The second law of thermodynamics states that disorder is an ever-advancing force in the universe. Within the context of improvised music, entropy can often be a primary consideration. The jazz composer and performer both face an uphill battle organizing sounds into a coherent whole without obstructing the creative potential unleashed by ever-creeping entropy. Jazz (and to a increasing extent, modern classical music) offers its greatest rewards at the critical intersection between order and disorder, between structure and deviation, between theme and variation. (And, while we're on the subject, one can readily classify listeners' tastes in jazz by the amount of entropy they're willing to tolerate. Free jazz, high on entropy, attracts an altogether different audience than swing, heavy on structure.)
That meaty concept stated, one can view Doug Yokoyama's record Identities as a refreshingly creative interpretation of the interface between structure and disorder. (The title of the third track, in fact, makes this idea explicit.) Yokoyama is fortunate in having willing and sensitive colleagues to help explore these ideas. Tenor saxophonist Francis Wong uses his experience as a composer and a player to spur forward motion around corners and through sudden turns in the music. Bassist Trevor Dunn grasps the importance of providing a harmonic and rhythmic foundation, but still takes regular opportunities to tug the quartet away into moments of spontaneous discovery. Drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee plays a strong supporting role, mindful of the foundation and just as responsive to the on-the-spot changes that pop up regularly in Yokoyama's music.
Identities offers a generally low-key, melodic approach. Yokoyama's tone, lyrical like Paul Desmond's and hearty like Michael Moore's, smoothes the edges around the territory navigated by his group. Because he's not always eager to steal the spotlight, he makes it possible for the other members of the group to chime in as well. Of special note: bassist Trevor Dunn (who might be memorable to fans of the avant-rock outfit Mr. Bungle) has a distinctly angular melodic sense and a remarkable ability to make odd meters seem quite natural (the last track being a prime example). But it's the group interaction, and the tradeoff between players around melodic development, that marks Yokoyama's disc as a fine achievement. That and the way the musicians flirt with disorder, masking their creative leaps under the guise of common sense.
Track Listing: A Break in the Net; Tell Me Arizona; Entropy; Relations (Mother's and Father's); Just for Starters; Josie + 1; On a Mission; Six Steps; Two's; Relations 2 (Mother's and Father's).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.