The Lure of Collecting Jazz Albums


Classics of jazz music emerge mostly by the consensus of popular opinion. When many people regard a record, a classic, it becomes one. A percieved classic album is more marketable than a nonclassic. Records like movies and books become iconic when they meet with instant popular demand and unanimous acclaim. Such represents or answers essential cultural needs hitherto unexpressed. The Girl From Ipanema swept dancefloors just before the “sex revolution” at a time when Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Tropic of Cancer were being unbanned. The Creator Has A Master Plan captured the trend of young people transiting from psychedelic trips to spiritual ones. Imagine was later released and India became a mecca for seekers. Fables of Faubus was a Civil Rights call-to-action anthem of wokeness (cf. George Floyd incidences). However, tastes and preferences change. Today’s fashion may become tomorrow’s garbage. Such a reality renders jazz pieces either deserving of their classic status or ridiculously overrated. One man’s jazz classic can be another man’s earache.

Very personal jazz classics are embraced by the individual fan. They are borne of felt experience and inner or cultural affinities for artistic expression. Why would a Nigerian have a life-long adulation for jazz, or a Japanese for Bossa Nova, or a Greek for calypso? Universality? Classic jazz records are not timeless gems because Nat Hentoff, Stanley Crouch, or Orrin Keepnews said so. Nor are they down to the Grammy Awards they earned nor runaway sales they achieved on their releases. If jazz is an embodiment of freedom, chew what you like and spit out the rest. Anyone forced to listen to music they dislike has been tortured.
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What Is Academic Jazz, Does It matter?

“Academic jazz” is a phrase that startles me. What does it mean? Toady jazz music, jazz dance and jazz poetry are mainstream academic subjects. Libraries of books on jazz theory, performance, improvisation, history, analyses, and personalities abound. Many believe jazz, particularly in its bebop and Avant-Garde forms, are intellectual making it suitable for academic inquiry. If intellectual giants such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Cornel West have been steeped in jazz 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?  

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Jazz Music & the Influence of Yoruba Culture

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).

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A Song for Reassurance: Okpan Arhibo Verses

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Obor ri guono ughwume sonobrughwe rovwo na’a

Obor ri guono ughwume sonobrughwe rovwo na’a 

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Abortu ri guono ughwu r’Okpan Oghene rovwo na’a

Itu ri guono ughwume Oghene rovwo na’a 

Translation:

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A Jazz Great I Met: Clifford Jarvis

Clifford Jarvis, Dance for Life State of Emergency

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.

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