John Salmon writes about the Rifftides review of Maria Schneider at Jazz Alley:
I’m amazed that anyone could write a piece on big bands and not mention Maynard Ferguson’s band, which is on the road 200 days a year. How is it possible to do a piece on big bands and ignore the one touring band still out there? Yes, there are larger groups that don’t tour (MF has 10 pieces, including himself), but who’s reaching the public, especially young people, for jazz?
Many critics like to dump on Maynard, but almost any MF album, other than the last few he did for Columbia in the 70’s, (when Freddie Hubbard and many other jazzmen were doing similarly dubious albums), is at least good. Some, like his Roulette era albums of 1958-1962, and are unrivaled by anyone, including Basie and Ellington. I love Maria Schneider, but name one kid drawn into jazz by her music. And many of the guys in her bands came up through MF’s bands.
Maynard’s drawn many thousands, as players and listeners, into this music. Before you scoff at Maynard as a player, note that Ellington wanted him on his band, and asked him to join several times. The question is, will jazz be “art music” solely, with no broad audience, or will it be music that retains at least enough popularity to employ all the music school graduates you spoke of?
I could list all the great players that came up through Maynard’s bands, but just talking about tenor players there are-Wayne Shorter, Joe Farrell, Don Menza, Carmen Leggio, Nino Tempo, Lou Tabackin, Mark Colby…and writers including Bill Holman (who you mentioned), Quincy Jones, Al Cohn, Johnny Mandel, Don Sebesky, Mike Abene, Jaki Byard, Kenny Wheeler, and dozens of others.
I’m upset about this, because the failure to mention Maynard is symptomatic of the cliquish nature of writing about the music. It’s not “Maynard or Maria”-it’s both. What about Chris Botti? Far too popular to get a mention here, no doubt. A fine player who deserves all the kudos he can get…and a far more interesting player than Wynton Marsalis.
Jazz’s endless taste wars are foolish and destructive. Dixie v. swing? Why not both? Bop v. swing? Why not both? Coltrane or Getz? Why not both? Why do we have to choose? For a while there, no critic had a word to say about any tenor player not named Coltrane.
Why not also promote talented people who are producing good music and who are able to maintain what little public interest there is in jazz? Unless there’s simply more snob appeal in being a fan of, and writer about, unpopular music.
I disagree with little in Mr. Salmon’s comment, but I am not content to be set up as the straw man he wants to knock down.
I did not write “a piece on big bands.” I wrote a piece on Maria Schneider’s big band, prefacing the review portion with a few remarks on changed economic circumstances that generally keep big bands off the road.
My not mentioning Ferguson is not “symptomatic of the cliquish nature of writing about the music.” It is symptomatic of the fact that Ferguson does not now have a big band, regardless of its name (Big Bop Nouveau). Ten pieces add up to a medium-sized band, fourteen or more to a big one.
“Many critics” may “like to dump on Maynard.” I do not. Nor can I recall ever “scoffing at him as a player.” As an owner-operator of trumpets, I would be drummed out of the trumpet corps.
If Mr. Salmon thinks I fall into the category of critics who categorize music and promote “endless taste wars,” he hasn’t read much of my stuff. I invite him to do so.