2. Jason Moran Bandwagon: Out Front
Art was driving to an out-of-town job and passed through a village where traffic was completely tied up because of a funeral procession. Since he couldn't get past the cemetery until the service was over, he got out and listened to the eulogy. The minister spoke at length about the virtues of the deceased, and then asked if anyone had anything else to add. After a silence during which nobody spoke up, Art said, "If nobody has anything to say about the deceased, I'd like to say a few words about jazz!"1Such was Blakey, always educating. And he is not the only musician who should be championed for his role as a bandstand professor. Dave Holland has served as a kind of Dean of Postbop for the past 30 years. His working bands, while they lack the brand name of Blakey's Messengers, have nonetheless served as a revolving door of talent which Holland nurtures. Like Blakey, Holland has an impressive record of graduates: Chris Potter, Steve Coleman, Eric Harland, and Kenny Wheeler, to name but a few.
Wherever we played the clubs were packed, overflowing back into the streets, with long lines of people standing out in the rain and snow and cold and heat. It was something else, man, man. And a whole lot of famous people were coming every night to hear us play. People like Frank Sinatra, Dorothy Kilgallen, Tony Bennett (who got up on the stage and sang with my band one night), Ava Gardner, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Richard Burton, Sugar Ray Robinson, just to mention a few.The band earned this star power, to be sure. Miles remembers "It was so bad that it used to send chills through me at night, and it did the same thing to the audiences, too." Miles had just recently made his mythologized "comeback performance" at the 1955 Newport Jazz Festival, playing Monk's 'Round Midnight to a captivated crowd. He had also kicked his heroin habit just before this period, and he had found a new energy which drove him to conquer the ears of jazz listeners. He had one of the all-time great rhythm sections behind him: The swinging Red Garland on piano, whose block chords and light touch glued the rhythm section; the fiery Philly Joe Jones on drums, who felt what Miles was thinking, and who Miles described as "the fire that was making a lot of shit happen;" and the extremely hip Paul Chambers on bass, who could make quarter notes swing like you could not believe.
We just blew the top off that place that night. It was a motherfucker the way everybody played -- and I mean everybody. A lot of the tunes we played were done up-tempo and the time never did fall, not even once. George Coleman played better that night than I have ever heard him play. There was a lot of creative tension happening that night that the people out front didn't know about. We had been off for a while as a band, each doing other things. Plus it was a benefit and some of the guys didn't like the fact that they weren't getting paid. One guy -- and I won't call his name because he has a great reputation and I don't want to cause him no grief, plus he's a very nice guy on top of everything else -- said to me, "Look, man, give me my money and I'll contribute what I want to them; I'm not playing no benefit. Miles, I don't make as much money as you do." The discussion went back and forth. Everyone decided that they were going to do it, but only this one time. When we came out to play everybody was madder than a motherfucker with each other and so I think the anger created a fire, a tension that got into everybody's playing, and maybe that's one of the reasons everybody played with such intensity....And that's just one of the qualities that earned Miles the French Legion of Honor.
Why can't jazz still sound like Dexter Gordon? Why does jazz still sound like Dexter Gordon? Why are young musicians so afraid to break the rules? Why are young musicians so heedless of the rules?But this somewhat reactionary tendency to lament the loss of a golden age is not limited to the jazz world. Last week Rachel Maddux asked in the pages of Paste Magazine, Is Indie Dead?. Hey, at least this pathology isn't limited to jazz listeners...