jupe fails the jazz test

This morning I’m thinking about the concert Eileen and I attended last night.

We heard the Kenny Barron Trio.  Technically, he was impeccable. And his bass player, Kiyoshi Kitagawa (http://kitagawa.exblog.jp/) was amazing.

This will give you a taste of Kitagawa’s playing. The first 4 minutes are his solo. Different drummer in this video.

and drummer, Johnathan Blake (http://johnathanblake.com/)

was phenomenal. But I found myself losing interest in Barron’s playing after about half the program when I began to hear some of the same licks over and over in his improvs.

In this YouTube you can hear Barron’s solo at the beginning which was pretty similar to a lot of his playing last night (at times it reminded me of technique exercises – 1:18 – 1:34 played with excellence – but I just don’t find it interesting musically), but you can hear Blake playing up a storm here on drums (different bass player).

It probably didn’t help that a couple of the profs at Hope raved about how good he was. One of them (a fine jazz pianist himself) even said he was his favorite player.

And Barron’s compositions (which made up most of the evening) had nice tunes (or “heads”) as they say. But I found the bass player and drummers improvs much more interesting and unpredictable.

I would say that he started 90% of his arrangements the same way with a solo piano intro. This puzzled me. With so much talent on stage why wasn’t this man being more creative? Hard to say.

I just know that after hearing the Dave Holland group a few years ago, I walked away with unabashed enthusiasm and admiration for what they were doing in their music.

Bought this CD after hearing Dave Holland's group.

Last night, I thought once again that historical jazz performed live has lost its edge and interest for me.

I was unsurprised to read that Barron is a professor himself (currently at Julliard). I suspect there’s something about codification of thought and development of pedagogy to transmit a lively art like jazz that suffocates it.

I felt little risk taking in his playing. On the other end of the stage the bass player and drummer were all about excitement and risk. And they played with incredible ensemble.

Attendance was good and the audience was very receptive (standing ovation). There were many young people in attendance unlike for the Enso String Quartet.

I ask myself why I was more impressed with the Enso String Quartet’s playing of Haydn, Bartok, and Dvorak? I guess I see their music also as historical but still of interest to me. I listen and study this music in a certain way, not as a pattern of contemporary music making but of art worth studying and learning from. For me historical jazz is more about recordings in 20th century than what people are playing now.

The harmonic vocabulary of jazz doesn’t interest me that much as living breathing music of now. ¬†It seeks complexity almost for its own sake like much 20th century music did.

If the results were intriguing to me I would think that’s fine. But I look for music which attracts me viscerally. I am often attracted to the simple and profound (at least what seems profound to me).

Virtuosity and complexity for its own sake just doesn’t interest me that much. Probably I’m just a simple rock and roller at heart looking for musical beauty wherever I can find it.

There was musical beauty in the performance last night. I just didn’t find it in the piano improvisations.

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