The new column, about big bands and innovation, is now up at JazzTimes. You may recall that this subject had the jazz blogosphere abuzz not long ago. (If you don’t recall, just trust me, or start here and work your way back.) Alas, the online serve-and-volley transpired after the magazine had gone to print, or I would have incorporated it.
I also had to file just a few days before the NEA Jazz Masters concert, which began with the awesome head trip of Muhal Richard Abrams conducting the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. (Thankfully I had heard that piece, “2000 Plus the Twelfth Step,” in its premiere.)
So perhaps, from the standpoint of an RSS metabolism, the column feels outdated. I’d wager that most of the people who find their way here are well aware of the ground it covers. What interests me more in this case is the potential to reach another segment of the JazzTimes readership, people like Irwin Kimke of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. He has a letter in the current issue that reads as follows:
I have been a JazzTimes reader for a long time, since back when it was a newspaper. I am disgusted. Why? I just went over the last five issues of JT and didn’t find one single, solitary article about a big band. the only references to big bands are in your CD reviews. I have just renewed my yearly subscription, but unless things change that renewal will be my last.
Now, I’m not sanctioning the practice of subscriber
ultimatum. But it’s worth considering Mr. Kimke’s point of view, however far it
may fall from my own. This was one objective of the current column, and a big
reason for using Stan Kenton as the framing device. The music of Darcy James
Argue and John Hollenbeck may be formally conventional to some observers, comparatively
speaking (I refer you again to that blog dustup, above) -- but that’s hardly
true among the listening majority. Or in the case of Mr. Kimke, a vocal and
selectively well-informed minority. (I’m extrapolating here.)
The big band-related results of this year’s Grammy Awards -- which Hollenbeck covered, in a manner of speaking -- would seem to confirm my thesis. (For the record, I have seen the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, in their hometown, and they were great. Formally inventive, no. But that’s not the only yardstick for success.) Anyway, there are a lot of people out there who love big band music. Some of them may be only dimly aware of what’s happening along the forward flank of that tradition. Perhaps they have no interest, which is fine. But with apologies to another oldfangled big band touchstone, Ya Gotta Try.