Dan Bilawsky examines jazz from four angles.
Is money the root of all evil? I, of course, can't answer that, but anybody with access to a newspaper, television and/or the internet knows that it's at the heart of many debates these days. As I sit here writing this column on a cloudy day in early April, I can't help but think that the weather is a current reflection of the financial climate in the United States. Tax day looms heavy on the horizon, as millions of Americans rush to complete their forms, eager to receive desperately needed refunds or angry to part with their hard earned dollars ...read more
Explorers, of the musical and non-musical variety, always seem to be fascinated by the bountiful bodies of water that cover the earth. Long before jazz ever existed, treasure hunters, adventurers, and those in search of the unknown would risk their lives and spend incredible amounts of time and energy traversing the globe, on a quest to discover what might (or might not) exist on the other side of those blue waters. Predators of the pirate variety found easy prey along these uncharted waters, but others, whether sticking close to home or venturing out a bit further, simply ...read more
While reading reviews about the 2010 Winter Jazzfest in New York City, I experienced a sensory overload, despite the fact that I hadn't even been in attendance. The list of musicians that performed at the event seemed too good to be true, as did many of the reviews, so I vowed to check it out for myself when the event rolled around again in January of 2011. When the festival dates were announced, I bought my tickets early, mapped out my club-hopping plan for each night, coordinated all of the logistics surrounding the weekend, and eagerly waited ...read more
The idea for this edition of Old, New, Borrowed and Blue isn't new. The seeds were actually sown with an experience I had a few years back. About four years ago, I was writing for a different jazz publication and I received a package of recordings in the mail. This parcel contained the usual mixture of new discs from well-known jazz labels, recordings that were self-produced by independent artists and reissues of popular (and lesser-known) albums. The album art on one particular reissue--Folk Songs For Far Out Folks (Reboot Stereophonic/Warner Brothers, 2007)--caught my eye first and I immediately gave it ...read more
What, exactly, is soul?" This word is used so often in discussions and writings about music, but I wonder if anybody can actually define its very essence and place in the musical universe? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists no less than eight different definitions for soul and, while some of them have a decent grasp on what we may hear, they all seem to be grasping at straws to some extent. One definition--"5 b: the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment"--has some potential, but it's so vague as to be rendered useless in the search for soul in song. When I ...read more
In jazz--as in all else in life--different words mean different things to different people. The way we associate words or sounds with meaning is unique to the individual, but certain words tend to draw similar thoughts from within the jazz community. Bird" is one such word. Whether you're an avant-garde aficionado, a moldy fig," a modernist or a dyed-in-the-wool bop connoisseur, the word bird" is likely to conjure up images or thoughts of the great Charlie Parker. Bird"--Parker's universally known nickname--is as appropriate a moniker as could be imagined for this soaring saxophone star, but birds in ...read more
Jazz and rock audiences, at their core, often expect two very different things when they attend a live performance. Jazz audiences thrive on the journey and in-the-moment magic that's created as a one-time-only occurrence, through a partially improvised art. Rock audiences, by and large, prefer to hear it like it sounds on the record. Jazz artists who play it safe at every performance don't usually earn respect from critics, fans and their peers, while rock artists who go out on a limb often end up alienating a segment of their fan base. Bob Dylan is one such artist.read more