Roads Less Travelled
In the forty years since his death Eric Dolphy's career has taken on a kind of substance that it never had in his lifetime. Partly this is due to the course jazz has taken within those forty years, one of the end results of which is a scene that in many ways is more conservative now than it was then.
Brian Morton has referred to Dolphy's career as a series of transitions1 and there is something in this, hinting as it does at a more fundamental truth about Dolphy's music, namely that it didn't stay in one place. Certainly Dolphy ...Read More
The last article in this series discussed the most significant strand in the recording history of Sonny Criss , a musician who was unjustly neglected during his lifetime. By contrast, Art Pepper might have been overexposed during his. If so, then this was a process helped in no small part by his autobiography1 in which he candidly discloses what loathsome traits were to be found in his personality. None of these, however, have any bearing on his abilities as a jazz musician, and The Hollywood All Star Sessions brings together a number of dates, all of them not originally put ...Read More
There have sometimes been itinerant qualities to the jazz musician's life, not only in terms of where they've lived, but also where and when they recorded. Sonny Criss spent the best part of his life in Los Angeles, and the sad fact is that the devotion he showed not only to the city and its people but also to his music brought him little reward, a fact only compounded by what posthumous acclaim he has been afforded.
The albums he cut for Prestige in the mid- to late 1960s amount to the most significant strand of his recorded legacy, and ...Read More
By the end of the 1930s both the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands had established signature styles of music making that were in some respects antithetical. Whilst the latter was dependent on composition as an integral part of its musical output -and arguably no-one before or since has married composition and the making of jazz so successfully, the former had developed a kind of inner momentum from which its music flowed and which was shaped in no small part by the way in which the different sections of the band functioned and related to each other.
Such is the ...Read More
The cultural life of post-war West Germany was always subject to significant American influence, and though this may seem surprising on the surface it says a lot about American hegemony in this period and the means through which it was acheived. Julian Cope has quite rightly highlighted the presence of American service personnel as a agent for cultural change1 particularly with reference to rock 'n' roll radio and the allure of plenty for people living in austere times. But by the end of the 1960s -and in a reflection of international trends- musicians were offering takes on idioms of American ...Read More
By March of 1965, when the first of the Village Vanguard recordings were made, Albert Ayler's career as a leader was less that five years old. He'd covered a lot of ground. It was also only thirteen years since he'd worked in Little Walter's band, yet in that time he'd moved as far away from the mainstream of African American popular music as it was possible to be, at least that was an impression. The reality of the situation was rather different.
Ayler's take on the avant-garde was not of the same form as John Coltrane's. By comparison he sidestepped ...Read More
Although the jazz vocabulary is undoubtedly American in origin, with the passing of time and the evolution jazz has arguably become a pejorative term for the making of improvised music. The improvisational element reaches its logical conclusion in music that is freely improvised, that is to say music that is free of all predetermined elements and the structure of which is of the moment.
Free improvisation has followed a more international path than did jazz as such in the earliest decades of its life; an outcome of this has been, to put it both crudely and with a degree of ...Read More
By March of 1965, when the first of the Greenwich Village recordings were made, Albert Ayler's career as a leader was less than five years old. He'd covered a lot of ground. It was also only thirteen years since he'd worked in Little Walter's band, yet in that time he'd moved as far away from the mainstream of African-American popular music as it was possible to be. At least that was an impression. The reality of the situation was rather different.
Ayler's take on the avant-garde was not of the same form as John Coltrane's. By comparison he sidestepped the ...Read More
As discussed in the last article in this series, the dissemination of jazz on record, together with the abilities of musicians from outside of the USA, ensured that the jazz language was relatively quickly assimilated on a large scale. So far as the British jazz scene was concerned, the Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy Reece, born January 5, 1931, was making an impact by the mid-1950s, and just over a decade later both the Canadian Kenny Wheeler and Reece's fellow West Indian Harry Beckett, born in Barbados, were bringing their own highly personal approaches to the trumpet to the cultural stew of ...Read More
Any 'golden age' is always questionable, but in the period 1967-71 the British band Soft Machine are reckoned to have enjoyed such an age, and releases on the Cuneiform and Hux labels make the case. The band was built around keyboard player Mike Ratledge, bassist Hugh Hopper, and drummer/vocalist Robert Wyatt. Reed player Elton Dean was often present, and was but one of a number of horn players who passed through the ranks. At one time the band was a septet, whilst the quintet to be found on Noisette (Cuneiform 130) consists of the quartet mentioned plus Lyn Dobson on ...Read More
A certain view of jazz history has us believe that responsibility for the evolution of the music lies exclusively in American hands. This is both too deterministic and a slight upon the music's power to move and to influence. As early as the late 1930s European players were making innovations of their own at the same time as some Europeans were regarding jazz as akin to the spawn of Satan; the guitarist Django Reinhardt for example was contributing greatly to the jazz vocabulary of his chosen instrument. The same is true of bop, hard bop and the 'cool school', all ...Read More