(from W Skyline Parkway in Duluth; click to enlarge)
DTM and my twitter feed is going on a little hiatus; back around June 10, when The Bad Plus Joshua Redman begins a major tour in support of our record on Nonesuch. First hit at the Highline Ballroom; complete tour dates at thebadplus.com.
The only other performance I’m doing in NYC in near future is part of Albert “Tootie” Heath’s birthday week at Dizzy’s Club on Friday June 5. Tootie is 80 on May 31!
More about that and perhaps a few other personal bangles and beads in my newsletter Floyd Camembert Reports. Sign up if you want gig and masterclass notifications directly in your email inbox. The next missive will go out this week.
Attribution can be a tricky thing in jazz. One doesn’t offhand think of McCoy Tyner as unrecognized, but as far as I know, no jazz critic gave Tyner credit for inventing a language of jazz at the time. To this day, John Coltrane gets all (or at least most) of the credit.
No reason to take anything away from Mr. Coltrane, of course. Still, when Coltrane got his major new label and contract for Impulse!, conceived of doing a big project with horns and vamps, called it Africa/Brass and hired Eric Dolphy to write the arrangements…
…Coltrane told Dolphy to simply orchestrate Tyner’s chords. Dolphy and Tyner sat at the piano together, and Tyner gave Dolphy the information.
Tyner was not credited for the harmonies on the album jacket: he was just listed in the band as pianist, with his name misspelled as McCoy Turner.
(This double gaffe has since been rectified in more recent reissues.)
Africa/Brass lurks in the background of any sort of large group Afrocentric jazz featuring modal chords and vamps. The latest take is getting a lot of attention: Kamasi Washington’s The Epic.
Indeed, the very first thing we hear at the top of the first tune, “Change of the Guard,” is essentially a McCoy Tyner quote. This pianist also gets the first solo. It’s burning in full post-McCoy style. Nice work.
Who is the pianist?
Talk about attribution problems! I’ve seen a lot of press about The Epic, but the other musicians’s names are not usually mentioned.
When I bought the album on iTunes, there was no digital booklet. No personnel given.
Who’s the piano player? Nothing on Amazon. Nothing on NPR First Listen. Nothing on Stereogum or Popmatters. (These are the first links that come up on Google.)
I guess according to the label Brainfeeder site, the keyboard player is Brandon Coleman and the pianist is Cameron Graves. Well, Mr. Graves (I hope I have the right name) nice long first solo on the album!
A trumpeter solos next. Good solo. I haven’t been able to find out who it is, though.
I can understand the appeal of The Epic, there’s something that makes it a real “mood” album. Fans and critics are comparing it to hip-hop because of Washington’s illustrious associates, but what makes The Epic connected to the current moment isn’t the style, which is actually retro (compare, say, Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Harper or Gary Bartz records from the early 70’s), but the production. The tones, the evenness of the tunes, the attitude.
It’s quite raw too, which I really appreciate. “Raw” is not at all what I associate with LA jazz normally. Let’s hope this marks the beginning of a serious coup from our West Coast brethren. We need the incursion.
The last album from LA I bought from iTunes was the Whiplash soundtrack. That did have a digital booklet, but there was no personnel either, probably because the production team wanted to give the impression that Miles Teller was actually playing drums in the movie. (He’s not.)
I’m sure Washington’s team does not want to be associated with the terrible music of Whiplash in any way. Turn up the light on Kamasi’s sidemen. There’s enough love to go around.
Washington and crew may be thinking, “Let’s make Kamasi a star first, we can credit everybody else later.”
It’s never too soon to address a band mentality, because the industry is most interested in stars, even in jazz.
A recent review of The Bad Plus really brings this point home.
It is churlish to complain about praise, but instead of being happy with Tom Moon’s assessment of The Bad Plus Joshua Redman at NPR’s First Listen, I’m embarrassed. TBP has fought for fifteen years to be seen as a band of equals. That’s what makes TBP work. On this specific project, to cite one relevant piece of information, for Reid Anderson’s “As This Moment Slips Away,” Dave King’s “Beauty Has It Hard,” and for that matter for Josh’s “Friend or Foe,” I play a chart written by the composer with hardly any personal variation.
Anyway, I see a couple of fans have already offered some intelligent corrections about the article in the comments, which is only correct.
Moving on: The other CD I’ve been listening to a lot recently couldn’t be more different: Miranda Cuckson’s Melting the Darkness. You can read Cuckson’s liner notes here, she does a much better job of explaining this music than I could. The one thing I might add is that the emphasis on microtonality gives this ultramodern aesthetic something of a profound lament. I never thought of Iannis Xenakis as a bluesman before, but try the first track, “Mikka S.”
Cuckson has Lutoslawski, Schnittke, and Bartók in the can for ECM with Blair McMillen, a wonderful pianist still a bit underrepresented on record. When that lands I’m going to do something about it for DTM.
While I’m waiting, I’m planning to see Cuckson perform George Walker’s Violin Sonata No. 2 on June 3 with Thomas Sauer. Sauer is to be commended for placing Walker in context with Beethoven for the The Beethoven Institute at Mannes.
(DTM: Interview with George Walker.)