View Full Version : "Modern" Jazz

Oct-02-2004, 1:58pm
I went to see Jazz Mandolin Project(more a jam band than a jazz band, but I was nonetheless impressed) last night and it started me thinking, is there any progressive jazz left? I have seen lots of recomendations on this forum for Jethro Burns and Tiny Moore (both of whom are great) and tab recomendations for swing and bob and every other subgenre of jazz ever concieved by a music critic. However, no one seems to be trying to push the boundaries of jazz beyond what has already been done. I am as guilty as anyone, copying Django solos and listening to the pantheon of jazz gods. But, is there any one, on the forum, performing live, or recording who is trying to find a unique voice?

Oct-02-2004, 2:35pm
I'm not performing live or even a professional musician, I play as a hobby......but I am a professional artist evolving a personal abstract language, that is a unique voice. There are parallels between art & jazz.....Sometimes art goes too far and then needs to look back to its roots. Just because it is new or avante garde doesn't mean it is great art.......At some point you are considered hip if you are looking back & playing in a format inspired by da good stuff....the classics....in jazz, maybe the qualities of say Hot Club, or BeeBop. The really great classic stuff has legs and a modern version can be forward looking too. The trick is to make it of our time, and not just a photograph or recording of a past era. IMO to still have your inspiration in your voice. but to add your personal stamp is the ticket. In other words you don't have to invent the wheel, to design a unique vehicle and roll with it.

Ted Eschliman
Oct-02-2004, 4:14pm
Excellent post, Art.
I have to agree; we have the responsibility to master the "classic" before we have the right (let alone ability) to break new ground.
Frankly, we are decades behind our horn brethren in jazz "innovation," and pickin's are pretty slim (pun intended) for the mass of great jazz mandolinists. (Compared to sax, trumpet, guitar, piano...)
I'm not saying DON'T innovate. I'm just agreeing with Art that we need to get a better grip on what's been done (jazz theory and harmony) before we move the instrument to the next level of jazz.
Otherwise, you're not "progressing" jazz, just starting a completely different genre.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Oct-02-2004, 4:42pm
I can't say I agree with everything posted, but this is exactly the kind of dialogue I wanted to open up. #If you don't live in New York, or at least a moderately large city, you have almost no way of discussing jazz, especially jazz mandolin, with anyone else. #I agree we have to learn basic music theory and adeptness and familiarity with the instrument before we try to create new "art," but I think the idea that we must master the works that came before us before we create pur own is a bit too strong and the very idea which has stiffled creativity in classical music.

Oct-02-2004, 5:02pm
The only reason that mandolin players lag behind other instrumentalists in playing modern jazz is that a very small number of players have committed themselves to this challenging,and frankly, thankless, endeavor. Also, most players come to the mandolin from the bluegrass world, lacking reading and compositional skills, the very skills that the majority of other jazz instrumentalists have cultivated. When mandolins are more widely accepted in conservatories and symphonies (as Munier desired), then more jazz players will emerge.

Ted Eschliman
Oct-03-2004, 7:14am
I agree we have to learn basic music theory and adeptness and familiarity with the instrument before we try to create new "art," but I think the idea that we must master the works that came before us before we create pur own is a bit too strong and the very idea which has stiffled creativity in classical music.
Yup. Agreed.
Let me put it this way, though. I don't think it's an issue of playing note for note what the "Masters" played. Solo transcriptions repeated, regurgitated, bore me as well.
We don't want to play what Jethro or Django played, we just need to understand their process.
That's where the theory comes in. Whether conscious of it or not, it's what drove their creations. When we comprehend that, we can service the art by pushing more boundaries.
Thankless, Michael?
Undoubtedly, but the most rewarding endeavors I've encountered in my 46 years.
And it's pioneers like you that inspire me.

Oct-03-2004, 1:00pm
Ok, its my thread, maybe I'm the only one who wants to keep it going, but I have recieved interesting feedback so I will press but a bit more. #I think we are, for the most part, in a sort of "heated" agreement. #The mandolin is a vastly underused instrument in almost evry genre of music save bluegrass. #As a result, there are very few mandolinists in the jazz comunity. #Reading and theory lag because either a) its percieved as not really needed, or b) its precieved as hard, or c) all of the above. #Finally, theory and the study of other (usually past) work is our best way of gaining understanding into the art form. #However, my original question, and it was a question and certainly not a challenge by any means remains, is anyone, in your opnion, producing "new" works of jazz composition. #By new I could mean anything, but examples "might" include the use of polyrhythm, perhaps compositions where harmony follows melody (as oposed to the other way around). #I'm just wondering if there is anything out there on the frontiers, it certainly isn't me and it does not have to be you, but I hope its somebody.

John Rosett
Oct-03-2004, 4:34pm
i've been playing jazz on the mandolin for a long time, and i have to admit that i mostly play my versions of other people's tunes. lately, i've been playing with a guitarist, and we really LISTEN to each other. this enables us to just kind of "go off" in the middle of a tune. this is leading me into listening to more challenging music (john coltrane, eric dolphy), and i'm sure that that listening will have an effect on my playing.
the more challenging the music, the less commercial potential, i'm afraid. we're lucky to have a regular gig at a restaurant where the owners are jazz musicians, and the more far out we play, the more they like it. we don't get many other gigs, though. heck, when we try to play with other musicians, it's kind of uncomfortable, because we feel so constrained. so that's the western montana jazz mandolin report.
have you listened to andy statman's "flatbush waltz" album? i think that it's a milestone of modern jazz mandolin.

Oct-04-2004, 9:48am
Interesting how something that was too avante garde in its time becomes a classic years later. Most of us have heard of Thelonious Sphere Monk. I remember one time I was hangin' with Dawg & Sammy. Sam hadn't ever even heard of Monk. Grisman told him he was like the Bill Monroe of jazz piano, which I thought was an interesting comparison. Monk was just a bit ahead of his time, you had to be like a real hip beatnik or something to have been in the audience at one of his gigs.....probably not many mandolin players in the club....and the gigs were pretty scarce at the end of his career too......but his tune Round Midnight is now a classic and is covered by quite a few jazz giants. I think there are dozens of these classic jazz tunes that are ripe for string band or mandolin versions. Yeah these kinda tunes had a head, but they were all about improvising.....lots of room to make your statement with polyrhythm or harmony, whatever kinda zone you're into exploring. That is what I dig about some of the Dawg music classics.......EMD, or 16-16 for example.......cycles of like 5 chords.........complex head, but them an incredible format for improvisation, which is what I consider jazz to be all about. Man I really did hearing those Miles Davis & Milt Jackson tunes played on mandolin on Grisman & Garcia's "So what" CD. Hearing the alternate takes and where they go on solos is pretty interesting stuff. I think taking the vehicle of classic jazz tunes and using them as a format for exploration is a big part of what jazz is all about.

Oct-04-2004, 2:26pm
Wow Art your really cool post has made me ask my self the great question is Dawg music Jazz?

I asked Dawg when he was CGOW if he wanted/thought/hoped Dawg music in 50 years would be as developed a genre as Bluegrass is now. He sorta dodged the question, but I think of Dawg music as really just mandolin jazz, really really good mandolin jazz. It is music that is very well suited to the mandolin for obvious reasons. And I think there is a lot of room for development on that front, and while not the quintessential version of "Modern Jazz" I think it can be another well developed sub-genre of jazz if we work at it enough.

Joel Glassman
Oct-05-2004, 1:32pm
There is a lot of progressive jazz in the music world!
For instance, guitarists: Kurt Rosenwinkle, Charlie Hunter
John Scofield, Ben Monder, Bill Frisell, Steve Masakowski
and others: John Zorn, Greg Osby, Dave Douglas, Kenny Garrett...
Not much bluegrass influence there... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif
I'd add saxist Michael Brecker to the list--
considered one of the top modern jazz players.

Oct-05-2004, 2:15pm
I dig some of that stuff John Zorn has been doing......lots of different ensembles from a string trio to two horn quartets to larger ensembles.....I read where he wrote 100 melodies using jazz chords and two Jewish scales....major scale with the second note flat or a minor scale with the 4th note sharp......or something like that....
I think he played a month at a NYC club with a different group every night back in 2003 celebrating his 50th.

I also like some of the minimal stuff that Bill Frisell has done in the last few years.......almost a folk music influence in some of the tunes. Kinda medative and simple, but with repeat listening I'm digging it. Started with that one Nashville he4 did thast had Jerry Douglas & Viktor Krause on it.....I think Danny Barnes was on one as well.....I prefer this side of Bill Frisell to the extreme ouside stuff he is capable of.

Oct-06-2004, 10:27am
Some of my favorite "modern jazz" has been the music that Shawn Lane (RIP) and Jonas Hellborg have been making. Their improvs are based on Carnatic Indian music, played on electric guitar and elec 4 string bass. Stunning work, that goes from peaceful calm to explosive maelstrom in seconds. Their studio albums are good, but don't do their live shows justice. Abstract Logic, With Kofi Baker (Ginger's son) on drums, is good, with "Rice w/ Angels" being a standout. Temporal Analogues of Paradise is a monster disc, w/ Jeff Sipe (Apt Q-258) on percussion. I devoted my life to music after seeing these guys play live, putting in my withdrawal notice to law school the next day. Time is the Enemy is also a great disc. PM me with any questions, anecdotes, comments about Shawn. I cry very rarely, but upon hearing of Shwan's death, I wept. I wonder what a collab with Shawn and Dave Peters would've sounded like?

Oct-06-2004, 11:30am
I'm bummed to see that this thread started out with a mention of the Jazz Mandolin Project, and proceeded to immediately question whether or not there is progressive jazz happening now, and whether or not it can be found on the mandolin. Jamie Masefield is the primary reason that I'm playing today, and I absolutely consider his music modern jazz. To my ears, anyone who would grant the title "jazz" to something like the Mahavishnu Orchestra should be willing to give it over to JMP as well. I have never understood the sort of "second class citizen" statues that gets assigned to "fusion" musicians.
It seems that in the few years since jazz was invented, people have become more and more eager to step away from the imperative that kept it alive and vital: the expansion and obliteration of musical boundaries. Do we say that late Coltrane isn't jazz, once his ensembles stepped away from static chord changes, swung eighth notes on the ride, and 4 chorus solos? No. The players in JMP all have the virtuosity, musicality and improvisational prowess required to play bebop, for example (and they do a killer take on Milestones, fwiw) but the rhythms and tonal pallettes they work from are different. I don't think it makes sense to call it rock and roll (which has rarely moved past 4 chord songs,) and until they stop straining to break free, this kind of music will get called jazz by me.


P.S. For reading this entire post, the first three people who are interested in hearing JMP and have not yet done so should contact me at mckeec@usa.redcross.org for details on how I'm going to give you free music http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Oct-06-2004, 11:44am
I wasn't knocking what Masefield is doing at all. #In fact, I love JMP. #Perhaps I was a little unclear with my thought process when I was writing the post. #I went to see a JMP show Friday night. #It was great. #In fact, the point of adding that little aside was that it got me thinking about polyrythm in jazz. #I was listening to the drummer, I think his name was Mark Spitz (sp?), and interplay of the drums and mando. #It got me thinking about using the mando in a bluegrass manner within a jazz framework. #Hence my new obssession with polyrhythm. #From there I started listening to my 60s era jazz, looking for hints of rhythmic interplay between a harmonic instrument and percussion. #I know its not a new idea, but its something new for me to work from.
# #The project is, undeniably a sort of fusion, hence JMP may not be for everyone, but I personally really dig their stuff and highly recommend it. #On the other hand, most of jazz is at some level a kind of fusion so that is not a bad thing at all. Mea Culpa.

Ken Sager
Oct-06-2004, 1:44pm
Although he's been at it 25-30 years(?) Pat Metheny is definitely a powerhouse modern Jazz influence. His style and compositions are unique and inspiring.

Another guitarist not mentioned is Mike Stern. Seek him out if you haven't heard him. His dynamic range is by far the broadest and most interesting of anybody playing jazz guitar right now. Just my humble opinion, of course.

Mandolin content: It's definitely not bluegrass, it isn't Dawg style, and it may not quite be jazz, but Matt Flinner's album with the Matt Flinner Quartet is pretty interesting, and quite a departure from his previous repertoire.

Joy to all,

David Horovitz
Oct-06-2004, 3:42pm
While he's not limited to 'jazz' stylings on mando, Radim Zenkl has so far made considerable strides at stretching the boundaries of jazz-fusion and mandolin playing. In reference to the latter, David Grisman is quoted as saying as much on Radim's website:


Peter Hackman
Oct-07-2004, 10:43am
Wow Art your really cool post has made me ask my self the great question is Dawg music Jazz?
Not that labels matter much to me, but I would say,
chiefly, no, it's too personal.

And Grisman's attempts
at standards, e.g., with Martin Taylor, are
among his least convincing stuff.

Oct-07-2004, 11:09am
I saw an interesting gig last night, it was Joe Craven's CD release party. His new CD takes Django tunes and revamps them with different Latin flavored grooves. Joe's band included bass, drums, soprano sax, and piano. The sax player also played flure & cornet. Joe played plugged in mando & violin as well as percussion. Great improvisation as well as complex rhythmic grooves. Was this jazz? I think so. I consider a lot of New Acoustic music to be jazz or at least a jazz hybrid. The Anger/ Marshall duet fits this acoustic jazz context as well IMO.

Oct-07-2004, 11:30am
alot of people have a hard time handling jazz that doesnt come with a piano or a horn or three.... or even NO DRUMS!!!! but it can happen, and does happen all the time.....

personaly i dont think jazz mandolin project is really a "jazz band" im not a fan of their music either, but its kinda cool nonetheless.....

im not thinking of any new or next generation players who are breaking the mold right now... wich doesnt surprise me..... but just to throw in here, the jazz album that changed my life was Extrapolations- john mclaughlin..... thats a bit dated now, but its still fresh and different. THATS COOL

i have some grisman recordings, some live some studio, and id definatly say there is SOME jazz in there. i like dawgs style, he's in no rush. and you know its him when you hear him wich is very important i think in being a musician.

you gotta look at things from all different angles, and some times taking something another step further isnt something new, its just another step further.... if that makes sense? sometimes i hear something and imediatly hear what they were stepping on to go "further" coming straight out of nowhere, like whoa ive never heard that before, is hard to do and hard to find.

check out animusmusic.com

Oct-07-2004, 2:10pm
I haven't heard Joe's new cd yet, but he's a *brilliant* musician, Camptown is an amazing debut cd.


Oct-07-2004, 2:35pm
Christian.......I agree..... part of Joe Craven's brilliance is his fingertips are connected to his heart, he can get right to the soul of music.
He can pick up anything, a styrofoam cup even and jam away.....make it a musical instrument. Interesting how his multi instrumentalist talents add spice to the DGQ, he plays the part of comic relief with his percussion......but last night he was a much more serious band leader. He certainly has learned how to get the music out of himself. Very musical fella, no inhibitions.....just from his ears, to his heart, to his fingertips, to whatever instrument. He'd be great if he was just a percussionist, he brings that sense of rhythm to his mandolin and fiddle playing too....which makes him a unique talent...but is it jazz? I think so.

Dru Lee Parsec
Oct-07-2004, 2:50pm
And Grisman's attempts at standards, e.g., with Martin Taylor, are among his least convincing stuff.

I havn't heard those. But I've heard the "So What" album with Grisman and Garcia. I admit it kind of sounds like my friends and I jamming on those tunes. Not really "jazz", but certainly a jazz feel.

But then we get down to the whole thing of "What Is Jazz?" Should any song played in a "head" arrangement where you play the head (melody) and then take solos over the changes be called jazz? If so then most bluegrass fiddle tunes are "Jazz". So what's that element that makes it "jazz"?

Heck if I know. But I know it when I hear it. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

I mean this really shows the problems with labeling a music. Is early Louis Armstrong and recent Charlie Hunter both the same kind of music? How about comparing Dizzy's bebop years with Ornette's free jazz stuff. Are they both "Jazz"? (Ok, I'll go along with you an "Free Jazz". I just can't take that stuff). Or heck, how about Miles Davis' "Kind Of Blue" album and his "Bitch's Brew" album. How can both of those albums by the same guy both be called jazz?

It's a pretty wide ranging name. It covers an aweful lot of ground.

I don't know the answer. But I'm glad that there's a sub-genre called "smooth jazz". That makes it easier to avoid. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

Oct-07-2004, 8:59pm
Great thread...there is one thing that anyone mentioning "second class citizens" "commercially acceptable" etc., needs to keep in mind. Purely instrumental music, that is, without vocals, will never be widely accepted and appreciated by the masses, I don't care if you are talking about the most avant guard jazz or fiddle tunes played in the back in the hollow. Tony Rice had to break up the "original instrumental jazz" version of his Unit not because it was not exceptionally great, but because he would have had to start pressing the recordings (and buying them!) with his own money. I am currently working on finishing up my second C.D. and one of the most educational things that has occured for me, is becoming aware of how important tune selection is in creating something "accessable". This is not to be confused with "commercial". I recorded several good takes and versions of Norman Blake's tune "Thebes", but at the end of the day, it does not make the cut, because it is a "musician's tune" and what I have found is that if it is played for non-musicians, they inevitably lose concentration and or interest before the number is finished, and it is far from "free form", the opposite in fact, although it is "out there" for a mandolin tune... I also had to incude at least as many songs as instrumental tunes; not by choice, but for the same reasons mentioned above......just some thoughts....

Oct-07-2004, 10:49pm
I started this thread and I would just like to thank everyone who chimed in with recomendations. There really is a lot out there, and I don't think I can work my way through it in several lifetimes, but I'm going to try. So thank you all again, I can't thank everyone enough, but I copied down the recomendations and I have started scoring record stores (since they don't sell records, are they really record stores anymore?).
Someone asked, what is jazz. Let me be the first to say, I have no idea, couldn't define it if I wanted to, and whats more, I'm not even sure I always know it when I hear it. Maybe someone else will hazard a guess and take a step out and try to define it. It would be a cool topic, but I am quite sure it is one I must remain silent on for fear of displaying abject ignorance.

Oct-16-2004, 5:59pm
Perhaps this an aside on this thread, but,
John Abercrombie's name was mentioned as a happy Schwab owner.
[by Kevin, himself]
anyone know of recordings when He played his Schwab electric mandolin on them?

Oct-18-2004, 8:05am
I've got some of his stuff from the '70's; the following all have him on electric-mando as well as electric guitar.

Gateway 2 - John Abercrombie/Dave Holland/JackDeJohnette (ECM)
Characters - John Abercrombie (ECM)
New Directions - Jack DeJohnette (ECM) (DeJohnette, Abercrombie, Lester Bowie, Eddie Gomez)
New Directions in Europe - Jack DeJohnette (ECM) (DeJohnette, Abercrombie, Lester Bowie, Eddie Gomez)
New Rags - Jack DeJohnette's New Directions (ECM) (DeJohnette, Abercrombie, Alex Foster, Mike Richmond)

All Music Guide discography (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=SUB040410180939&sql=11:l2j97i6jg7xr~T2) entry for John Abercrombie.


Oct-31-2004, 2:42pm
didn't miles say something to the effect of " it's all been done, you just have to take what's been done and make it your own" of course I'm paraphrasing but something along those lines.