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I hear and read far too much commentary from otherwise informed people that portends something is new in this music when, no matter how wonderfully performed, it is not. Just because something heard is new to the listener, does not make it new at large. If you understand anything about the “jazz economy”, it makes sense to submit that everybody who writes about the music in any context simply stop all of the hype about predicting the next great jazz hope, or the demise of the music as a popular idiom and simply enjoy what we artists are doing as creators of the work we share publicly.  Otherwise, you are not helping the cause in the least in this new modern information age.  Everybody who does this for a living is quite good at what they do or they could not eat everyday. Anyone who can hire a publicist or pay an independent radio promoter will get positive press quotes for their one sheet. So, stop it please.

Just so we don’t forget:  There are not many of us who are actually doing anything that is entirely “new”.  We all come from somewhere as artists, composers and performers.  Those who were ultimately found to be almost totally unique in these regards, at least where jazz/improvised music is concerned, are listed below with addendum.

Although, I study and appreciate the work of all of the artists/composers listed below, I come from the generation of the last two artists listed.

  • All of the artists/composers listed below inherently create(d) intellectually challenging work, but the work also connects(ed) with the contemporary aspects of the current societal paradigm in which they live(d).  
  • The work created by the masters listed below was and is also music for the uplifting of people (albeit, not always music to dance to).  

It is from this type of mindset and framework that I have come to my own thesis as a composer and improviser after many years of both, consistent practice and diligent study with great teachers formally and privately.  I utilize technical methods to craft my creations into tangible forms that allow performance by artists and engagement by others.  

However, the further goal of my work is not merely technique for the sake of technique – or, even as my composition teacher, O’tress L. Tandy once said to me: “the common practice of our age of performing what is essentially a music lesson exercise or etude in public and calling it a composition.”  I have finally grown past that point as an artist and composer.  I think we all do, but it takes time because you have to grow up concurrently as a person as well.

Although there seems to be very few opportunities for an artist who arrives at this point, I am very grateful to have entered yet another significant stage in my career.  2013 brings some pretty cool opportunities for me to engage.  Along with rehearsals and recording sessions of my original music with the quartet, I will be involved in two residencies (one teaching and the other performing/composing).  I finally have a nice groove, within the scope and duties involving my marketing communications position with the American Jazz Museum, that allows me to have balance with my artistry.

Where we come from …

These are the artists/composers whom every significant jazz/improvising artist is familiar with in some context.  Their work is still that inescapable from any scholarship into the subjects involved with our work.  I would submit that it is cool to get excited about what we produce today, but to also know the reference/source too.  

LOUIS ARMSTRONG – Sachmo. Pops. Jazz did not swing until the stylings of Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet.  In Kansas City we have a saying: “jazz was born in New Orleans, but grew up in Kansas City”.  Mr. Armstrong was from New Orleans, the first jazz instrumental virtuoso and truly a “jazz ambassador” in many ways …

DUKE ELLINGTON – Edward Kennedy Ellington is also one of the featured artists in the permanent exhibit of the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City. Mr. Ellington remains among the premiere composers/arrangers of music (any style).  His bands produced many of the legendary soloists and performers in jazz, like Ben Webster, Jimmy Blanton, etc.

COUNT BASIE – William Basie led the greatest swing big band from the 1930s until his passing. The rhythm section of Mr. Basie on piano, Jo Jones on drums, Freddie Green on guitar, and Walter Page on bass is still the gold standard for conceptualizing the style.  The band still performs and tours to this day …

LESTER YOUNG –  His tone was the precursor of the cool sound on tenor and his melodic swinging solos could be study and concert etudes. Mastery. A genuinely unique talent.

CHARLIE PARKER & DIZZY GILLESPIE – Charlie Parker is from Kansas City, is a once in a lifetime type genius, and still doesn’t get the recognition that he should here in my opinion.  So many people want to claim him like Gollum did his Precious, but “Bird” can’t be owned like that. He and Mr. Gillespie inherently changed the music to meet the times they lived in, while foretelling the future of the music evolving to what we are hearing today.  That’s the difference. Steve Coleman’s treatise on Mr. Parker (THE DOZENS: STEVE COLEMAN ON CHARLIE PARKER) says it all … if you have a year or two, check it out!

MILES DAVIS – He changed the music a couple of times and was a significant part of every movement in modern jazz for over fifty years. Most modern improvising trumpet players still sound like (one period or other of) Miles.  Kind of Blue.  Enough said …

JOHN COLTRANE – The great teachers of our age like George Garzone, give due credit to Mr. Coltrane, as did the great tenor wizard, Michael Brecker.  Prof. Garzone has taught many of the leading players of our age (Mark Turner, Donny McCaslin, Seamus Blake) and Mr. Brecker still influences most of the rest of us in some significant way. You can’t listen to a modern jazz improviser without hearing Mr. Coltrane’s musical language and influence – even to this day …

ORNETTE COLEMAN – The alto saxophonist’s recordings on Atlantic announced the real beginnings of Free Jazz with Scott LaFaro and Charlie Haden on bass Ed Blackwell on drums and Don Cherry on Trumpet. Ornette. Period.

WEST COAST/THIRD STREAM MASTERSWarne Marsh, Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz still yield significant influence on today’s players and composers.  As do Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.  These artists were brave enough to do something other than copy Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie licks and lines in improvised music …

STEVE COLEMAN & GREG OSBY – These two alto saxophonists are essentially the foundations of the innovative and unique school of creative musical thought known as M-Base. Most all of the younger players who are playing “weird cool new stuff” are playing from this lens.  Don’t believe me? Check out where they came from musically and you will find a connection to either Mr. Coleman or Mr. Osby – or, both.  

It’s cool to be excited about all of the followers as the music progresses, but let’s give genuine and sincere credit to these artists as the source …

Where we can go …

I am looking forward to finishing this new piece for the Black House Collective residency.  The instrumentation is intriguing, as is the motivation in collaboration with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I hope you come to hear all of our work.

Peace, Cb