Language, or at least my relationship to it, is the damnedest thing. I need to set text-message alerts in order to pay my credit cards on time, but I can recall certain examples of journalism, literature and film dialogue with the clarity of a stage actor after reading or hearing them only once. The articles that appear in JazzTimes burrow even deeper into my memory because I’ve internalized them ad nauseam through the various stages of our production cycle.
I wouldn’t call my skill photographic, however; the words, whether in content or style or both, have to impress me in a specific, striking way to be retained. One piece that will always remain is our October 2013 Before & After listening session with this month’s cover subject, trumpeter Dave Douglas-especially his closing sentiments. After commenting on Terri Lyne Carrington’s Money Jungle tribute album, Douglas ties a bow on the exercise: “[People get] dark about the future of the music and the future of instruments,” he says, “but I feel like it’s a golden age for improvised music. … There’s more creative music happening now than ever, and I’m very upbeat about it. A lot of this music you played for me proves that point. It gives me even more to look forward to.”
I’ve returned to those 60-odd words many times in my mind since I sent that column to the printer. First off, I believe the message to be true, and the fact that it’s coming from someone of Douglas’ peak-of-powers stature gives it validation. It also comes in handy as a morale booster, after I’ve read some dopey general-interest piece on why jazz is dead or is being revived by a computer musician. And it’s acted as a kind of daily affirmation when I need to steer the magazine back toward the high road: a reminder that criticism and advocacy should exist in equal measure, and that lifting up the current scene is just as important as celebrating jazz tradition.
So much of the music covered in this issue reiterates how jazz is only improving. To highlight a sample: the new album by saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, with its pitch-perfect blends of melody and groove, improvisation and concept; music from trumpeter Marquis Hill, a composer who knows precisely how to employ contemporary ideas while showcasing the old-school virtuosity of his band; and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, whose use of musical history is so intelligent it could count as an innovation. To borrow Douglas’ phrase, you have much to look forward to.