Global unification, not only politically, but spiritually and musically as well, has been a dream aborning among concerned people for many years now. It has even led some to believe that jazz, as a language already embraced by diverse cultures, may very well be the melting pot, the universal tongue, that will bring everyone together. In a later time than our own, well it might, but for now this uniquely African-American form of music is struggling awkwardly and often unsuccessfully to assimilate elements of expression vastly different from, and sometimes antithetical to, the social conditions indigenous to the people and soil of its birth. The implications of global homogeneity, however desirable they may be politically, fall fallow when discussing creative art, which is just as much the expression of individual cultures as it is the voice of individual humans. The beauty of all ethnic musics, including jazz, lies precisely in their diversity and independence from one another, not in their interchangability as ingredients in a stew.
Vocalist/composer Tina Marsh presumably has other views, since she positions herself in the vanguard of those who opt for musical bouillabaisse. Her institutionally endowed, Austin, Texas-based Creative Opportunity Orchestra is a highly polished 13-piece band which boasts a number of skilled soloists and composers in its ranks, but the agonizing problem with their work is one of scattered focus. Marsh's menu includes bits of post-bop/avant garde (saxmen John Mills' "Flywheel" and Jay Fort's "Ballad Borscht"), New Age spaciness (her own three-part "Milky Way Dreaming"), Turkish exoticism (trombonist James Lakey's "The Episodes [... and the Back Woods Truth]." The question arises, though, as to whether there is a centered musical identity behind all of this admirably displayed eclecticism, or whether the global mix is itself its own raison d' tre.