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!".