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Piano Prodigy: Eric Reed

What is actually going on out in the jazz world is very different from what one usually reads about in jazz magazines or what one would conclude from taking critics’ polls seriously. There are musicians out here who not only can play but who have continued to develop their skills outside of the praises of … Read More “Piano Prodigy: Eric Reed”

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Avant-Garde Roots Music: Ornette Coleman

In 1959, when Ornette Coleman arrived in New York and opened on the Bowery with the quartet that included Don Cherry, Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, there was no talk of a harmolodic system. He spoke of playing with natural raw feeling instead of technical obsession, yet Coleman proved to have the most comprehensive grasp … Read More “Avant-Garde Roots Music: Ornette Coleman”

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Jazz’s Own Sweet Time

Jazz drumming has no precedent in music history. It is an original way of putting together and playing drums and cymbals, which introduced a new kind of virtuosity demanding independent coordination of all four limbs. The swinging time jazz drummers keep—whether 4/4 or not—is profound because that pulsation arrives as part of the only Western … Read More “Jazz’s Own Sweet Time”

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Coltrane Derailed

With McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones, John Coltrane found new ways to swing, play blues and ballads and use Afro-Latin grooves—the essential elements of jazz. But there are persistent questions buried deep in the John Coltrane mythos, ones that are hidden in the background of the discussion of his music because few professionals … Read More “Coltrane Derailed”

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Invisible American Music

With the exception of Ralph Ellison, John Kouwenhoven and Albert Murray, few major American intellectuals have routinely taken on the subject of jazz. One would think that a music as important to the definition and the achievement of this society would have sparked more than a bit of interest over the years. The writer David … Read More “Invisible American Music”

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Maximum Roach

Max Roach is the most highly regarded drummer in the history of jazz, which he should be. At 78—and variously claiming now that he might not be playing again, or that he might be playing again, or that he is tired of playing, or that he has some new stuff he’s thinking about playing—Roach should … Read More “Maximum Roach”

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Festivals of Riches Gone By

It was so much easier to put on a noteworthy jazz festival in the past. In 1958, when George Wein’s Newport Jazz Festival had taken off, one of the world’s great impresarios had the option to present nearly the entire history of this still-young music. The bright and vital lineage of the trumpet, from Louis … Read More “Festivals of Riches Gone By”

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The Place of the Bass

In 1947, George Pal made a classic puppetoon called Tubby the Tuba, which was the story of a tuba that wanted to go beyond oom-pahing all night and get the front-line attention given to those horns that played the melody. Dismissed as foolish by a class-conscious French horn, Tubby became despondent until a bullfrog gave … Read More “The Place of the Bass”

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The Genres: Stanley Crouch on Mainstream

The term “mainstream jazz” probably means less now than it ever has. Jazz is, now, itself and whatever else you can get away with. You can now play New Orleans-style music and just about anything else, including 20th-century European concert music clichés as well as snippets—or an abundance—of ethnic music, and find yourself included in … Read More “The Genres: Stanley Crouch on Mainstream”

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Duke Ellington: Artist of the Century

…Duke Ellington? Ellington, like Armstrong, was one of the inarguable sequoias of the music, easily the one who most developed his talent in every direction. While Louis Armstrong is surely the greatest of all jazz players, Ellington is the greatest of all jazz musicians. Armstrong laid down everything anyone had to know if he or … Read More “Duke Ellington: Artist of the Century”

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