29 June 2007

Jazz of the 90s

The free-jazz cats over at Destination: Out continue to kick up a fuss in the jazz portion of the blogosphere. The dust has just about settled on their latest provocation: Best Jazz of the 90s, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5A and 5B.

As an adult and a music appreciater for the length of that decade, I was amazed, humbled and enlightened by the torrent of response. As a peaceable adult I was appalled by the amount of useless point-scoring and petty shot-taking by many of the warrior squirrels in the comments. And this among the tattered remnants of those who claim to love jazz. It reminds me of the old saw about academic politics: They're so vicious because the stakes are so low.

One particularly insightful comment on the all this de gustibus came in the midst of a great post by Ethan of The Bad Plus (on the TBP blog, since he passed up participating directly in the D:0 B.O. 90s jamboree). He'd put up a blindfold test of a '96 Branford Marsalis track because:
...if I told a [fiery-eyed free jazz] acolyte that this was a rip of a rare dead free jazz saxophonist and a South African drummer on a defunct label that only released four records they would love it, but if I told them that it was Branford Marsalis (musical director of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992-95) and Jeff Watts on Columbia they would not be interested.
Context is everything, particularly in matters of taste, in any decade.

UPDATE: Trumpeter Dave Douglas, mentioned frequently in D:O's Best of the 90s lists, weighs in with his thoughts on the subject on his Greenleaf Music blog. He takes an illuminating look at the issue of context for musicians (as opposed to warrior squirrels).
We would all learn from checking out Paul Bley and from playing with Tain. Couldn't agree more. But it's what you do with that that makes you who you are. Choices. Language. How am I going to play? Context. Compulsion.
Lee Bob says check it out.

1 comment:

Happy In Bag said...

Fantastic post, Lee.