food lover and jazz curmudgeon

I get on a plane to California a week from today.  I’m looking forward to some badly needed time off.  Tuesday evening I received a package in the mail from Zingerman’s.

Zingerman’s is a wonderful deli in Ann Arbor. I mean a spectacularly wonderful deli. They are running a summer sale so I bought several of their $8 loaves of bread for $4, some fancy olive oil and a cheese making kit.

Zingerman’s recommends freezing loaves you are not going to eat immediately. Also they recommend heating the loaf in the oven for 20 minutes. This does bring out flavor and crustiness.

We have already finished one of the loaves. The bread is all hard crust wonderful rye and pumpernickel.  This is bread that I enjoy but Eileen doesn’t. So it’s fun to have people (Mark and Leigh) around to share it with.

Yesterday Mark, Leigh and I did the local farmer’s market. I was unable to resist purchasing some cherries (which are just coming in here), smoked fish, raspberries and pumpkin butter. Having company gives me an excuse to buy some great stuff, I guess.

We had lunch with my Mom (without Eileen who was  at her job). Then supper at the pub outdoors. Life is good.

This evening I play with Barefoot Jazz Quartet on the street. Got up and plugged in all my batteries to charge in the hopes that I will be able to keep my amp and keyboard working for the time needed tonight.

I have been having serious thoughts about jazz and its place in my head. I have been thinking of it as an historical academic style like baroque music or romantic music.  I guess I think of it as a historical style (as opposed to a living tradition) because in my head when I think of jazz I think of people who are dead like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington.

There are certainly some good living players. But few of them seem to me to be doing what Keith Jarrett has done and continued to push back the borders of this particular style even as he performs in traditional jazz piano styles. In my understanding this pushing back of borders was stylistically essential to the great jazz composers and players.

I am critical of jazz as an academic style because even though the pedagogy is codified it relies too  much on recordings for my taste. If indeed it has evolved (devolved?) into a literate academic style, the people who are trained to play it are fully capable of utilizing clear notational practices. But this is not the case with the Real Books we play from in the Barefoot Jazz Quartet.

The music barely sketches out the pieces with a melody and some chord shorthand. It is designed as a reminder of a recording or recordings of pieces. I have encouraged my little jazz band to think about repertoire and developing play lists. This would help me narrow the field of the tunes so I could learn them better.  But this doesn’t seem to be the modus operandi of this group.

So often I find myself sight reading pieces not carefully notated in a live situation. This is not a problem for me, but the players who call the tunes might have a specific interpretation in mind (usually from a recording), so that my sight reading and “on-the-spot-free-interpretation” might seem to them to be “wrong.” In fact, I enjoy making little tunes my own through on the spot playing.

I also get quickly bored by trying to ape recordings. I always have. But what the heck. I’m the old guy and glad to be asked to play. And I specifically do not want to be the “old-guy-in-charge” since that is my usual role in music. More fun to follow the lead of others if I can. So far so good.

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2 thoughts on “food lover and jazz curmudgeon

  1. I am writing primarily to let you know that I can’t attend this evening’s performance of your group. I had thought that I would be able to, but my physical issues are getting in the way. Hope it goes well.
    I think that a lot of jazz musicians have an attitude that indicates less discipline rather than more which is in my opinion what is required. I think the reason for recordings is that that may be the only time it is ever played that way. Record producers need to be exact even though they seem not to be. It comes down to being efficient with recording costs. If you create a marketable tune, then it will sell to that market. A lot of people listen to recording, but don’t actually see a group in a playing venue.

  2. Sorry to hear you having physical issues. Hope you feel better soon. A couple thoughts. Jazz musicians at this point are often people who have studied Jazz in college. It’s pretty much impossible to study music successfully and not be disciplined. I don’t question the discipline of people who choose to study and play jazz, just the coherence of the approach and possibly the ultimate reasoning behind only practicing a limited historical art without addressing the need for music to speak directly to and from the contemporary moment.

    Secondly, I think that recording is a musical art, but I think it’s a different animal. I call it “sonic sculptures.” To me this means that through the use of mixing and other recording studio techniques one can create something unique and worthwhile, in and of itself totally different from the live experience of performing or listening to music.

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