The State of Music Pt. 2 or “Pissing off Bob”

Remember this?

https://garyarthuryoung.wordpress.com/2009/02/15/the-state-of-music/

When I pissed off a guy named Bob Merlis?  He commented:

It’s amazing to me that you’ve blogged negatively about Peter Bernstein’s “Monk” album since you admit you haven’t heard it. It’s a brilliant album that has garnered some very positive reviews including one from the New York Times. Peter is part of the Blue Note All Stars who have been touring in celebration of the label’s 70th anniversary. Email me your physical address if you’re interested in my sending you a copy of the album so that, in the future, you might be in a position to write about something you’ve actually taken the time to hear.
In the meantime, read this and learn something from someone who actually listened and thought before he wrote: http://www.jazzimprov.com/util/articles.cfm?article_id=143

Here’s a piece that ran on many NPR stations in which James Isaacs discusses the album as well as the legacy of Blue Note and ECM and you can actually hear a bit of Peter’s music:
http://www.here-now.org/stories/2009/02/james-isaacs-on-jazz-anniversaries

Well, I’m about to do it again.

Bob called me out because I seemingly was critical of Peter Bernstein’s “Monk” album before I had listened to it.  But I was actually commenting on the concept of the album and not its execution.  Meaning, I have a pet peeve about today’s jazz being too focused on regurgitating the styles, vocabulary and songs of the greats.  Peter Bernstein is a great guitarist but frankly I was disappointed to learn that his first album release in something like four years was a Monk tribute, which usually means Monk standards.

There’s nothing wrong with Monk standards.  The man was a genius and wrote challenging and beautiful music.  Peter Bernstein’s “Monk” is good.  I made a point of listening to it after being called out on it.  The reviews were positive but were along the lines of “a solid outing and challenging fare for guitarists”.

And here’s a little context that I was unaware of at the time.  It’s Blue Note Records’ 70th year in existence so they have their artists going on tour, releasing tribute CDs and playing tribute concerts.  Good for them.

Ironically, I was at the Kennedy Center this weekend checking out the Millenium Stage free show and as I was leaving learned that the Blue Note concert was occurring there at that very moment.  D’oh!

Have you heard of Terrence Brewer?

http://www.terrencebrewer.com/

He’s an incredible guitarist based, I think, in the Bay Area.  He has recently released a new album, Groovin’ Wes — guitar, organ, drums.  And … it’s a Wes Montgomery tribute CD.  Beautiful playing and it captures his admiration of Wes Montgomery.  If you play the guitar or are a fan of the guitar and if you don’t know who Wes Montgomery is, you really should check him out.  I can give recommendations.

And yet…

Music is a great form of expression.  Jazz in particular provides so much opportunity for improvisation and spontaneity.  But as it transcends eras it’s being treated more like classical music.  Where’s the innovation?  Where’s the evolution?

The analogy I thought of was this.  Think of your favorite author.   You’ve read most or all of their works and you’re waiting for their next book to come out.  Finally that day is here and that next book is… “The Old Man and the Sea” with a really good approximation of Hemingway’s handwriting.

That’s how I feel being a jazz fan.  It’s like the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus was asked, how should we pray?  Jesus said, “Pray like this” and prayed what is now known as the Lord’s Prayer.  So what do we do?  We recite the words.  We’re supposed to be capturing the spirit, the sentiment, the awe, the wonderment, the humility.  But instead — rote repetition.

To be honest, I’m not saying that I know what I want to hear or what the next innovation would sound like.  But I know what I like.  And you may disagree.  Regardless of what I think, there are all of these men and women out there making great music.

I just want to be challenged and inspired.  Like it used to be.  What I imagine it was like when jazz changed music — the era when jazz was so new and strange that it didn’t have a name yet — and became an American art form that embodied revolution and awakening.

Blog Playlist

Night Song
Gary Young

End of the Yellow Brick Road
The Wiz Original Soundtrack

P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care)
John Legend

Finding Me
Vertical Horizon

Waves into Strings
Michelle Amador

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