Most of the music I hear on the jazz-party circuit stops at an invisible wall labeled 1945 or BEBOP, as if harmonic extensions and rhythmic shifts were a kind of influenza. Of course the musicians slip in and out of larger conceptions of improvised music all the time, but if they don’t announce to a traditionally-minded audience, “We’re now going to play something you won’t like,” no one notices.
And some more “modern” listeners dismiss anything that sounds “old” as “that corny shit,” which is equally sad. It is as if jazz was a small country, and crossing the border meant you couldn’t come in. Or as if there were Dixieland or avant-garde cooties. You get the idea.
Rigidity like this reminds me of children who burst into tears if the mustard is not on the hot dog in the appropriate way. At what point does one’s “comfort zone” become confining?
But it’s all MUSIC, and those who can hear more deeply than the surface find rewards they might not have expected.
Thus, when Messrs. Alden (guitar), Robinson (tenor saxophone), Burr (string bass), and Malichi (drums) embarked on a set of Bill Evans’ compositions at Jazz at Chautauqua, I was delighted. Not, mind you, because I am an Evans fan or conoisseur, particularly. But I thought, “I could hear something new — something not IF I HAD YOU — and I trust the four players on the stand are people who will lead me into beauty, whatever the name of the songs are.”
The music proves it. Yes, to some listeners in that audience, these four selections were unfamiliar, even angular — but they swung and the melodies were often sweet. Worth the trip, and worth suspending one’s anxious prejudices for some part of an hour. Hear for yourself.
TURN OUT THE STARS:
This post is dedicated to Bob Rusch, Stu Zimny, and my father, who would say to me, “How do you know that you won’t like it if you won’t even taste it?”
May your happiness increase.