Time to look at jazz with a fresh pair of eyes: Part 1


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1. The facts of life!

As a Project Manager I’ve always found that the best way to get a proper view of what state a project is in, is by getting a fresh pair of eyes to take a look. Generally the people who are too close to the detail of what is going on, find it hard to take a step back and re-assess what direction they should actually be going in if they want to avoid standing still, or worse, go backwards!

The same is true of starting work in a new company, where the newbie always gets the job of suggesting process improvements that the old guard have lived with for 20 years, and only really tweaked slightly in all that time!

If you’re lucky enough to be the newbie with the fresh pair of eyes, you will always find a mix of talented people and not so talented people along the way, and whilst they all mean well (well, most of them!), none of the old guard really have the ability to take a look at the task or process they have been following for the past 20 years with a fresh pair of eyes. Not to say I am blaming anyone, just that this is a fact of life.

2. Learning from Jazz history

Now take the above analogy and apply it to music, Jazz to be precise.  Jazz has been in existence in one shape or another for well over 100 years, probably longer if you look really deep. For the sake of this discussion though, lets work on the assumption that Buddy Bolden and King Oliver were the ones who kicked everything off in a big way back in the late 19th Century / early 20th Century.

If you watch the TV documentary doing the rounds about the history of jazz, there is a section where Dizzy Gillespie refers to a baton being passed from one Jazz innovator to the next, the sort of people who shaped the art-form and took it to the next stage in its evolution. Dizzy describes how “Buddy passed the baton to King Oliver, King passed it to Louis Armstrong, Louis passed it to me (Dizzy) and Bird, we passed it to Miles, and so it goes on.

3. The different “Versions” of Jazz

The image the previous point puts in your mind when you listen to Dizzy talk about the great Jazz innovators, for me at least, is one which puts Jazz into context. The art form we know today has obviously been brought about by virtue of the hard work, musical innovation and persistence of all those great musicians who have gone before us, many of whom are sadly no longer with us.

The other concept Dizzy’s words bring into focus, is that of seeing jazz through the ages as a series of Iterations or Versions, with each new “Version” being driven and created primarily by a handful of individuals. So for example, if we assume “Jazz version 1.0” was the music that came of out of Buddy Bolden’s horn back in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, you might say the list of “Jazz versions” since then looks something like this:-

  • Jazz v1.0    Buddy Bolden, King Oliver
  • Jazz v1.1    Jelly Roll, Eldgridge, Hawkins, Louis, Duke, Count
  • Jazz v1.2    Bird, Dizzy, Blakey
  • Jazz v1.3    Miles
  • Jazz v1.4    Coltrane, Mingus, Roach, Morgan, Cannonball, Monk
  • Jazz v1.5    Ornette, Chet, Brubeck, Peterson
  • Jazz v1.6    Miles
  • Jazz v1.7    Metheny, Hancock, Corea, McLaughlin
  • Jazz v1.8    Wynton, Branford, Herlin Riley, Dave Holland, Courtney Pine
  • Jazz v1.9    Nils Petter Molvaer, Jamie Cullum, Soweto Kinch, Cuong Vu

4. Just to illustrate a point!

Now, before you all start shouting at the computer screen or sending me hate mail, I completely accept this is NOT an exhaustive list! I also agree there is probably more granularity to the actual list than this and possibly some people in the wrong order (hopefully not though!).

BUT, if you do not take this list literally and instead read it as it is intended (i.e. to illustrate a point), you (hopefully) will agree that this list of names are most of the key people who have been responsible in their own way for taking the Jazz that went before them, and moving it onto the next stage in its evolution.

In other words, these guys have been Jazz’s fresh pair of eyes over the last 120 years or so.

5. A fresh pair of eyes

This nicely brings me to my point. Sat here today writing this article, I feel like a fresh pair of eyes in Jazz terms.

There is a full biography on my website, but in a nutshell I have been playing Cornet & Trumpet since I was 7 (which is a little over 32 years ago), I played Brass Band & Classical music for 20 of those years, 7 of which being spent with Brighouse & Rastrick Brass Band. I have been seriously into listening to and appreciating Jazz for at least the last 15 years, maybe more, but, due to taking a 10 year period off playing music altogether (during which I got married, had kids, got a career!) I have only been actually playing, performing & recording Jazz for a little over 18 months.

My ambitions are to eventually make a career out of music and in my own way, to become one of the next great Jazz innovators. Therefore, because I am new into the game, albeit backed up by a depth of musical experience and Jazz appreciation, I feel that I can look at what is going on in Jazz today without having any real preconceptions of “how Jazz should be played”, or “how you should be taught to play Jazz”, and can therefore give a reasonably impartial view on where I think Jazz should be going next.

It’s just my personal opinion you understand, and not everyone will agree, but hopefully enough of you will appreciate what I am about to say to make a difference.

……to be continued in Part 2 shortly

2 Responses to “Time to look at jazz with a fresh pair of eyes: Part 1”

  1. great article!
    waiting for part 2. :)

  2. Phil says:

    nice one, cheers mate

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