Steve Ten

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About Steve Ten


Steve Tenerelli has been listening and enjoying jazz for many years. Like most people his age he grew up listening to rock and roll, he also followed the Grateful Dead. Steve eventually became interested in folk, blues, and bluegrass. Despite prevailing thought in the jazz community, Mr. Tenerelli was not led to listening to jazz through fusion. Instead, he started listening to jazz through Louis Armstrong and New Orleans jazz, and then Duke Ellington. The first modern jazz he discovered was Dizzy, Bird, Miles and John Coltrane.

Steve eventually discovered Blue Note, and more avant garde musicians like Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus, who he enjoys very much. Steve's favorite jazz works are Duke Ellington's suites. Other favorites are Mary Lou Williams, the Jazz Messengers, the Jazztet, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Branford Marsalis, Bob Brookmeyer and Ray Brown Trio. Steve also has a great love for small group swing, or mainstream jazz, and is sad there is so little of it getting attention these days. Steve is might impressed with Hailey Niswanger's debut album, and enjoys the work of young lions Miquel Xenon and Dave Sanchez.

Mr. Tenerelli has also recently become interested in European jazz, tho his tastes run mostly to post-bop and cool jazz. Tho he sometimes listens to Free jazz and Free Improvisation, he finds he gets listener fatigue rather quickly with that type of music - sometimes before the album even ends.

Steve doesn't think of post-bop as "classic" or "traditional" jazz, and thinks the term "purist" is a word critics use in order to promote forms of jazz they prefer without actually presenting any good argument supporting it.

It's interesting to note that critics used to be the most narrow minded of listeners, and used their self-appointed role as arbiters of taste to limit what forms of jazz were considered acceptable. At first they panned Duke Ellington's attempts to create long form jazz, they fought against the move toward bebop, critisizing Dizzy Gillespie. They panned free jazz and Ornette Coleman - they panned the new avant garde, hated that Eric Dolphy was playing with John Cotrane.

However, once a form of jazz gained acceptance, then they panned whatever form of jazz came before it - what they were just championing. After defending Dixieland, they called it old hat once swing came along, swing became passe when they accepted bebop, bebop became passe after they accepted free jazz and fusion.

In the 70's, before Wynton Marsalis opened the doors, and usurped the critics role as arbiter of taste - it was difficult in this country to get an album recorded with all acoustic instruments. Most jazz recording artists had to include electric piano on at least some tracks. Even mainstream artists had to start using rock drum beats and electric instruments on at least some songs.

Art Blakey just stopped recording rather than go electric, Keith Jarret had to sign with a European label so he could play acoustic piano. Jazz critics in America, of course, called Blakey, and anybody not playing fusion, "old fashioned" (as did fusion's creator; Miles Davis). They critisized anyone who would perfect their music in their idiom of choice, rather than changing with the latest (critic approved) fad.

Critics even panned certain instruments - trombones, baritone saxes and clarinets were deemed unsuitable for modern jazz. Dizzy Gillespie never thought like that, often using a bari in his small bands. But the critics thought they should be the ones to decide what instruments were to be used, rather than the musicians.

Now, all of a sudden, critics are the most open minded, accepting jazz listeners in the world. Musicians like Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, and so on and so on, have said that jazz - the music that they helped to create - has to be rooted in the blues. But critics will call any music that utilizes improvisation techniques using at least one instrument from the European classical tradition jazz, and if anybody dares disagree with them, they will spit "purist" in your face.

Steve likes acoustic jazz, he likes the hammond B-3 organ but thinks the fender rhodes sounds like a calliope at a carnival and synthesizers like science fiction soundtrack music, he likes electric guitar but finds over fuzzed out effects boring, and over distracting. This is personal choice, and has nothing to do with purity. This is also not being "close minded" - but at 48 Steve Tenerelli has listened to many types of music, from Bartok to the psychedelic music, to raga, to abstract atonal computer music - he knows what music he finds artistically satisfying.

Mr. Tenerelli agrees with the founders of jazz - who is he to disagree with them after all? - jazz needs to have a foundation in the blues to be jazz. A european musician playing improvised music based on european folk forms from the dark ages with no rhythmic pulse is a long remove from the African-American explosion of syncopated musical creativity that was named jazz - in his opinion. This is not about purity. Calling any old thing that utilizes improvisation "jazz" only de-values the uniqueness that is jazz.

Steve Ten joined the JazzTimes community on Oct 06, 2010