[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Journalists Association - ‘Best of Jazz’ lists

Andrew Homzy andrew.homzy at gmail.com
Sun Jun 21 19:43:31 PDT 2015

I remember when the Montréal Jazz Festival began in 1980.

I asked a well known local musician if he was going. His response was: Why should I bother? I know all those musicians and how they play.
In 2001, I saw the same musician and asked the same question. His response was: Why should I bother? I don’t know any of those musicians.

It is the mission of the Jazz Journalists Association is to identify prominent and new musicians in the “jazz idiom”. The JJA formed in 1987 and that Montréal musician probably would have known many of the musicians on their ‘Best of Jazz’ lists. By 2008, he probably would have known very few.

What’s the point?

The Jazz Era is over. It ended with the death of Duke Ellington in 1974. A quarter of a century later, Ken Burns made a documentary which signified this - actually, in the new century, 2001.

However, If we consider Jazz as an idiom - distinct from classical music -  then we might agree that it is comprised of several eras: Birth 1917-1923 - Recognition 1923-1929 - Incorporation 1929-1935, Swing 1935-1945 - Bop 1945-1955 - Exploration 1955-1959 - Free Jazz 1959-1970 - Fusion 1970-1980 - Global diffusion 1980-1990 - Retrospect 1990-2000 - Collapse 2001 -
[Note: The above are my own rough categories and are subject to change. Yours are equally valid - please share them.]

But there is no need to despair. Within the classical idiom, the Baroque Era is defined as 1600-1750 - Classical as 1750-1820 - Romantic as 1820-1900 - 20th Century as, well, 20th Century. No significant development has emerged in the 21st Century.
Yet, classical music from all eras is still played today. Noting the eras within the “classical” idiom signified the beginning and the end of their development, classical composers such as John Williams and Howard Shore draw upon all eras of classical music - and jazz - to sculpt a soundtrack to accompany epic films well known throughout the world. And their compositions are now played by bands in elementary schools to those comprised of aged amateur musicians.

It’s the same with jazz - but much more limited. Classical musicians are regularly expected to play compositions ranging across 500 or more years of musical development. Most “jazz musicians", however, have difficulty playing styles outside a decade of their interest - quite surprising considering jazz to be an idiom which is not quite 100 years old.

Ornette Coleman who died last week, said: If you want to hear music of the past, there’s a machine which does that very well - and that’s a good thing”.

Pee Wee Russell and Ornette could be said to be contemporaries. In 1965, Pee Wee recorded “Turnaround”, a piece composed by Ornette in 1959 -

Adding to that, I would say that a recording is like a photograph of a painting or, especially, a sculpture. The recording and the photograph will always be the same thing and can be duplicated infinitely. However, a score is something very different. A score preserves a past accomplishment but provides directions and inspiration for continual re-interpretation i.e. growth.

A score and a recording/video are crude time-machines. However, a score is more powerful as a tool.

The music of Bach and Vivaldi lied dormant before being revived by caring musicians and audiences. The same can be said for that of Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. They are all composers. Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane are mainly improvisors - their “compositions” rarely exceed 32 bars of melody with chords.

The 21st century will sort this all out for us. The process has begun -



p.s. My list for 2015 would include Henry Butler, Carla Bley, Nicholas Payton, Birelli Lagrene, my daughters Aline & Luanne -

> On Sun, Jun 21, 2015, at 4:33 PM, Bill Haesler <bhaesler at bigpond.net.au> wrote:
> Ron L'Herault wrote:
>> I don't recognize any of those names.  
> Dear Ron,
> I knew two names, but they do not fit my definition of jazz.
> If jazz is in the hands of members of the JJA, real jazz in the US has no hope. 
> Kind regards,
> Bill.

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