Evan Haga Introduces the May 2014 Issue

The shock of the new

Jazz, whose reputation outside its community is often one of forbiddance, is in reality full of comforts. Think about it: standards, acoustic instrumentation, the blues-these are enduring, institutional things to be returned to again and again. Art Blakey’s assertion that “jazz washes away the dust of everyday life” is hoary but spot-on. The music is a regenerative habit, like sex or booze or church. If you’re waiting for that transcendental arena-rock moment, you’re missing the point; it’s far better enjoyed as a steady diet. Thirty-five minutes of a perfect Blue Note LP, 60 minutes and a whiskey at the Village Vanguard. Then you’re back on the street, reborn.

Still, it’s good to have your mind blown once in a while, isn’t it? This issue has its fair share of joyfully bewildering artists. Remember the first time you heard our cover subject, vibraphonist-composer Bobby Hutcherson? For me it was on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch!, specifically its lead-off track, the Monk homage “Hat and Beard.” The whimsy of Hutcherson’s four-mallet comping, the hair-raising punctuations and harmonically quizzical soloing-it was obviously brilliant but its sheer weirdness made it come off like contraband. I felt a similar pang of wonder when I saw the Bad Plus for the first time in 2004, at a small jam-band club in Baltimore. (A stereotypically collegiate funk band opened and brought all their friends; it seemed as if the trio were contestants on a jazz version of Candid Camera.) What struck me then was the same thing that causes me to play the Bad Plus’ recent records ad nauseam: their unabashed love of melody-an affection that jazz training, for reasons beyond me, can destroy. Sometimes comforts inspire awe too, I suppose.

In a closing housekeeping note, we’re excited to welcome a new publisher to the fold: Rick Kessel, an industry veteran whose previous work includes helming JAZZed magazine. We look forward to his leadership.