Documenting Jazz 2019

Ian Patterson By

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The impact of Willis Conover's nightly broadcasts was immense. As there was no such thing as a jazz curriculum in third level education in Russia until 1974, Conover's jazz programme provided the jazz education for many in Russia and across Eastern Europe, with large numbers of jazz musicians and aficionados recording the broadcasts. "Most of the musicians were classically trained. They had no idea about jazz. They had to figure out the music for themselves", said Moshkow.

Jazz festivals were permitted by the Soviet authorities in 1962, when the first one was held in Moscow. This was a festival and a competition at the same time, Moshkow explained: "The Soviet authorities couldn't think of a jazz festival that wasn't a competition. It must be proven that somebody is better then the others and there are worthy examples that should be followed."

Regarding the LPs, Moshkow described how the two-LP set from the 1965 Moscow Jazz Festival was a fake live recording as Melodiya didn't have the technical capacity to record live concerts at that time. Afterwards, the competition winners dutifully recreated what they had played during the festival for a studio recording, with fake applause added. The subsequent festivals of the next three years were properly recorded live.

Nine of the sixteen bands who played the 1965 Moscow Jazz Festival were included on the studio recordings. The compilation featured only two American jazz standards as the musicians were required to play one piece by a Soviet composer, two originals and possibly one American standard, though musicians were encouraged to write their own tunes. The body of the compositions were typically Russian in tone, based on a popular folk melody, Moshkow said, while the solos were in the bebop and hard bop idioms.

Moshkow presented several photographs capturing the stage and audience of those years, highlighting significant musicians and competition judges. One outstanding musician noted by Moshkow was trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, who left the Soviet Union in the 1970s. He realized an ambition, considered unlikely for a Russian jazz musician at that time, by joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, with whom he made a handful of recordings.

Melodiya continued to record throughout the 1970s, with branches in the Baltic countries of the former Soviet Union, but the four LPs mentioned in this paper remain, Moshkow said, the best documents of the Moscow Jazz Festival between 1965 and 1968.

Lecture Recital: Documenting the Standards

The final slot of the third day of Documenting Jazz offered a further three panels, including panels on jazz journalism and recording jazz. However, it seemed fitting to conclude this coverage of Documenting Jazz with some live jazz.

As a jazz pianist and singer, Tish Oney has garnered critical acclaim for her albums such as Forever Friend (Rhombus Records, 2002), Sweet Youth (Bluejazz, 2011) and Songs from the Heart (DGT Productions, 2015). An arranger, Artist-in-Residence and award-winning professor of music at numerous US universities, Dr. Oney is also a high-profile educator and has been writing the Anatomy of a Standard column for All About Jazz since 2016.

In Oney's column for All About Jazz she examines the criteria that constitute a jazz standard, what makes a standard stand the test of time, and how jazz standards are documented from an analytical point of view. For this performative lecture, Oney focused primarily on the analysis of the synthesis of lyrics and music. For Oney, the lyrics of a jazz standard are inseparable from the music in appreciating its value. "When you consider both together a beautiful kaleidoscopic collision often occurs", Oney said. For Oney, as for the great song-writing teams, lyrics and music are integral to the appeal of jazz standards.

Oney presented five songs from her Anatomy of a Standard column, illustrating the harmonic patterns, the melodic contours, the themes inherent in the lyrics, the source and style of the lyrics and rhyme patterns. Oney began, however, with a fluid scat that led into a vocal-only version of the Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields' song "Pick Yourself Up," a song she typically opens or close her concerts with. Oney then demonstrated how the lyrics and music perform the same mission to uplift the listener and how the bridge harmony and melody propel the music forward.

It was fascinating to listen to Oney musically dissect and signpost where musical and lyrical phrases align and where the diverge, how the rising-falling melodic and harmonic contours of Bernice Petkere's "Close Your Eyes" suggest the motion of a pendulum or rocking cradle, on what is a lullaby, or how classical and jazz elements combine on Duke Ellington/Irving Gordon/Irving Mills' "Prelude to a Kiss"—a song Oney described as technically very challenging for singers.

On Fats Waller/Andy Razaf's "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke's ""Here's That Rainy Day," Oney highlighted rhyme patterns, use of tension and release, and balance between text and music. Analysis aside, Oney's vocal phrasing, notably on "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Here's That Rainy Day" and her elegant, nuanced piano playing was simply delightful.

In conclusion, Oney advocated the dual analysis of music and lyrics when considering the jazz standards to create better informed performing artists and jazz scholars alike. In addition, Oney said, We spread awareness of what a total work of art these songs really are.". Studying jazz standards can help modern song-writers create enduring works, because, Oney said, "these recipes haven't failed."

The final words on Documenting Jazz went to Damian Evans and Pedro Cravinho. Evans, who tenaciously holding off applause until the end, thanked a long list of people for their support in helping put together the conference, particularly all the presenters. Cravinho echoed Evans gratitude to all the archivists, documenters and researchers around the world, who strive to get to grips with the multiple meanings of jazz and its reception. Documenting Jazz was, Cravinho said, the start of a conversation between the members of a global community that will continue in 2020 when the second edition of Documenting Jazz will be held at Birmingham City University.


The range of subjects addressed in the seventy or so papers presented during the three days of Documenting Jazz underlined just how fertile jazz is as a subject for academics to debunk and debate, to theorize and reimagine.

Some of the papers commanded more attention than others, not so much for the content as for the style of delivery. Many presenters opted to read verbatim from their texts, which was fine, but verbal galloping stresses the ears and patience of an audience—much you suspect, as bebop did for swing fans when it first took off.

The art of addressing an audience, of voice projection, and punctuation, was not the forte of some of the presenters. For most, content was everything; accuracy of information; authenticity of sources, cross-referencing, the presentation and forensic pursuit of theories.

Perhaps academics, with their largely objective lenses, are best placed to dissect the ambiguities and dualities, the contradictions and controversies, the politics and economics that are a part and parcel of jazz's history. The more digging that academics and researchers do on jazz the more questions that arise. And often, as Documenting Jazz, revealed, the questions and the ripples they continually provoke can be as engaging as the music itself.

Photo: Courtesy of Natalia Kravchenko/Jazz.Ru Magazine



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