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Take Five With...

Take Five With Yoni Kretzmer

By Published: April 8, 2013
While there is a lot of outstanding music coming out these days, in my opinion jazz is facing a crisis. From the get-go jazz—meaning improvisation-based music—had traits of rebellion, a rebellion that manifested itself in a struggle against the convention of the day, against the way many people thought the world should be—a struggle against racism and a struggle for freedom, human freedom and freedom of expression.

For me, the trait of the struggle within, is at least a good a definition of the word jazz as any musical one could lend. In other means the spirit rather that the shape, is what might define this music and its characteristics.

The vibrancy of Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
was kept alive in Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
, then Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
sax, alto
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
, Ayler and so forth. The inner struggle was still in their music, the desire to live life to its fullest and dispense of any social restraint was heard in every note.

Maybe jazz today has lost that battle? Maybe the ever-growing, cooperative, mass-producing world has crashed it? I think that without noticing we might have been beaten; without noticing, we have given in to many restrictions that have not been artistically motivated, but rather are socially or falsified as financially motivated. It is as though we are in a sci-fi movie, that the moment "they" win you over is the very same moment you become unaware they have won you over.

If jazz is a cry for freedom, if jazz is a refusal to live in a strictly materialistic world where only money has value of any kind, if jazz sees every human as deserving the exact same rights as his or her fellow human brother or sister—if jazz is all of that, and I know it is, than there is a deep crisis in the music today.

I can sometimes feel the moment that I give in; sometimes I don't want to be a nuisance, why? Where does this come from? Shouldn't we, the musicians, at least try and determine what is good or bad, pleasant or horrifying? In general jazz today does not stand its ground; many think that we shouldn't upset people or else we will lose the crowd. In my opinion, jazz has lost its crowd (and, even worse, is looked at as not a very high form of art) exactly because we did not stand our ground, exactly because we gave in to other considerations, and exactly because we lost the passion and ceased to struggle. Who would want to hear a music that does not agonize and struggle in order to be heard?

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

In order for jazz to be alive the actual music, down to the very most basic sound, has to be alive, oozing with freshness and vitality. It is not possible to awaken the dead; we have to recreate, we cannot ignore our own time's crises for the glory of days now passed. The challenge is to manage to play our current time (because another option does not exist) while enabling the history and inner soul of the music to help us rise above the deceptions of these days.

Jazz can be a tool to differentiate from what's right and wrong, and good and bad; but one has to humble oneself before the music, and humility is a tricky thing. On one side there is something arrogant about the mere attempt to even play music; on the other, without that arrogance we would not have music. Somewhere in between those two positions is the honest, uncompromising, relentless humility that this music deserves. The famous prayer comes to mind: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

What is in the near future?

At the moment I'm working on a bunch of different projects simultaneously. I Hope to record a second CD for my 2Bass quartet this summer, diving deeper into the rumbling and hunting sound this band can generate. Graceless, the new CD of my group 66 Boxes should be out in a couple of month. Another CD, with double bassist Joe Fonda
Joe Fonda
Joe Fonda
and drummer Harvey Sorgen, should be out very soon. Aside from all this I'm close to finishing the composing stage for my chamber ensemble, New Dilemma, I released one CD with this third stream group in 2009 and can't wait to reestablish it here in New York.

By Day:

I teach Jewish religious studies to teens.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

A gardener.

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Download jazz mp3 “Smallone ” by Yoni Kretzmer