Category: Jazz

Generique

Generique

GENERIQUE: The first film score of independent artistic merit and dominant coloration of the dramatic action was not Duke Ellington’s famous score to Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder (1959), but Miles Davis’ score to Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows (1958), a lesser known film that is nonetheless a paragon of French film noir. […]

Sounds

Sounds

SOUNDS Betty Carter’s 25-minute extravaganza “Sounds” is possibly the jazz vocal apogee. Sarah Vaughan is more inventive and harmonically sophisticated, Ella is more agile, Billie Holiday is more soulful, but nobody is more adventurous or swinging than Betty Carter. The sustained energy of this piece is incredible. I don’t know how she manages not to […]

The New Classicism

The New Classicism

The New Classicism I saw the Pittsburgh Symphony at UNC-Chapel Hill last year. The concert opened with some grant-swathed contemporary piece. It sounded like feeble Mingus. It dawned on me as my mind absently drifted from the stage that classical music didn’t exactly die during the mid-20th century but migrated into the heads of people […]

Against the Great American Songbook

Against the Great American Songbook

Against the Great American Songbook I’ve been listening to Ella in Rome (1958), a fortieth birthday concert that captures Ella’s artistic peak. Ella and her musicians fly through the music with dizzying virtuosity, but I am constantly impatient with her reliance—with jazz’s general reliance—on the “great American songbook” throughout the 40s and 50s. As I […]

God’s Empty Chair

God’s Empty Chair

God’s Empty Chair On the Road continues to impresses me, as it has always done. Notwithstanding Truman Capote’s famous quip—“That’s not writing, that’s typing”—it bears up not just as a cultural manifesto but as literature in the tradition of Thomas Wolfe. It really is intricate, weirdly atmospheric, mythic, ingenious in its re-grafting of quest romanticism […]

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit

Strange Fruit Netflix is now streaming an informative if straightforward documentary of the life of Nina Simone called What Happened, Miss Simone? (an unfortunate borrowing from a Maya Angelou poem). The documentary depicts Simone as the rare artist not in love with her art, indeed at war with her art, with her instrument, with her […]

The clarinet – a star of many musical genres

The clarinet – a star of many musical genres

The clarinet – a star of many musical genres Let’s take a look at an instrument that is at once hot, cool, sleek, sassy, sophisticated.   It’s a master of classical music, and a star of jazz.  It’s at home with swing, the blues, or the symphony orchestra.   It has three distinct registers, each of which […]

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