Jazz Beyond Jazz

What if there’s more to jazz than you suppose? What if jazz demolishes suppositions and breaks all bounds? What if jazz – and the jazz beyond, behind, under and around jazz – could enrich your life?


What if jazz is the subtle, insightful, stylish, soulful, substantive guide to successful navigation of today’s big and little challenges? What if jazz is more than a tune in the background, the cult of the cool, an old hipster cliché – but rather a window on and mirror reflecting society as understood by artists who regard individuality, originality, innovation, integrity, virtuosity, collaborative skills and community concerns as essentials, fundamentals? What if jazz is an infallible bs. detector and transmitter, as immediate as the Internet, of beauty and truth?
Jazz Beyond Jazz is of the mind that jazz as we know it is fine, but what’s happening right now – and escaping most notice — is jazz beyond jazz. That phrase is meant to cover not only new developments in music born of urban America, now spread world-wide, but also the news, gossip, hype, buzz, analysis, speculation and fantasy that threads throughout the world of jazz and the worlds jazz bring to light — personal and public, current and historic, improvised and otherwise.
Oh, I’ll write a lot about music I like, much of it jazz, though also blues, r&b, soul, contemporary chamber and orchestral composition, electronic music and indigenous musics from all over the globe. I’ve found that New York City offers incomparable access to music of almost every type from almost everywhere, and I listen with pleasure, professionally, to music too broad to pigeonhole or label.


What to call

  • Jeff Newell’s New-Trad Octet, rendering John Phillip Sousa’s 100-year-old marches to emphasize their Afro-Cuban rhythms, with electric guitar and keyboard as well as tuba, trombone, sax, trumpet and drums live on the 4th of July, anchored on a barge beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, awaiting Macy’s Fireworks? New Americana?

  • SambaSunda, the Javanese troupe leavening exotic gamelan tintinnabulations with Brazilian rhythms, Western guitar and violin, woman singers reveling in extravagant melisma, on a plaza on the Hudson outside the World Financial Center — just one excellent booking at NYC’s exemplary free (thanks to American Express, and more on that elsewhere) River-to-River fest? Global fusion?

  • But there’s more to music journalism than music reviewing, more than the artist profiles, business news and trends pieces conventionally taken as music journalism. Something about print vs. e-postings, about publishing and copyrights, the perverse pleasures and predictable pitfalls of hustling byline-to-byline, the realities of freelancing and academia for adjuncts, biking in Brooklyn, crime writing new and old, movies, tv, birdsong, music theater, parenting an incipient cellist . . . Thinking about jazz leads beyond the jazz one is thinking of.
    Which is what I’ll report on – via jazz, yes, but including its industries, institutionalization, ad hoc fan-base and critical questions. Like — if it’s so popular, why ain’t jazz rich? And how popular is it, anyway? What’s behind the imminent demise (or will it be another reorganization?) of the Jazz Alliance International, a basically bankrupt lobbying group established to function on the model of the far better positioned Country Music Foundation? Is it true Jazz at Lincoln Center loses money every time it has a show at 1000-seat Rose Hall, even if all tix sell out?
    Jazz, yeah, but: Jazz prescribes inclusivity not exclusivity, embrace of change rather than resistance to it. Jazz beyond jazz is the result — conclusions reached after absorption of something new, realizations that are different, insistently innovative and illuminating, not a shadow of or reminiscence about the way things used to be.
    Jazz beyond jazz will be the default theme of this blog. It will come complete with hot tips, recommending live concerts in my vicinity, new releases, old favorites, and information from other sources.
    So here’s to jazz, and the jazz beyond it.

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    Comments

    1. Mike Gilbreath says

      This raises questions that many jazz lovers have probably asked themselves. For instance, we know jazz is a great art form, but why does it seem to struggle for its very existence? Is this a function of listener boredom, brought on by jazz’s near fanatical infatuation with the “classics?” Doesn’t such an elitist attitude toward jazz ignore the commercial viability required to sustain the art form?
      How can jazz survive without addressing the listener’s inevitable desire for exciting new forms of music?
      Great piece Howard. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

    2. Vicci Johnson says

      Jazz is alive in public school education, all over the US, Canada, and Europe. Check out the International Association of Jazz Educators Journal.
      Vicci Johnson: Twin Cities Jazz Society, Education Chair

    3. says

      ‘What if jazz – and the jazz beyond, behind, under and around jazz – could enrich your life?”
      Well it has mine, in all the ways you say. I’m the richer for it and glad to still be doing it, listening to it, living it. I’m only sorry that more people haven’t discovered its joys.
      Good luck with the new venture Howard.

    4. Howard says

      Thanks, Graham.
      For those who don’t know this man is an extraordinary jazz composer who has written a book about the general misuse of that term; a bassist-ensemble leader, theorist-historian and educator whose works should be better known in the U.S. (he’s an OBE in the UK). His albums Workpoints and Hoarded Dreams feature live performances by bands with soloists including Kenny Wheeler, Roger Dean, John Surman, Harry Beckett, Juhanni Aaltonen — in enduring concerts from ’68, ’75, and ’85.

    5. says

      I realize I’m a bit late to chime in here but I only just happened across your “Jazz Beyond Jazz” and cannot resist a comment or two … first, thank you Howard for a wonderfully concise phrase … such a powerfully descriptive term “Jazz Beyond Jazz” is so needed at present. Secondly, I love jazz but what I hear from most of the current crop of mainstreamers (as virtuostic and well versed in the music’s history as they mostly are) makes me often think of how many instances of the letter ‘z’ should be contained within the spelling of their “jazz” … eg. is this three ‘z’ jazzz I’m listening to, or maybe four, five or six ‘z’ … jazzz, jazzzzz, or jazzzzzz … ?
      Jazz is alive, well and fully awake and has assumed a new identity: “Jazz Beyond Jazz”. We should refer to it accordingly.

    6. Stella Marrs says

      Beloved Howard Mandel, thank you for your tenacity and courage to bring to us the relevance of JAZZ. Just heard Freddie Hubbard transitioned..pray he did not suffer. He left a legacy of bright moments for all of us to listen to…WBGO is saluting Freddie by playing his music…it always seemed to me that we should be playing the music while they to can hear it…anyway…at least he is being introduced to those who listen now..When I was WRVR’s first female DJ in the late 60′s and 70′s, I introduced the birthdays of our music legends and played their music, celebrating their life. but that was another time..I am also a Jazz Singer…who played with Lionel Hampton, and other Jazz Greats…that to was another time…I just felt I would seize the moment to share a moment in time with you…Again, I am soo happy to have found you and will look forward to your Moments in Jazz across the board…Take care…Happy New Life and know I send you many Bright Moments. I am called Stella :Soft Soul: Marrs
      HM: Thanks for the Bright Moments, Stella.

    7. says

      I took up jazz piano lessons at 55yrs. old..160 lessons over a five year period from Arlette McCoy Budwig, widow to Monty Budwig (premiere bassman) you know she gave me the right stuff. I was doing it purely to explore the art of it…little did i know it would become a major part of life, giving me a booster rocket to ride on as i traverse the 4th quarter of my life. Jazz–can it turn back the biological clock? I must say..it sure feels like it! Jazz beyond Jazz…absolutely…my greatest life thoughts come while playing the piano, eyes closed…woodshedding a jazz standard. Nice crystalization “Jazz beyond Jazz” Thanks Mr. Mandel
      PS
      Oh, And thanks for mentioning truthinmusic.com.
      Chris Corso

    8. says

      Jazz is alive in public school education, all over the US, Canada, and Europe. Check out the International Association of Jazz Educators Journal.
      HM: Yes, jazz is very alive in public education, however IAJE folded its tents what is it, 2 or 3 years ago. (The Jazz Education Network is one of the smaller organizations trying to follow up on the advances IAJE had made. There is also an international association of schools of jazz, in which Dave Liebman has been centrally active).

    9. says

      if jazz is the subtle, insightful, stylish, soulful, substantive guide to successful navigation of today’s big and little challenges? What if jazz is more than a tune in the background, the cult of the cool, an old hipster cliché – but rather a window on and mirror reflecting society as understood by artists who regard individuality.
      http://newscambodia.org thank post
      HM: Amazing and some awful things are happening in Cambodia that are little known — read nescambodia.org for a view into another world.