Ethan's List

Posted by: Dave Douglas on September 3, 2006 @ 10:14 am
Filed under: Culture, Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Music

I’ll be interested to see what comes of Ethan’s call for record collections 1973-1990! One thing’s for certain — there are a lot of forgotten gems from that period. Just the list will tell a lot of the history.

And maybe that’s the strongest way to tell it. Destination Out continues to rock, with a three track Muhal Richard Abrams collection up right now. And scroll down for more.

Howard Mandel wrote and reminded me of his book Future Jazz, in which he wrote about the period from the mid-seventies to the mid-nineties. Mostly portraits and interviews, he covered a lot of ground. But the need has shifted. In 1999, when Future Jazz was written (seems a long time ago now, no?) the discussion was still rooted in the us-versus-them of post-Young Lions analysis. In this view (and I still see this a lot) you either get “musicians should be free to do their own thing and be progressive based on a progressive tradition” (note: that’s the camp I’m usually put in) or “you’ve got to stick with the materials the tradition gave us, keep the music in sharply defined boxes and create from there.” (OK, that’s the camp I’m generally not associated with).

I think the conversation is broader now and doesn’t dis or dote on either. We can talk about music again. You can bring up Rzewski and Cherry and Rivers and Lacy without condescending or categorizing. Joni Mitchell doesn’t have to be the spoiler of Charles Mingus, and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters coexist with his acoustic trio on the same stage. Ditto Chick Corea. One can put it down, but it seems pointless to put it down from the perspective of selling out or jazz/not jazz. If you want to make a point you have to talk about the music.

From the perspective of judging music on its own merits an overview of that critical transition period must be told. Starting in ’74 (note: I’m OK with Ethan’s 1973) when the sixties vibe really ended, looking at all the trends and movements up to the point in the mid-eighties where the more conservative reaction really took hold, there’s real meat in there. And it has more than a bad name, it’s a disappearing act.

What happened in there? And was it really fear that caused the backlash? Marketing forces? Dumbing down? Religion? UFOs?

Here’s something chilling from writer and editor Larry Blumenfeld:

It’s so far beyond that and far more sinister really. It’s not a matter of degree. It’s the notion that everything that could be said to have grown out of the Sixties: peace movement; racial equality; feminism; loosening of sexual taboos; relativistic learning and thinking; ideas about redistribution of wealth are codified into false absolutes which can then be transformed into enemies and in turn lend false solidity and realness to the vacuous ideals of the Christian conservative Republican right (just look at the “debate” about gay marriage…)

Ohhhh Kay… Now that we’ve alienated all the conservatives in the room…

He also said this:

Your brief paragraph, mostly listing names, is the best argument I’ve seen in a long time for the might and meaning of improvised music/jazz circa 1974 and years following: Can you carry forward that enthusiasm into the 1980s? I guess the main questions aesthetically is: What new or progressive, apart from the integration of jazz with pop and ethnic musics can we claim?

I can clearly carry that enthusiasm forward. I hope we all do. I would just like to see it written down, or collected in audio form. I’d love to read and ponder that history. And maybe then we could quantify the countless new, progressive qualities we can and should claim.

PS: I’m working on the post-classical list. Any thoughts on that one, please email me here at Greenleaf. Thanks.

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