interesting voice through trial and error playing Monk's music, Ellington, and other older styles.

I guess I'm basically agreeing with the fact that, if these guys achieve any depth, they'll have to delve further into the history of the music. My take on Garzone's approach is that he's trying to get away from the days when there were all of these bebop clones running around playing out of the Dave Baker books and wantonly quoting Bird.

All in all, I'm ignorant as I've heard none of these young horn players of whom you speak. They'll probably develop their own voices eventually, die trying, or give it up. Ultimately, aren't there enough great players out there that we shouldn't care about these non-boppers??

Is bebop a requirement? Does it really matter and do we or should we give a shit where people find their sound??

Someone should probably get Garzone or someone to type for him as I'm sure we're all misrepresenting him in some way shape or form.

Anonymous said...

OK, I feel guilty now. I recommended a Warne Marsh/Lew Tabackin record to Turner in a used record shop when we were at CSULB together around 1985...

I think I'll go by anonymous for this one.

David Valdez said...

Let me clarify a bit here. I don't think that it's a problem that Mark Turner plays his 8ths note straight without swing. He has developed a personal style that he likes, does this mean that I need to like it? No.
Is playing 8th notes straight and slurred with plenty of chromaticism innovative? No. Should Jazz conservatories stop teaching saxophonists how to swing their 8th notes because it's now popular not to? Please god, NO! Are these younger NYC saxophonists good players? Yes, very good. Would I want to sound like them? No. Do I want to listen to a whole new generation of kids who sound like these guys? Blech, please shoot me now.

Here is a quick key to a few of the players we are talking about:

Mark Turner-too cool to swing, advanced chromatic lines, likes altissimo, slurs almost everything,
smaller stuffy sound, very dry emotionally, wonderful and very humble personality.

Seamus Blake- big more traditional sound, great technique, many influences from earlier players, the Canadian Donny McCaslin, a little too clean, a little too flashy and in control for my personal taste, warm friendly guy with almost as many MySpace friends as Tom.

Chris Cheek- darker sound like Warne, was a child prodigy, plays an insane amount of low paying gigs with many different projects around NYC because he loves to play music,
very interesting advanced lines, unusual influences, sounds very different when playing different styles, great technique, probably really more influenced by Warne that Turner is, personality reminds me of Tom Harrell.

Donny McCaslin- can eat just about anyone for lunch technically, unusual smaller focused metal Berg sound, very good at Latin music, the interval King, very personal non-derivative style developed by too much time in the shed, one of the top sidemen in NYC, started as the top Brecker clone (taking Brecker's place in Steps), likes to bend notes around, very influenced by contemporary classical, down to earth, easy-going and open personality.

Chris Potter- incredibly advanced harmonic concept, nice, clear sound, very influenced by Lovano,
eats up difficult music like Dave Holland's, very influential to younger players, too much control
and pre-planning for my taste (that would go for most of these guys), I don't hear a lot of soulful personality in his playing though some people do, though some claim that he really unleashed at live shows.

MonksDream said...

David,

What are you doing up at 7:24 A.M.?

No seriously though. I'm surprised that noone really mentioned Donny McCaslin in that list of players. I think that both he and Tony Malaby have a pretty darned good swing sensibility. If we're focused on rhythm, I can see where you're coming from.

I think that some of the issues you guys are talking with are dealt with on George Duke's website, here: http://www.georgeduke.com/corner.html

but in the context of piano players.

He talks about improvizational conception in the same way as Braxton does in the highly interesting "Forces in Motion" by Locke. Basically Braxton locates Warne Marsh, himself, and I would suspect Mark Turner, if he heard him in the "European-American continuum," and other players, such as Steve Coleman, Bird, certainly Charles Mingus et al. in the "African-American continuum."

My personal taste lies with players who come out of the "African-American continuum," and as Braxton (who I personally don't listen to a whole heck of a lot, but appreciate his intellectual approaches to music) points out, it doesn't really matter whether a player is white or black, it's the cultural pool from which they pull their ideas that gives them their predominant sound.

This is what makes some of the contemporary hybridizations, like Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa's (sic.) explorations of Indian music, Randy Weston's explorations of African musics, and of course some of the African jazz musicians here and in Europe so interesting, in my mind.

Also, ye who are 24, don't ever let anyone try and discredit your opinion because of your age, you bring up valid points and the ability to reflect and be self-critical will serve you well and help you develop wisdom beyond your years. Kudos to you for maintaining a dialectic with yourself.

Don't let us 40-year olds get you down.

My brief addition to David's list:

Tony Malaby: equally comfortable playing free and straight ahead. Has a soulful and bluesy conception at times, nice dark tone, sometimes uses a more abstract approach reminiscent of the Art Ensemble players. Also seems to have some influence from Wayne Shorter in his folksiness.

This posting seems to have really opened up the Cuckoo's nest. The Flickers here in Portland will turn us all into cuckoos if they keep mistaking sheet metal for wood and keep pecking away in the early mornings.

cheerio, Bill

David Valdez said...

Well my wife goes to work at 6:30am and I usually wake up for at least an hour, write a little and then crash again.

Tony Malaby is definitely a major force on the inside/outside scene. As you said he has a nice warm sound and does play interesting shit. I must admit that he has never really knocked me out, but I do like the way he plays. I'd rather hear Richie Perry any day of the week.

Of course there are scads of other great players that are not getting as much recognition. I really like Canadian tenor player Micheal Blake, who plays with the Lounge Lizards and Ben Allison. He has a very original and interesting conception, he's very creative and really gets into subtle changes in his sound.

Another Toronto tenor is Mike Sim, who was at Berklee the same time all the other guys were. Mike played lead in Herb's recording band (basically the top tenor spot at Berklee). He now lives in Brooklyn and plays with the Mingus big band. Mike has always been really good, coming out of the Lovano, Trane bag, he has his own thing happening.

Among the Bebop Nazis at Smalls Grant Stewart is the heavy-weight, a real traditionalist and a very bad man.

Anonymous said...

Nobody likes Eric Alexander?? I can guess what you think about him:)

IMHO Your quick summation, in 1 paragraph, of all of those gentlemen seems a little, well...simplistic. A guy practices, plays, studies and busts his ass in NYC for years and you dismiss him in 10 words (but soften the blow with a brief mention of their "nice, warm" presonalities)

"X plays a little too much Grossman-derived lines & relies too much on mutli-phonics and has a very 'straight' rhythmic concept, can swing his way out of a moist paper bag--but he's a heck of a nice guy, a real sweetheart"

dude, let someone "do one" about you & see what you think or how it makes you feel.

David Valdez said...

Come on, how much can you really say about a player on a few sentences anyways? I think that every one of the guys I just listed is a BAD-ASS burning muther fucker! They are all smoking, no question. I have known many of them for a long time (McCaslin since 7th grade) and I think these guys are stellar people. I didn't say that I liked them to soften any blows. I never got along with Chris Cheek and he seemed mildly autistic to me. I'm just being honest here.
I think Mark, Donny and Seamus are great guys and that's important for people to know. When my students happen to go to NYC I send them these guys for lessons while they're there. I like them to know what kind of experience they might have with these people. I would send my students to study with any of the cats I have mentioned here.

When I said that Donny spends too much time in the shed, I was joking
and being jealous at the same time that he has so much discipline.

After re-reading what I posted I think that I wasn't even close to being mean or dismissive. Maybe I wasn't nice enough about Tony Malaby's playing for you?!?! What?! I'm just not all that into it! I find it kind of boring.

I'm not a jazz reviewer, just an interested party. I'm also not holding back my personal tastes, because after all, this IS MY personal blog and it's all about my personal tastes. Mark Turner chooses to play straight 8th notes, that is a matter of personal choice. I do not for a second believe that he is too stiff to swing, it's just a stylistic choice that he has made.

I have total respect and admiration for all of these players. They have worked their asses off to play the saxophone and they all have reached a very high level of mastery.

That said, as a musician you need to be critical when you are choosing who to emulate. As musicians we need to be critical and judgmental even when deciding who to hire for a gig. "Mr.B swings harder than Mr.J, Mr.J has more harmony than Mr.K, Mr.K has more soul and intensity than Mr.R."

If you don't exercise critical judgment you'll end up playing with shitty players and sounding like your shitty influences.

Hey, go ahead and start your own blog called,"Valdez can't swing his way out of a paper bag".

One thing I try to do here in this blog, which by the way is even less financially rewarding than playing door gig at the 55 Bar, is to be honest about my thoughts on music. I put a lot of information out there in hopes that it will help younger players and keep the music alive. I take music very seriously and I always have, call me crusty or even mean.

When I got into Jazz, I knew that I was not doing it to be popular and I don't really expect this blog to be popular either.

Because of all the critics on this blog who hide behind their anonymity as a way to not fully enter in to the discussion, there will be NO MORE ANONYMOUS COMMENTS.

So come out of the shadows and let's hear what YOU sound like!

chicken little said...

David is a player who steeped in the tradition more than his peers. He swings very hard while playing interesting, harmonically complex lines. He dabbles in Latin music which is mostly a waste of his time. His tenor playing is much improved but he has no concept on soprano and his intonation, otherwise excellent on alto and tenor, is questionable. His web presences is a great source of information. He's a nice warm person who is married to a woman who he is lucky to have.

David Valdez said...

Very funny..... :-)

MonksDream said...

Chicken Little,

That was funny. If you're Tom someone or uther, I tried to get your contact through your website and couldn't find it. I wanted to check out your Monk book.

cheers, Bill

naturalsax said...

Is this what Jazz has become???
I am embarrassed to be reading all this shit. I think the only reason that shit can be talked in such a manner on this Blog is because it's safe to say that none of the cats are going to be reading it. Maybe if people were playing more they wouldn't need to bitch about Senior Recitals at the New School. I mean seriously, what the fuck??!!

David Valdez said...

Isn't it of some relevance that the top Jazz schools in the country are drastically changing their curriculums?

If schools like the New School revamp their programs and stop teaching 'old and outdated' 20th century music then there will some drastic changes on the music scene in the next decade.

As far as some of the comments about players, relax. We're just talking about our likes and dislikes here. Yes, everyone's a critic, so what?! Go check out Sax on the Web forum or any other similar site and you'll find much more of the same shit. What's wrong with writing about music and musicians and actually being honest ? I like to read more Jazz reviews that actually tell the truth instead of just a bunch of gratuitous stroking. Every musician has some weak spots, some more than others. Hey, why not let loose and say that Jackie Mclean plays so sharp that at times he's hard to listen to? Or that often Wayne sounds like he is playing a shitty reed. All these guys we're criticizing here are making records
and getting international airplay.
They're fair game! They're not students anymore. We're not blasting New school students and picking them apart, just the school itself.

The bad part about putting out CDs is that you have to read the reviews, good and bad. I had a column in a major West Coast Jazz magazine and I wrote what I wanted to.I still get a ton of new CDs in the mail to review. Most of the time these CDs aren't even good enough to write a shitty review of. That's not the case with all the players we're talking about here. They are worth writing about and listening to, even if you don't like everything about their playing.

I want my students to listen to everyone out there, but with a critical ear. This isn't how I would recommend a non-musician to listen to Jazz, why ruin the experience? We want to be able to pick and choose our influence carefully, to be able to discriminate which elements in a player's style to be influenced by.
I can try to learn from Jackie's hard swinging bop lines without playing a quarter-tone sharp or play a Shorter tune with a good reed......

Hank Cee said...

Wait. Wayne sounds like he has a shitty reed sometimes??? Not to my ears. Am I missing something??

I also think that Jimmy Greene, Sue Terry, Mike DiRubbo, Steve Davis or anyone else who was lucky enough to study & be around Jackie Mac would testify that, he could DO ANYTHING HE WANTED with on the Saxophone, including playing IN TUNE.

I've always felt that, in his artistry, intonation was like the 4th dimension of color, he used it as another form of expression, like vibrato, tone, dynamics, especially on ballads.
That was one part of his genius, IMHO.

I agree w/NaturalSax, WTF??

I think the real message is, that its a bit sad that great, experienced artists, in their 50s like Mover or Garzone, have to work and teach at places like the New School and be forced to think about stuff like, what some 21 yr old is doing on his Senior Recital, instead of having a music industry and listening public, that can provide them with the means to have a sucessful performing career.

Jazz school has always been jive, kids always have their own idea as to what they want to play--didn't Keith Jarrett get kicked out of Berklee for playing on the strings of the piano? I bet all the teachers back then thought he was an arrogant little prick, right? ...hey wait a minute....could they have had a point?? :):)

David Valdez said...

I respect your opinion Hank. I don't know how Jackie can get away with playing so sharp myself. Of course he could play in tune, just pull his mouthpiece out about an inch. I still think he's a master, Wayne too. Jeesh, you guys are getting all PC on me here. I can't say anything negative about anyone? Is this 'Casa Warm Fuzzies' instead of 'Casa Valdez' all of a sudden?

Someone pull out J-Mac's mouthpiece and buy Wayne a box of new reeds puleeze! Guess what? I also think that Sonny Rollins has a raunchy sound compared to his sound in the 50's! I'll just sit here an wait for the flaming to start.

"Raunch is the 5th dimension of expression", "He's not over blowing, that's just a powerful air-stream."

Here comes the avalanche of comments.

Jazz schools happen to be the only way to get a complete Jazz education these days. How many touring bands are left for young players to apprentice with? Jazz schools are only are jive as the teachers that teach at them.
If there are great players there then by all means go study there. Look at the rosters of schools like the New School, New England Conservatory, Berklee, Miami, Manhattan School of Music. They are have tons of unbelievable musicians teaching there. Times have changed.

Keith Jarrett actually got kicked out of Berklee for tuning a piano in the practice rooms in micro-tones, without getting permission. I'd say that that's a pretty strong reason to get kicked out of school.

Do you actually think that Garzone couldn't support himself by touring
festivals and recording? Mover could still be hustling gigs in Europe if he wanted to. These guys both chose not to always be on the road like 'successful musicians'. In fact there is more money to be made right now in Jazz education that in record sales and festivals. Just go to an IAJE convention sometime. Garzone probably makes more money teaching than just about about any top touring Jazz musician. He likes hanging in NYC and Boston. Is it sad that he makes a hundred bucks an hour teaching, still plays with his trio every week, gets a ton of sideman recording gigs every year and leads a nice, healthy and satisfying life?

Mover has a newborn baby and a beautiful young wife. He doesn't want to be away from them for more than a day or two at a time. My point is that
a great majority of the top players in the country teach at Jazz schools, and they still are at the top of their games. The list is very long indeed, so I won't even start. In the past being a teacher meant that you weren't a successful player, "Those who can't...". This just isn't the case anymore. There are some amazing players now teaching at schools all over the country, and they enjoy teaching. More and more musicians are finding new ways to balance their music careers with a comfortable and sustainable lifestyle.

In my opinion the successful ones are the guys who have enjoyable lifestyles and play great music with great players. The Downbeat polls don't tell you that.

For me personally the idea of being on the road for weeks at a time is not appealing. I am fine playing two or three good gigs a week, anymore than that is a drag and music becomes a chore. A short tour once in a while is great, just not too long. I like being home with my wife and dogs, maybe the road had some allure in my twenties, but not anymore.

HankCee said...

I always thought that Jackie & his intonation was sortof a litmus test, some people "get him" & some cant get past what he's doing w/it & just think he's "out of tune"

Different strokes.

You just agreed w/me, I think. Of course jazz ed is where the money is at, thats where everyone is moving to, because of no records sales & lack of interest.

Many of the greats wouldn't be there is there were other opportunities--doesnt mean its a bad way to make a living or to have a nice life like Garzone does.

Mover w/a new wife & baby--that guy's got more lives than Fritz the Cat--god bless him!

And god bless you, too, Mr. Valdez, sounds like you have a great life, out there. Enjoy your success. Be well, my friend.

ciao babe

Mark Buselli said...

My name is Mark Buselli. I play the trumpet, run a jazz orchestra out of Indianapolis and teach at Ball State University. I was at Berklee from 79 to 82. I know Bob Mover, George Garzone, and Tony Malaby. I have played with each of them. I used to drive Bob to all of his gigs in Boston around 1980 because he didn't have a driver's license. I practically worshipped the guy. My reward would be to sit in on a couple of tunes at the end of the evening. Bob ALWAYS knew what he wanted to hear from pianists and guitar players. I remember one night he went off on Joe Cone (gtr.) because Joe played the wrong chord change. At that time Bob played a lot of notes (good ones too!) ... I probably learned more just hanging around Bob for 2 years then I did at school. He would make you listen to a lot of recordings of the same tune which really opened my mind up to different interpretations BUT he always stressed to look up the way the tune was originally penned!
I transcribed the album "In the True Tradition"

I had George for an ensemble at Berklee and that was wild. He also came out to Phoenix when I was living out there and recorded with some friends of mine. George is ridiculous! He can take a line and just invert all of the intervals to form a whole new line! I love listening to him and I think he is very under-rated in today's hunt for the "new young lion"

Tony and I played in Phoenix together for a minute in 1986. I could tell back then he had something special. I still have recordings of us back then I break out and marvel at where he was and where he is today.

All three of these guys can swing!

I teach a class where I give the students a CD of 14 tunes and pdf files of solos i have transcribed through the years. We start with listening to Louis, Bix, Hawk etc. and then they open the pdf file up to find little sections (4 to 12 bars) of the solo blacked out. They have to fill it in and by doing so they also have to play the solo from memory. It is a lot of work but by the end of the semester they are aware of 14 master musicians. We do the same thing for the second semester. After a year's worth of researching, listening, transcribing, swinging I urge them to explore their own ideas or other artists. This goes on for the rest of your life!

What is my point you ask? Almost every great player that I have been associated with has always talked about studying the masters who started this art form! I had the chance to play in a recording session with Branford at Berklee. We recorded an arrangement of Scrapple in Wes Hensel's band and Branford took a solo on it. I got a copy of the tape and learned his solo. 6 months later I'm listening to Dexter play Apple Honey and guess what??? Branford played Dexter's solo!! That blew me away.

Sorry for taking up so much space.
Mark

David Valdez said...

Mark,
That you for that comment.

Bob still doesn't drive and if he does ever get his license, God help everyone on the road!

I've watched Bob make a scene when a bass player didn't start the tune in the original key, instead he played tune in the Real Book key. Mover stopped the band and lectured the audience, with help from Alan Jones, about how young players these days don't learn from the original recordings. Instead they learn tunes from only Fake Books, and they don't even bother to learn the lyrics.

Bob once told me about a student who transcribed 'in the True Tradition'. I'm sure he (and I for that matter) would love a copy of that. Do you still have it???

MonksDream said...

Holy cow! I didn't realize that this post was still up! At least it didn't turn into anything like Salman Rushdie's predicament with the death threats and all.

Someone ought to do something like that Mark Buselli character was talking about for transcription training. Start with a solo with only one bar blacked out, the next one with two, then four, etc. Accompanying CD, etc. It would probably help people learn to transcribe a lot faster.

chad eby said...

"Of course, it’s not an absolute tragedy, just as it isn’t when schools teach kids how to play in odd meters with a straight-eighth rock feel. In fact, it’s good that they are doing that because the fact is, that’s what the new audience of jazz wants to listen to."

wrong, wrong, wrong.

the only people who crave hearing jazz played like that are college kids studying jazz. if that's the entirety of the audience, we're all fucked.

when's the last time you walked down the street and heard some 13/4 vamp jazz coming from the windows of a passing car? or when you were playing a gig and someone wrote the name of the title track to the new rosenwinkel record on the back of a napkin and passed it to the leader? (no disrespect to kurt)

allegedartist said...

Interesting discussion, here's a little of my experience...

First off, I'm a guitar player that for some reason finds myself on this blog all the time. It's funny that how a lot of saxophonist have had experiences that parallel my own. I went to Berklee and I found the environment to be extremely unsatisfying.

Before Berklee I had private lessons with a very traditional jazz guitarists and Pat Martino. I also studied with Archie Shepp, who despite his reputation as an Avant-Garde player only had me work on standards. In fact, our lessons consisted of him sitting at the piano comping standards and critiquing my performance. To be honest, I didn't really know much about fusion. I liked Metheny and Scofield a lot but that was kind of as deep as it went for me.

At Berklee you had so many kids who couldn't play through "All The Things You Are" in arpeggios trying to transcribe Kurt Rosenwinkel lines. It seemed like the measure of greatness was contingent upon how many altered scales you could play and how fast you could play them. A lot of people acted as if the history jazz guitar started with Pat Metheny's "Bright Size Life" and ended with Kurt Rosenwinkel.

I remember one time I signed up for a class on Grant Green, only to find that it was cancelled due to low enrollment. Let me point out that a class could run with like 6 people in it and with a college of 1,000 guitar players they couldn't even fill it. That was the thing though, it seemed like the more blues based a player was like Wes, Kenny Burrell, or Peter Bernstein-The more dismissive people were of them. The emphasis was never on swinging or finding the pocket rhythmically. I got so depressed about the scene their, that I pretty much stopped playing jazz for a long time and just took on rock projects.