Nic Jones monkeys around on the margins.
I've taught jazz history classes where I've made use of the Armstrong yardstick. It's a straightforward thing involving no more than comparing and contrasting two Louis Armstrong performances from the 1920s, the latter of which is always Weather Bird," a duet featuring Armstrong and Earl Hines, on piano. So pitting, say, Skip the Gutter," from June of 1928, against the Armstrong-Hines version reveals an extraordinarily accelerated rate of musical development in both players, especially as a mere six months separate the two performances. There's been nothing inevitable about that rate being maintained. In later years--and for all ...read more
Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith has been pursuing his muse for decades now; that pursuit has yielded music as singular as anything out there, as his now abundant discography testifies. The release of Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform, 2012) earlier this year amounts to something monumental, however, and not merely because the music pans out across four discs. Smith's music has never had about it the air of culmination, and accordingly no release of his amounts to anything other than a facet of his art. This is not, however, to damn his work with faint praise, for to be an artist of ...read more
If considered together a couple of recent archival releases (The 100 Club Concert 1979 (Reel Recordings, 2012), by saxophonist Elton Dean's Ninesense and Mike Osborne Trio The Birmingham Concert (Cadillac, 2012), by the Mike Osborne Trio) and one reissue (Wilderness of Glass ((Awake, 2012), by Triton) remind us of how creative improvised music happens, regardless of the state of the world in which it's made. Dean , Osborne and the Triton trio were all stalwarts of the British and European jazz scene in the 1970s. They also had in common the fact that they didn't succumb to the lure of ...read more
While Paul Motian's music could be regarded as amalgam of the predetermined and the free, that tells only a small part of the story. Similarly, arguing that his drumming was a merging of Kenny Clarke and Sunny Murray is no more helpful, even as it hints at the freedom in his work. But at this moment in time, and of course in light of his recent death in November, 2011, it feels too soon to determine whether or not he was an innovator on par with those two gentlemen. What is undeniable, however, is his good fortune ...read more
[Editor's Note: For the inaugural installment of his new column, in which he monkeys around on the margins of jazz and improvised music, Nic Jones takes a look at the often overlooked and undervalued multi-instrumentalist, Marion Brown.]Reed player and percussionist Marion Brown's music is a singular thing. Through his associations in the 1960s--not the least of these being as a sideman on John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965)--he might, in many peoples' minds, be associated with the New Thing of that time and little else. While this is a useful reference point it tells only part of the story, ...read more