December 10th, 2009
John Hollenbeck at 2009 Earshot Jazz Festival performance at SAM.
Newsweek has another article proclaiming that Jazz is dead but not really. They go on to say that “The music may never again be a popular force, but it is still swinging—if you know where to listen.”
The article by Seth Colter Walls is in part a response to critic Terry Teachout who asked the question “Can Jazz Be Saved?” in The Wall Street Journal. That article set off ” a fiery round of objections from musicians in the trenches'” Walls goes on to talk about how as a mass culture force jazz may be dead but the musuc is alive and kicking even if not that many people are exposed to it.
“It’s easy to see how Teachout came to ask if contemporary jazz can be “saved” in light of comparing its modern station with the past glories.Pops, his valuable new biography of Louis Armstrong, is a study of international jazz fame that credibly treats its subject as a figure of complexity on par with politicians.”….It’s time, finally, to separate the question of “Is today’s jazz good?” from the question “Is today’s jazz popular?” It’s a difficult, slightly counterintuitive thing to do, particularly because jazz—even before that watershed year of 1959—started out as a dance-hall craze. But the radical blues Armstrong blew—and which Teachout capably helps you hear during several passages in Pops—is no longer the strict language of top 40, which is now ringtone-based as much as it is 12-bar-based. If anything, today’s jazz boasts a surfeit of excellent stylists who can speak to that splintering pop audience: pianists Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn are both brilliant, though in nearly opposite ways. Iyer is a sometimes cerebral, always impressive player of tunes, whether they be those of Stevie Wonder and M.I.A., or his own compositions (all are featured on the new album Historicity). Taborn is an enthusiastic free-form player, both on his own extended-jam albums likeJunk Magic and when playing as part of the exciting, electric-based Chris Potter Underground. Two highlights from 2009—Steve Lehman’s Travail, Transformation, and Flow and Stefon Harris’s Urbanus—each kicked up a big ol’ time by embracing avant-classical sounds and hip-hop sensibilities. Along with Urbanus, John Hollenbeck’s bold album for his big band,Eternal Interlude, recently notched a progressive-minded nomination from Grammy voters.”
Read the complete article at Newsweek on line.