Monday, January 05, 2015


Above, that's a caricature of Al "Jazzbo" Collins the famous New York jazz DJ from the 50s. Below is an excerpt from a fairly recent Washington Post article which declares that jazz is dead. The upbeat tone of the pictures contradicts the negative tone of the article but I think I'll run them together and see what happens.

I love jazz myself. I don't see why it should be singled out for criticism when every other art form, even the best ones, have suffered the same decline over time. Even so, a site that calls itself "Theory Corner" shouldn't avoid controversy. Here's an abridgement of the article by Justin Moyer called "All That Jazz Isn't All That Great." See what you think.

Well, it goes on. Here's a link to the entire article, which is almost double the length of what you see here.

BTW, I stumbled on this jazz article from a mention on Mike Barrier's site. I went there to see if his new book is out. Apparently it's been out for a couple of weeks now, and it's on Kindle, too.


invisibules said...

well, apart from being a Jazz lover, I'm also a performer of early music - and I mean... how dead is that!?

It doesn't matter if the ideas are the same, every performance is unique (it's just that in jazz and other improvised styles there trends to be larger differences between performances.)

interest article!

Anonymous said...

For me, the heyday of jazz was from 1900 to the end of WWII.

During the war years, jazz seemed to lose it's way, relying on tired riffs instead of solid, singable melodies spiced with improvisations that were often surprising but always made sense.

I never tire of listening to old standards from that era, such as "Caravan" and watching how each band tried to make it its own, often with great success.

After the war, the emergence of bebop, cool jazz, etc, left me cold. You needed a master's degree to figure out the tune and follow the improvisation, until it finally dawned on you that there was no tune and it was all improvisation, from somewhere in the 11th dimension.

In a word, jazz wasn't fun anymore -- which is why rock 'n' roll took it's place, because it brought the fun back to music ... and about time, too.

But there is a new heyday for jazz right now, thanks to YouTube. Hundreds of bands - large and small -- have posted thousands of videos of classic jazz being played in clubs and venues all around the world, and the opportunity to be exposed to first-rate jazz. A good place to start is the swingyoucats channel on YouTube. Also, search for Gordon Au, a 21st-Century young man with a horn.

As a lover of old jazz, I've never been happier. Modern jazz may be dead, but the old stuff is alive and well, played by amateurs and professional's alike who are having as much fun as their audience.

Posted by your old friend Russ Dvonch, who regularly reads and appreciates your excellent blog but rarely thinks he has anything to add worth saying!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Invisibles: Early music and jazz? Wow, an interesting combination. By early music do you mean Rennaisance and Baroque or do you mean early Church music?

Anon: Yeah, bop started funny and ended up abstract. Who'da thunk? I'll look up those videos you mentioned.

Stephen Worth said...

What was it that Mike Barrier last said about you on his site?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Steve: Haw! Whatever it was it probably wasn't very flattering. I think Mike regards me as a mindless toady for John K and Clampett. That's not true but I can't think of any argument that might make him think otherwise.

Oh, well...I like Mike even if he doesn't like me. His book "Hollywood Cartoons" is my go-to reference book when I need to check facts about animation history, and I never missed an issue of Mike's "Funny World" magazine.

Anonymous said...

This is great Eddie!

I think Miles Davis understood the "jazz is not fun anymore" thing and that's why he tried to move it (and largely did) in the direction of more rock styled beats and grooves. This all led to fusion with former members of his band(s) leading the way - Zawinul and Shorter with Weather Report, Herbie Hancock with Headhunters, John McLaughlin with Mahavishnu Orchestra, Chick Corea with Return to Forever, and on and on. These guys all went further with the fusion thing on to the so-called "world music" (Weather Report and Shorter/Zawinul leading the way). It evolved it didn't die.

"Jazz" is now treated largely as a museum piece by a lot of folks, players included. And largely, Americans pay it no heed. I would say that most of the interesting modern jazz is coming out of Europe, France in particular.


Unknown said...

I can't believe I missed this post and I'm a huge fan of jazz myself. Been highly busy getting things in order at my college and getting my schedule fixed.

Anyway, I think jazz really declined and died when that insipid smooth jazz garbage came on the scene and unfortunately even when fusion music started to come about. I'm perfectly fine with bebop, avant garde, post bop and all those other forms of jazz even though they are completely different than what people like Satchmo and Duke Ellington did. Some musicians like Duke and Count were able to adapt to the modernistic stuff that popped up.

So I have a different opinion on this subject than others. I can enjoy Swing, dixieland, early jazz, early R&B just as much as I can enjoy later bebop kind of stuff. They all have merits in their own ways IMO. Regardless, I think that's a very insightful article and I thank you so much for sharing that. What's Mike Barrier's new book about specifically?

Joshua Marchant said...

Sorry for arriving to the party so late but I've been on vacation, happy New Year incidentally! I hope you won't mind but I've got something to say:

The writer of the article seems to be conflating jazz as a whole with the subgenre free-form jazz.
Real jazz is electric, anything by Cab Calloway or Louis Armstrong will be stuck in your head for weeks.
The author is thinking of that contemptuous breed of jazz sung in dark beatnik nightclubs where the band sounds like they're playing 5 different songs at once. I don't go in for that.
Real jazz and free form are two totally different beasts and the author ought to be ashamed for lumping in a legitimate art form with it's lesser cousin.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Anon: Russ, that was you!? Sorry, I must have missed your final paragraph. 'Good to hear from you!

Roberto: Interesting! Me, I don't like the most abstract bop but I have to admit that in the right context it can be unexpectedly funny.

Joshua: That's more or less the way I see it. I like what Roberto said about abstract bop being background music in beatnick cafes. I want to go back in a time machine and spend an afternoon surrounded by chainsmoking, hip talking beats.

It could be that Dixieland was played in those cafes as often as bop, but maybe I'm wrong.