BoMuse News, vol. 19, no. 4
BoMuse News is a monthly newsletter from BoMuse Music. It presents items of interest related to jazz, and advocacy for music education, as well as news of releases from BoMuse Music and the performing activities of Paul Combs. Questions and comments should be sent by visiting “Contact” at Paul Combs’ Web-site.
1. Surviving Shelter In Place
2.What is jazz anyway?
3. Bob Franke’s meditations
4. Jazz At the Tap
5. This Month’s Video
Note: a friend sent me the cartoon included with this issue. We do not know who created it but if you should know, please tell me co I can credit it.
1. For whatever it may be worth, here’s how I am coping with shelter-in-place. I am trying to keep my daily routine, stretching and doing a little free weight exercise when I get up, getting dressed, trying to remember to shave, practicing, working on up-coming concerts, and attending to various things that need my attention. I also try to reach out to a friend or two every day. I hope all of you are well, and weathering the crisis with a minimum of stress.
2. Recently I watched an interview with Joe Henderson and John Scofield, in which they pondered a question that has faced jazz musicians for decades: what do we mean by “jazz”? In the early 20the Century, the music was known as ragtime and the word jazz referred to the dances one did to the music. In 1917 a band calling itself the Original Dixieland Jass Band (sic) released a record, and the name of the band would suggest that the music was beginning to take the name of the dances in general. Later, in the 1940s many of the musicians associated with the Bop movement did not refer to their music as jazz, feeling that that term referred to the earlier style. Duke Ellington preferred to avoid the word altogether in referring to his music. Later, in the mid 1960s, John Coltrane opined that he did not think the music he was making could still be called jazz.
Indeed, among folks who identify as jazz fans, one can find considerable diversity of opinion as to what they like to listen to, and consider to be jazz. Back in the 1980s I worked with a variety of musicians. At one point I had a band with a more “groove oriented” book, and was met with disappointment from listeners who were used to me playing in a more “straight ahead” style. In a lecture I used to give at libraries and arts centers to introduce new audiences to all this music we call jazz, I said it was like a big house, with lots of rooms, and porches, and even some tents set up in the back yard. I guess the best we can do for a definition is to say jazz is music that can trace its roots, however far back, to ragtime, and what grew out of it.
3. So, you may ask, why did I start this month’s issue with such a question? Well, we musicians are often interested in, and take part in idioms other than whichever one we are commonly associated with. As in past years at this time, I planned to go back East to visit family and friends and play a couple of gigs, including one that I have been part of for forty years. This is the Good Friday Cantata created by my old friend Bob Franke. Bob is a songwriter best known in the folk music community. I created my parts in the first couple of years, and they have become part of the work as a whole. They are not written down anywhere, and indeed include a couple of improvised solos. If I were not there, someone would have to invent something else to take their place, which would be acceptable, since what I do is at the service of Bob’s overall concept. Still, it touches on the question of whether we should attach any great importance to the names given to styles of music or not; a question that we may never find an answer to.
Unfortunately, due to the concerns about the COVID19 epidemic, this year’s performance has been canceled. Since it is only performed on Good Friday, it cannot be postponed to another date. A recording of the work is in progress, and I’ll have more on that as it develops.
4. Since the COVID19 situation has become a global crisis, everything else I had planned for my annual trip East has been canceled. One of those was a return, on April 5 to the Sunday evening jazz shows I started in Haverhill, MA in the early 2000s. Originally located at the Chit Chat Lounge – as described in my History of the Pocket Big band – the series has moved across the street to The Tap. The Tap has closed temporarily, and I hope once we are past this crisis, and you are in the area, you will go there and sample their brews made in-house, especially if you can be there on a Sunday evening, and catch one of the jazz shows. The other place I was going to play at was Savinos Grill. I played there on Thursday evenings for several years, and always join my buddy guitarist Mark Michaels for a return appearance when I am in the area. The food is extraordinary, and only moderately expensive. It is a wonderful place to go for a special night out. Jazz is there every Thursday.
5. I had hoped to have a video on the life of Tadd Dameron ready for this month’s release, but production is held up due to a technical problem. Instead I have posted another segment from the 2013 concert at the Chelmsford Center For The Arts. Our bassist Herman Hampton made this arrangement of Tadd’s Soultrane. It was originally recorded on the Prestige lp Mating Call in 1956, with a quartet that featured John Coltrane, in whose honor Dameron wrote the tune. Jim Cameron and I are playing saxes; pianist Don Hemwall gets the solo, and Stanley Swann is behind the drum kit, unfortunately hidden behind the curtain because of the angel of the camera. The concert took place in February of 2013 at the Chelmsford, MA Center For The Arts.
Looking at the reports I have a sinking feeling about the next gig that has not yet been canceled: May 2 at The Nash in Phoenix AZ. The Nash Website says closed until further notice, and the COVID19 reports from Arizona are on the rise. If we should all be lucky enough to have the crisis subside enough by the end of April, I will let you know, but for now, everything is on hold.
Some folks have the technology to do live feed concerts. I am sorry to say that at this time it is not a likelihood for me. My friend Jeremy Siskind just did one last week from his home, and I recommend that you visit his site to sign up for news of his next online concert. I also received word of San Diego Symphony musicians doing the same. You can sign up for email notices from them. Of course, you can poke around the Internet to find live feed concerts from other likely sources, something I have to get around to. I’ll let you know of particular interesting ones in the next issue, as we may well need them by then. My friend Dr. Jazz, of Dr. Jazz Operations, got me thinking about trying to do something like this myself, so I’ll be putting on my thinking cap, and we’ll see what I come up with.
Be well, and as always, thank you for supporting live music in whatever way you can.