I am often asked by newer jazz fans for advice in collecting good or classic jazz records. My answer; “only you can decide what a classic is” and “it depends on the path of collection you choose to adopt.” A jazz collection without the Miles’ Kind of Blue, Coltrane‘s Giant Steps, Hancock‘s Maiden Voyage, Blakey and the Jazz Messengers‘ Moanin’, Mingus‘ Mingus Ah Um, or Brubeck‘s Time Out albums may attract little interest, an unsolicited lecture or even ridicule. Owning Dolphy’s Out to Lunch, Ornette’s The Shape of Jazz to Come, Jarret’s The Koln Concert or Terry’s Haig and Haig albums can bring you instant respect from many. Such indicates a well-defined culture of acquisition that transcends the sounds of jazz..
“Academic jazz” is a phrase that startles me. What does it mean? Today jazz music, jazz dance and jazz poetry are mainstream academic subjects. Libraries of books on jazz theory, performance, improvisation, history, analyses, events, styles, and personalities abound. Many believe jazz, particularly in its bebop and Avant-Garde forms, are intellectual, making it suitable for academic inquiry. If public intellectual giants such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Cornel West, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, have been steeped in jazz and its expression, it has to be intellectual. Nevertheless, jazz music was not created in university departments or conservatories of music. It came out of Africa, a continent perceived as backward. Most of the earliest practitioners of jazz in the USA could not read nor write English or music. They learnt and played their musical crafts by ear. That said, we may be confronted with the question, does academic jazz or the jazz of academics’ matter?
There was a time in the ’60s and ’70s when several jazz musicians of repute had to visit Brazil for a new spark of inspiration. It was almost a “rite of passage” for many jazz musicians. Classics like ‘Song for My Father’ by Horace Silver; ‘Brazilian Love Affair’ by George Duke; ‘Jive Samba’ by Cannonball Adderley Sextet; ‘Sidewinder’ by Lee Morgan; ‘Big Band Bossa Nova’ by Quincy Jones were born of rips and sounds of trips to and sounds of Brazil. These are a few of the Jazz Giants that had made their most successful albums through the Brazilian inspiration. Grover Washington Jr, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Bob James, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Stan Getz, Kenny Dorham and many others also had big lifts in their music by way of the Brazilian inspiration. The most Yoruba-influenced jazz group is apparently the Art Ensemble of Chicago (see picture above).
Songs have often come to the rescue of a distressed, pained or broken soul. Songs shine lights in darkness, offer hope when it is so far away, provide relief to untiring palaver. However, here the song gives reassurance amidst estrangement and confusion. Empathy is often rewarded as such. Read More “A Song for Reassurance: Okpan Arhibo Verses”
It was an autumn evening in 1996 when I visited the up and coming French jazz bassist, Collard Romain, at his flat in Camberwell, London. Collard shared the flat with an up and coming pianist, Javier. Theirs was a flat of jazz music. I had met Collard and saxophonist Christian Brewer a few months earlier at one of the evening jazz duo sessions at Café Boheme in Soho, and we became friends.
It had rained hard just before I set out to meet Collard at his flat one evening and cold. When I knocked on his door, a black guy in jeans pants and a jeans shirt opened the door and asked me who I was looking for in an American accent. A quick and apt description of the guy was that he looked like the father or older brother of rap artist Snoop Doggy Dogg. On entering the flat Collard warmly welcomed me as usual and then enthusiastically introduced Clifford Jarvis to me. I was amazed.