Old, New, Borrowed and Blue

Dan Bilawsky examines jazz from four angles.

Making Cents Of It All: Jazz Enters The Money Jungle

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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 ...

Jazz Takes To The High Seas

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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 ...

OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE

Taken with Terrasson

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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 ...

OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE

John Williams' Jazz

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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 ...

OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE

Soul And The Abstract Proof: Searching For Soul And Its Meaning In Jazz

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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 ...

OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE

Jazz Is For The Birds: An Aviary In Song

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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. ...

OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE

Bob Dylan: The Bard Of Jazz

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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 ...

OLD, NEW, BORROWED AND BLUE

On The Sunny Side Of Jazz

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Summer is a time of joy for many people. Children are treated to a well-deserved vacation, allowing them to recharge for the following school year, and barbecues are held in backyards, en masse, throughout every corner of America and beyond. Those fond of the surf and sand flock to the beach, and it's all-too-common to see people jogging, biking or just partaking in a simple stroll through a park. While summer brings all of these perks and many more, it ...

Duke Ellington Tames The Savage Beasts: Lions and Tigers and Bears (and Gazelles!)

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I begin this edition of Old, New, Borrowed and Blue with a confession. I have an unabashed love for the music of Duke Ellington. From his brilliantly scored compositions, to the singular instrumental personalities in his band(s)--with Ellington, Jimmy Hamilton and Johnny Hodges ranking at the top of my list--Ellington seems to transcend the “big band" tag and his music really deserves the designation of “fine art." Writers have been treating this music as such for over seventy five years, ...

Jazz Goes Green: Musical Explorations On A Secondary Color Of Note

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With spring taking hold and summer on the way, it's hard to avoid encounters with the color green. The drab gray and white of winter is now no more and a vibrant green color scheme has taken over. A drive along the Long Island Expressway--which leads to Manhattan and some of the greatest jazz clubs in the world--might be a burdensome, traffic-filled journey to some, but it also provides colorful explosions across the whole spectrum of this color's family. While ...

Keeping Up With The Joneses: The Jones Name In Jazz

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"What's in a name?" This question, written by Shakespeare and spoken from the mouth of his Juliet, really touches on an important line of thought. Juliet continued and said, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." While she was dealing with the Montague/Capulet issue, she sought to downplay the importance of names and highlight the fact that they don't change the inherent beauty of a person.

While nobody can really ...

Remembrance: Paying Tribute Through The Art Of Jazz Composition

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Paying tribute to the dearly departed is simply a part of life. We honor them with words and we pay our respects through our actions as we help to keep their memory alive. In music, we pay tribute to the dead through the medium that we know best...sound. Whether we use “requiem," “threnody," “ode," “elegy," or any other number of terms, we are always simply saying “tribute through music." Music seems to be an excellent way to say “thank you," ...