All That Jazz: An American Art Form Strikes Another Beautiful Equipment

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Pharaoh Sanders performs during recession at Ornette Coleman’s funeral service at Riverside Church on June 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Big Hassle Media)

One of the most sublime live musical experiences I’ve had is also the hardest to put into words. It was, fittingly, at New York’s Riverside Church in 2015 for a funeral service on a rainy June day. The musical genius that was Ornette Coleman, whose performances, compositions, improvisations and interpolations helped usher in the avant-garde movement of free jazz and make his name shine among the pantheon of jazz greats , had just died at the age of 85.

Perhaps nothing confirmed this legendary musician’s place in the universe than watching jazz legends such as Cecil Taylor, Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane, Henry Threadgill and Jason Moran pay tribute to their colleague and friend. But when the great saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, then 70, played a pathetic and elegiac sax solo for Ornette, it seemed to channel a kind of divine inspiration evoking sweet melancholy, tears and an ineffable community connection that perhaps touched a higher power. uniting this house of worship in a moment that very well could have been Ornette himself.

At least that’s my story and I stick to it.

“It’s open to interpretation, you as a listener can channel your own senses and overlay your own thoughts and reactions to the music.” explains Karl Morse of Arrival Artists, whose impressive list of musicians includes Shabaka Hutchings, Nubya Garcia and The Bad Plus. “It’s also improvisation, so every time you hear it, it’s going to be different and it can be an immediate reaction to the energy of the crowd or the venue they’re playing in, or the festival or of the mood they’re in. night. It allows for elasticity, which is exciting in music.

Indeed, in these strange times of unease with a global pandemic, economic challenges, obscene violence, deadly weather, mental health crisis, rampant homelessness and so much more to dismay, jazz can offer a place of inarticulate but highly relatable solace.

Some of my most favorite live performance moments of the past few years have taken place in the vast and wonderful jazz band that continues to evolve, mutate and reach ever wider audiences. This included gripping shows promoted by Jazz Is Dead at Los Angeles’ Lodge Room shows by Hutchings with Sons of Kemet, Makaya McCraven, Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers; stumble upon Kamasi Washington’s incendiary set at the Mr. Music Head Gallery in Hollywood; Jaimie Branch performing with Angel Bat Dawid at IRL Greenpoint; and his set with Anteloper at Rhizome at DC; Nubya Garcia’s play to the sold-out 6,000-seat anthem at DC warm-up for Khruangbin; Miles Mosley playing the best set at the Echo Park Rising festival; Robert Glasper at The Blue Note in March with a hilarious cameo from Chapelle; and dinner with Glasper, Kamasi, and Terrace Martin at One Eyed Jacks in New Orleans that went on until at least 2:30 a.m.

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Emergent Luminary: The phenomenal Jaimie Branch (trumpet) with her quartet FLY or DIE with Jason Ajemian, Chad Taylor and Lester St. Louis, pushes the beautiful limits of what jazz can be. Photo by Peter Ganushkin

Since at least the 80s, so much jazz has been kept alive in hip hop artist samples from old school acts like A Tribe Called Quest to De La Soul to Eric B. & Rakim to more recently J Dilla and Kendrick Lamar. This came up during a conversation with Alex Kurland, Director of Reservations at Blue Note Entertainment, who hosted the Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley with Glasper July 29-31. In fact, Kurland, in his bookings, has brought together jazz and hip-hop legends, including a certain legendary 82-year-old jazz keyboardist, arranger and record producer with a master rapper and storyteller.

“The history of hip-hop is based on iconic samples, and Bob James is a pivotal figure in the history of sampled jazz in hip-hop,” says Kurland.

“Bob James has been sampled countless times on countless iconic hip-hop songs. You’ll hear him in Wu-Tang Clan and their individual members across Slick Rick, Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest and countless records. So we brought in Slick Rick, whose song ‘Children’s Story’ is one of James’ best-known hip-hop standards and samples, so we created this moment with Talib Kweli and his band, which is amazing, with Bob James on keyboards and Slick Rick on stage with them doing “Children’s Story” live for the first time with Bob on keyboards and those live samples. And they had never worked together before. So those magic moments are what we’re looking for, because it’s historic, it’s very special, and there’s an appreciation from the audience and the artists to share this moment together, and it’s really meaningful to us.

The late Meghan Stabile, tragically passed away in June, has been a pioneer in bringing jazz and hip-hop together on stage with her Revive Da Live performances at venues like New York’s Zinc Bar, the Winter Jazz Festival and many other stages. Her Revive events held the promise of reconnecting jazz and hip-hop in the live space, though she left this planet far too soon.

This week’s cover artist, Robert Glasper, held its first festival, the Blue Note Jazz Festival Napa Valley, featuring an assortment of musicians who dabble in jazz, hip-hop, R&B and electronic music. This includes Chaka Khan, Maxwell, Flying Lotus, GZA, Black Star, Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg, Madlib and others. Although he’s steeped in and studied jazz, these days he doesn’t like to use the four-letter word. Although jazz purists might scoff at the idea of ​​such a varied line-up being used in the same breath as jazz, Glasper is talented and smart enough not to play that game.

“The true tradition of jazz is that it always changes, it’s meant to,” Glasper said in an Instagram post. “The true tradition of jazz is that we are supposed to tap into what surrounds us. The real jazz tradition is that you’re supposed to be relevant and playing right now. Charlie Parker, Lester Young, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, they played their present. So we have to play our present and use our influences and that’s what this Napa Festival represents, the present.

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Kamasi Washington performs during the Apollo Theater Spring Benefit 2022 at The Apollo Theater on June 13, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

This now means artists like virtuoso bassist Thundercat are currently touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and playing stadiums; Shabaka Hutchings destroys stages at Bonnaroo; at this year’s Grammys, New Orleans’ own Jon Batiste won more Grammys than anyone else; and Kendrick’s Pulitzer Prize help take these sounds to new and different levels.

Ashley Capps, who co-founded Bonnaroo and promotes some of the most adventurous festivals off the Knoxville basediscussed the moment jazz has.

“There is definitely a renewed interest,” he said. Pollstar. “There are new generations of incredibly gifted young musicians who are very influenced by jazz, but also all these other traditions, and there are fan scenes that have grown up around them. I think it goes in waves like other scenes do. There will be a resurgence, then it will run out of steam a bit and then come back. We are definitely living in a wave right now and a very exciting time for all jazz musicians.

READ MORE:
The Ascension: How Robert Glasper’s life and music take him to the next level

Promoter Features: Jazz Is Dead’s Andrew Lojero Explains Why Jazz Isn’t Dead

Agency Intel: Arrival of Karl Morse artists on the four-letter word: Jazz

Box Office Insider: Jazz on the Road; Wynton Marsalis & Orchestra prepare their fall tour

Khruangbin charts with summer sales

In Memoriam: Meghan Stabile, who revived live music and jazz

Fest 411: Ashley Capps on Jazz and Big Ears from the Live Market

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