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Wednesday, December 12 2012

Jazz Today

I happened to open my Kindle Store today and browse to the "Jazz" section, thinking I might buy some new material. According to Amazon, their top selling albums: 1) Glad Rag Doll - Diana Krall 2) Time Out - Dave Brubeck (RIP) 3) Greatest Hits - Dave Brubeck (RIP) 4) Duets - Tony Bennett 5) Micheal Buble - Michael Buble 6) Christmas Classics - Bing Crosby (RIP) 7) Christmas Song - Nat King Cole (RIP) 8) Call Me Irresponsible - Michael Buble 9) Kind of Blue - Miles Davis (RIP) 10) The Essential Dave Brubeck - Dave Brubeck (RIP)

Notice how only one of this top 10 albums were released this year, the Diana Krall. And critics have largely panned the release from Diana Krall. The Amazon store shows it with 3.1 out of 5 stars, and many say it isn't exactly jazz.

It may be a little bit unfair to take a look this week, with Dave Brubeck's recent passing spiking three of his titles into the top ten. But I suspect it is a bigger sign of no one getting out and discovering new jazz recordings, of which there are many. Its frustrating to people who want to see this genre thrive to see such poor uptake of new product.

Sunday, August 12 2012

Support for NPR

Support for NPR comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

You may have heard this line on your local NPR member station after news bulletins. Its not surprising, the arts and public radio have been linked for decades. When public radio first became common around the country, almost all of the stations ran classical music, except for the presentation of "All Things Considered" and later "Morning Edition."

Classical music is one of the major things the NEA funds, along with opera, theatre, folk art, and the visual arts.

The thing is, the classical music is disappearing, as are other "artsy" programs.

Locally, WNIN has just announced "next-gen WNIN," which relegates classical music to the late evening and overnight hours. Further, they are removing WHYY's extremely popular "Fresh Air" program, which often interviews actors, directors, dancers, authors, and other generally interesting people.

So too did a recent decision from WGBF in Boston to drop jazz to air news all night. And Vermont Public Radio. And WESA (nee WDUQ) in Pittsburgh. And Western Kentucky University's public radio network a couple of years ago.

I'm OK with local stations having the right to choose which programs they air, but maybe the National Endowment for the Arts should move its support elsewhere since NPR's member stations are choosing politics over art.

Saturday, January 14 2012

Introducing BAM!

"Bam" became the tagline of celebrity chef Emeril LaGasse at the start of the last decade.

With Emeril's star having largely faded, a coalition has now proposed a new use for the word. They propose to use it as an acronym to replace the word "Jazz". The acronym's long form? Black American Music, and Nicholas Payton introduces us to the new genre with his new album, "Bitches."

The word "Coalition" may not be the right one. It appears that Nicholas Payton was the first to publish his thoughts on the issue on his blog in a lengthy November entry where Payton simply states several dozen reasons why "Jazz" is no longer a relevant term. A few other musicians have signed on since then although I have been unable to find a listing.

So I give you two pieces of music to compare, both taken from Payton. First is the quintessential "Take Five" from Dave Brubeck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwNr...
And the second is off of Payton's recent release, "Bitches" (apparently a reference to Miles Davis's groundbreaking 1970 Columbia release, "Bitches Brew") is the original composition "Give Light. Live Life. Love." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXgy...
Not so different, stylistically. Close enough that they can be described using the term jazz, I think. But one has sold millions of copies (over 43 years) and the other would be delighted to sell 100,000.

And that is really the core of Payton's argument -- Jazz is a hard sell in America today. Maybe jazzers should try something else.

With that, "Bitches" provides some interesting new tracks such as "iStole Your iPhone" which melds elements from Jazz, the Caribbean, and Urban music. But take away the vocal track, and its still jazz.

Another part of Payton's explanation is one that flirts with "Occupy Jazz." Payton tries to convolve jazz with the n-word, calling it in a subsequent blog entry "the derogatory j-word." I don't want to touch that one, so I simply quote someone hopefully more versed in the field than I, AllAboutJazz columnist Greg Thomas

Equating jazz with the "n" word, is, in my estimation, not wise.

My total opinion of the project is this: I feel it is a fool's errand for Payton to try changing a genre that has become known for its closed-mindedness, a genre with few living influential figures, and hundreds of academics who will try to defend the original label by psychoanalyzing the statements deceased greats like Miles Davis.

The album itself probably deserves 3 and a half stars on the five star scale. If not for Payton manufacturing this controversy, it probably would have slipped under the radar of almost everyone as being too experimental -- which suggests that Payton's speaking out is having the desired effect. If not for the "BAM" storyline, I never would have heard of the album. It will be interesting to see if the statement causes Payton to be shunned in the future, though.

Sunday, June 5 2011

The Politics of Rapture

From Public Policy Polling:

Last week, PPP released numbers showing the political dimensions of the Rapture. GOP primary voters are slightly more likely than the overall public to say the Rapture will occur in their lifetimes (18% versus 11%) and that they personally will be taken up to Heaven if it does (72% versus 66%). Those who think they will not or who are not sure if they will be Raptured favor Romney at 23%, with most of the rest in the low double digits, and the results for those who do think they will be Raptured closely mirror the toplines.

Can I sit in on the meeting where they decide to ask voters who their favored candidate is if the Rapture occurs sometime between 2013 and 2017? And is it a direct relationship that a majority of those polled think Sarah Palin would be Raptured, and would therefore not want her to be President during the Rapture?

More Rapture Polls, Please!

Source

Sunday, December 5 2010

Advent

A thought hit me this week. It arose from a complaint a musician had about the lack of credible advent music. It was enhanced when I read the Wikipedia article on Bach's Christmas Oratorio. The wiki article lead gives the dates when the Oratorio is traditionally performed:

The first part (for Christmas Day) describes the Birth of Jesus, the second (for December 26) the annunciation to the shepherds, the third (for December 27) the adoration of the shepherds, the fourth (for New Year's Day) the circumcision and naming of Jesus, the fifth (for the first Sunday after New Year) the journey of the Magi, and the sixth (for Epiphany) the adoration of the Magi.

Continue reading...

Monday, October 18 2010

Harry Pickens Trio

The Harry Pickens trio performed a concert earlier today. They're a jazz trio from Louisville, consisting of Pickens leading with the piano, Chris Fitzgerald taking the bass, and drums played by Jason Tiemann.

To put it mildly, it was brilliant. They played everything from "Back Home Again in Indiana" (one of my favorites), where Pickens showed his influence from Oscar Peterson, to Sting's hit "Fragile", Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why" and Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man."

There were two fantastic things about this performance:

Improvisation

Nobody had any music in front of them. At first, I thought that meant they had practiced so much that the whole set was memorized. As the concert went on, I realized that there wasn't even a set list. Pickens began each tune by playing through it, and then his triomates began to play with him, and it sounded really great. After the intermission, he said that there were no arrangements used by the band, and that every performance was a little different. That leads me to the other thing:

Joy

Pickens's seven-foot frame was sitting at a Steinway grand piano, grinning like Jerry Lewis in characature. Jerry Lewis MDA TelethonThis grin flashed whenever the drummer or the bassist hit a really tasty series of notes. Not only that, but he was jovial with the crowd, even taking requests at the end. (This was a great idea and had very good response from the attendees.)

If you'd like to experience some of the trio, they do have a couple of CDs available. I've not reviewed the recordings, but the live performance was so good that I probably will do so tomorrow.

Thursday, October 7 2010

This is Twitter's Purpose:

Spreading good books that everyone needs to know about.

http://amzn.to/bSinSM

I had suspicion that those were really just colorful bathrobes.

Monday, July 19 2010

The Christmas Shoes

I had the regrettable experience of learning about the song "The Christmas Shoes" this past Christmas. Some radio DJ had the gall to play it two nights in a row on her request show.

Well, today I was reminded that its really just a Christmas bastardization of C. W. McCall's much less sappy "Roses For Mama".

And I'll probably listen to it again come December.

Saturday, July 17 2010

The People Who Like to Hear Themselves Speak

Some people like to hear themselves speak.

Traditionally, these are radio people. So much so that the "puking DJ" has become a staple of every-day conversation.

But the question entered my mind: Does George Clooney like to hear himself talk? He does essentially the same thing as the DJ, just in a more solemn and believable way. They both (theoretically, at least) earn fans when they nail their parts.

Why would Clooney (or any other actor of any serious cachet) not like to hear himself speak?