From: Peter Hum
In a week we’ve gone from a sense of renewed wonder to renewed horror.
I was heartsick when I heard about the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday. Believe me, my American friends, this is a tragedy that resonates far beyond your borders. I called my wife at her workplace soon after the terrible news broke, told her about the children, and heard her cry. I grew teary just reading the transcript of your president’s response. And later that night, after a friend in Winnipeg messaged me to see if I could confirm that Jimmy Greene’s daughter was among the dead, the world grew smaller and sadder still.
What a nightmare — for the Greene family, for the other parents who kids didn’t come home, and for your country. To the extent that Ana Marquez-Greene’s death is a jazz story too, it’s the biggest jazz story of the year too, by several orders of magnitude. Let’s put it this way — I’ve had 70,000 views in 48 hours for my first blog post about Ana’s death, and another 30,000 for the follow-up post. I see similar kinds of numbers for the YouTube video of Greene’s song “Ana Grace,” with a similar outpouring of grieving comments.
If you want to muse about the cultural relevance of jazz, this atrocity committed against a jazz player’s daughter and her classmates is more top of mind than Jazz at Lincoln Center opening an outpost in Doha, more significant than the choice of discs on Joe Critic’s Top 10 list, and on and on. That’s especially true in a culture that is absolutely dysfunctional when it comes to firearms.
If I could wish for one response from the jazz community to what happened, it would be some kind of initiative, coordinated or otherwise, to lead the charge for gun control; to push for measures that could dramatically decrease the possibility of someone wielding an assault rifle against utter innocents. Jazz musicians proved their cultural relevance with art that waved the flag for civil rights. They can seize this moment again, galvanized by their colleague’s heartbreaking loss. I understand that Robert Glasper dedicated at least part of his show on Friday night to the victims of the Connecticut shooting. It doesn’t have to end there.
Let me try to tack back to where we were at, although I confess that the death toll in Newtown weighs more heavily on me than what jazz most tickled my fancy.
Like Nate, I picked Tim Berne’s Snakeoil as my favourite disc of 2012, enthralled as I was by its play of the completely improvised and the rigorously composed and executed. As an occasional pianist, I’m especially spellbound by Matt Mitchell’s magic playing, ECM’ed to the max sonically, no less.
The border’s not as porous as I would like with respect to jazz, and so I haven’t heard the ERIMAJ disc, or the latest Christian Scott. I get it when Gio writes that for him, these discs are on the forefront, but I’ve always flinched at least a little bit when any writer uses phraseology such as “the direction that jazz is going.” Maybe it’s because I’m not at the epicentre, but jazz, as it manifests itself in the discs I receive and the music that comes to town, seems to be very much multi-directional, moving outward in three dimensions rather than forward in two. For what’s it worth, from a style agnostic...
I really liked what Jim wrote — OK, I really like everything that Jim writes — with respect to camaraderie and chemistry. That’s a useful way to lock onto this music, even when, and perhaps especially when, it’s not so layman-friendly.
I’ve heard Vijay Iyer say that musical interaction on the bandstand, as evidence that the musicians are simply listening to each other, engages the audience because it’s a trope for the act of listening. We like to listen to them listening. If I can mention just a few examples: there’s the tumult of drums from Brian Blade exhorting Myron Walden to play ever more soulfully; the lyrical pas de deux of Fred Hersch and Italian clarinetist Nico Gori on their disc Da Vinci; and the splendid fit between the Montreal saxophonist Joel Miller and pianist Geoffrey Keezer on Miller’s disc Swim. These are layman-friendly, I suppose, but that’s what you get from the jazz writer at a MSM newspaper.
I’m going to call it here. Time to spend some quality time with my son. And to feel extraordinarily grateful and blessed. And sad.