[Dixielandjazz] Arrangements vs. Improvisation

norrie.thomson norrie.thomson at btopenworld.com
Tue Mar 18 19:59:59 PST 2003

If we are speaking about ensemble playing rather than a continuous string of
solos, we should remember that before Louis came on the scene all jazz was


Norrie Thomson
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stephen Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 18, 2003 2:20 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Arrangements vs. Improvisation

> Below is an interesting (IMO) jazz band review that touches upon several
> views of "Jazz". First, improv vs. arrangements. Then, the broader
> question, where is jazz going?
> Is this group OKOM? I don't know, haven't heard them. But, it does
> include some great players some of whom I have heard, like Wycliffe
> Gordon and Marcus Strickland. And it does include references to the
> music of Basie, and Ellington.
> And the idea of mixing styles from different eras appeals to me.  As
> well as the last sentence in the review pointing out that: "this was a
> tremendous rhythm section, kicking the horn players ahead and eliciting
> shouts from the audience."
> That sounds like OKOM to me.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
> March 18, 2003
> Proof That Improvisation Needn't Always Dominate
>       The pianist Eric Reed is wary of solos. Not that he banishes them
> from his septet: at the Village Vanguard last Tuesday, the longer solos
> by the trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and the alto saxophonist Brad Leali were
> among the most soulful and exciting I've heard recently.
> But by and large this was a highly arranged music in which tightly
> written parts for the horns provided at least as much action as the
> improvised sections.
> Most bands don't play regularly enough to find that magic, cohesive,
> intuitive ideal in which the significance of composed material just
> melts away. Mr. Reed's septet, which has made one record and hasn't
> performed often since the first time New Yorkers saw it in 1999, is no
> exception.
> The lineup has changed since then but is now at its best. It contains
> some of the New York jazz scene's most promising young players (the
> tenor saxophonist Marcus Strickland and Mr. Pelt), a comparative unknown
> in Mr. Leali (he has been hidden away from the jazz clubs in a steady
> job with the Count Basie
> ghost band) and the trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, who has always, in my
> memory of many performances, played exceptionally well.
> And anyway, Mr. Reed clearly likes to compose. His tunes are not simple
> or even deceptively simple: there's not much idiomatic coasting in his
> music. He creates suites and portraits, fitted out with old-fashioned
> devices like tone-painting (a drunk weaving down a staircase in "Boo Boo
> Strikes Again") or
> colliding styles from different eras (the pianist's ragtime against the
> horn section's swing arrangements in "Romantic Rag").
> He didn't do all sextet music, either. Toward the end of the set he sent
> the horn players away, leaving just his trio onstage for uptempo swing
> and then a creeping, Ellingtonian gospel piece called "A Love Divine."
> Whereas Mr. Reed's septet used to seem a bit like a trio with horns
> added on, now the horns are more integrated into the total picture by
> the leader's arrangements. But that's not to lessen the contribution of
> Mr. Reed, the bassist Barak Mori and the drummer Rodney Green:
> especially at fast tempos, this was a tremendous rhythm section, kicking
> the horn players ahead and eliciting shouts from the audience.
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