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Interviews

Robert Levin: The War is Over - A Conversation About Jazz

By Published: August 21, 2010
RL: As you get older a lot of the illusions you've lived with become transparent and they evaporate. You're left with reality. I believed, back in the '60s, in the possibility of a fundamental change in human consciousness and behavior. Hanging tight with like-minded musicians and others, I was convinced that the "new black music" was the embodiment of that possibility. I may have smiled at the hyperbole of a remark [the "free jazz" bassist and composer] Alan Silva made to me after coming off a high energy set—"Man, in another ten years we won't even need traffic lights we're gonna be so spiritually tuned to one another"—but I have to confess that I didn't think the remark was entirely off the wall. So I developed an agenda when I wrote about jazz that limited what I could appreciate and made me less than objective. I wanted to promote the revolution the "new black music" was leading. I didn't understood yet that the black musicians I revered weren't necessarily in possession of a special wisdom, or that the changes I envisioned were, for reasons I've tried to explain elsewhere, beyond the realm of the possible. [Ed. Note: See "Free Jazz: The Jazz Revolution of the '60s."]

EB: But what you said about being "left with reality." That does sound almost...grim.

RL: It's deflating, but it's hardly all that grim. Not when I can still be mesmerized by the interactions within a finely-tuned group, or thrilled by hearing a superior improviser challenge himself and then rise to the challenge. Not when what's left is the gift that, each in his way, George Sprung and Joe Goldberg gave me. The treasure that jazz is in all of its manifestations.


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