February 28, 2005

What Jazz Is, and Isn't

This article by Ben Ratliff in the NY Times is very interesting. It features Pat Metheny listening and talking about some favorite samples of music.

"Sonny Meets Hawk!" with Paul Bley on piano
"He was a young guy at the time," Mr. Metheny marveled, listening to Mr. Rollins's emphatic, darting lines in "All the Things You Are," harmonically at odds with Hawkins's, on the opening chorus. "That feeling is such a great feeling - like 'I can play anything, and it's all good.' Not to analyze it, but Hawk was kind of like his father. And it's like Sonny's saying, "yeah, but . . . ."

Commenting on Bley's "plainspoken" piano phrasing, Metheny says,
...let's keep jazz as folk music. Let's not make jazz classical music. Let's keep it as street music, as people's everyday-life music. Let's see jazz musicians continue to use the materials, the tools, the spirit of the actual time that they're living in, as what they build their lives as musicians around. It's a cliché, but it's such a valuable one: something that is the most personal becomes the most universal.

"Seven Steps to Heaven" (Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Tony Williams)
"This is the first record I ever got," Mr. Metheny said, as a prologue. "I got this when I was 11. My older brother Mike, who's a great trumpet player, had a couple of friends who were starting to get interested in jazz. He brought this record home. I always hear 'jazz is something you really have to learn about, and you develop a taste for it, and da da da,' that whole rap. But for me, as an 11-year-old, within 30 seconds of hearing this record" - he snapped his fingers - "I was down for life."

We listened to it silently. "They were really rushing," Mr. Metheny said when it finished - meaning the tempo was too fast.

"I know Herbie really well, and I knew Tony very well, too, and I've talked with them about what was actually going down that night. They thought it was one of the worst gigs they'd ever done. But I was listening to Tony here. The same way the Bley thing opened up this universe - well, Tony, too. It's such an incredibly fresh way of thinking of time. It sums up so much of what that period was. The world was about to shift."

Antonio Carlos Jobim, Glenn Gould, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall are also discussed.


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