Pianist Jason Moran (AKA JAMO) made a statement in a recent All About Jazz Interview that resonated with me quite deeply. We used to have many extended discussions concerning interpretation and approaches to new music. What he offers here reflects a sentiment that I too, often feel when playing the music of other composers or when I am invited as a guest artist to perform with ensembles that have a bit of history amongst themselves. Quite very frequently, I am presented with music that I find myself struggling to play upon first attempt. Most of the more complicated matters lessen after ample rehearsal and explanations are made, but many issues are somewhat more extensive than simply developing of an understanding of the composer's or band's artistic intent. If only it were that simple.
As music progresses through the continuum, and artists produce works that are borne and reflective of various backgrounds, perspectives, stimuli and resources, it is sometimes a very daunting task to simply immerse oneself in their world and expect to function normally without floundering or sometimes even faltering miserably. These days, the makeup of most compositions reflects a series of sensibilities that must be lived and experienced extensively in order to accurately interpret the music at hand to satisfaction.
It's often not necessarily even a matter of being uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the methods or techniques used, it is actually a matter of responding favorably and readily to a set or series of options that are particular to a different generation, lifestyle or stylistic sector. In several instances, I have found myself caught up helplessly in a vortex of sound and means while the entire rest of the band (usually age 30 and under) proceed with exceptional comfort and confidence, as they know exactly where the beats lie as well as what the sources are of all of the reference points. At that point, I would have to stop frequently to request an explanation of the finer points of the music or that the tempo be slowed down so that I can "feel it." In short, contemporary improvised music and all that it's made up of, has evolved by leaps and bounds and it's critical to every practitioner of the craft that they continue to make themselves aware of the developments as they occur, lest be left behind. Or worse, to allow themselves to get "caught up" in a situation that reveals their lack of awareness and ability to navigate unfamiliar (and sometimes unforgiving) musical terrain.
The full article is HERE:
AAJ: You articulated that very clearly in the listening session as well. How the music from that era had a very particular sound and can be used as this line of demarcation dividing jazz between pre and post civil rights music. But as you just said, a whole lot more comes after that. So I'm curious if you think we are in a new period now?
JM: Definitely we are in a new period. I was just talking with Ambrose Akinmusire and Walter Smith III after they'd sat in with Eric Harland's band at the Monterey Jazz Festival and they played this tune and I was like, [laughs] yeah, see my generation we weren't messin' with that. That's something that is just y'all. And all the cats in that generation know how to move into music like that. There's a lot of flexibility and flow within it and when I play a tune like that with y'all its like, whoo! I'm struggling to keep up.
"Already the new generation—them dudes and ladies are already out there making some pretty great, provocative work. I'm happy and I can already hear the shift. So even like say a Robert Glasper record or Jamire Williams, those are marks of what music emerged from the influences of the '80s and '90s. It is just starting to emerge out of that. And it is definitely a defined sound if you listen to enough of it. And it is not in Wynton Marsalis' generation. And it is not David Murray's generation. It's a different language."
Frankly, I couldn't agree more. Things have changed. Many things. Awareness is key and I, for one, refuse to allow myself to miss out on the advances as they occur. As the environments change and new and inspiring ideas are implemented, they will present some challenges that must be faced.
I'm looking forward to each and every one. The next level will not be attained through avoidance.