A history of Jazz Music

by Piero Scaruffi
See also the The History of Rock Music and the The History of Pop Music
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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.
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(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Jazz Music")

Jazz Traditionalism

The sudden boom of "neo-traditionalists" (jazz musicians who basically staged a revival of traditional jazz) marked the peak of a crisis that had started when rock music was invented. Jazz had made sense not so much as the music of black USA citizens but as the popular alternative to classical music. Rock displaced its ideological position in the firmament of the arts. Then jazz began a convoluted journey towards (free jazz) and against (fusion jazz) the classical avantgarde. What free jazz and fusion jazz had in common was that they were both movements away from... jazz music. That crisis was never resolved and continued to weaken the case for jazz music during the 1980s, particularly at a time when so many white musicians were entering the fray of jazz music (often selling more records than black musicians). At the end of the 1970s it almost felt like "jazz" was merely a word for "instrumental music" as opposed to rock music that was mostly vocal. The music itself was not all that different from progressive-rock, and, in general, less adventurous. The jazz world was living in denial. The neo-traditionalists called the bluff. Instead of trying to move away from the jazz tradition, they staged a massive and shameless revival of it.

The neo-traditionalists changed the debate. Instead of a debate between avantgarde (free jazz) and commercial music (fusion), it became a debate between the revival of jazz values (neo-traditionalists) and the continuing progress towards non-jazz values (both free jazz and fusion and later acid-jazz, jazztronica, etc). While rock music was undergoing a stylistic meltdown and fragmentation that virtually created a waterfall of new musical genres, from heavy metal to punk-rock to drone-rock (plus all the variations on dance-music), jazz music seemed to converge towards just two opposite camps, a yin and yang of sorts.

The revival of traditional jazz started in earnest when white tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton burst onto the scene with A Is a Good Wind Who Is Blowing Us No Ill (march 1977), a mediocre collection of covers. But that was the beginning of the avalanche. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Philadelphia-born pianist Kenny Barron featured prominently in the groups of Dizzy Gillespie (1962-66), Freddie Hubbard (1966-70), Yusef Lateef (1970-75), Ron Carter (1976-80) and Stan Gets (1984-91) before launching a career as an elegant evangelist of hard-bop music for the Wynton Marsalis generation. His style was a sprightly cocktail of Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock, using piano, electric piano, clavinet and synthesizer. However, his real strength came from his compositional skills, as proven by: the nine-minute Sunset on Sunset to Dawn (april 1973), the ten-minute Peruvian Blue and the ten-minute Two Areas on Peruvian Blue (march 1974), the nine-minute Spirits and the 13-minute Hellbound on Lucifer (april 1975), the 12-minute Sunshower (already debuted in 1975) and the ten-minute Innocence on Innocence (1978), Row House and Dew Drop on Golden Lotus (april 1980). In the 1980s Barron began to play more and more standards and notable originals became rarer: the solo-piano Enchanted Flower on At the Piano (february 1981), the twelve-minute And Then Again on Imo Live (june 1982), that debuted the trio with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Ben Riley, the eleven-minute Spiral on Spiral (june 1982), Lemuria on Autumn in New York (december 1984), the ten-minute Water Lily on Scratch (march 1985), in a trio with Dave Holland on bass, Phantoms on What If (february 1986), in a quintet with trumpet and tenor saxophone. The music was not revolutionary but the repertory was impressive. At the same time, Barron formed Sphere, i.e. Barron's trio plus tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, that, after a Thelonious Monk tribute album, and a mediocre Flight Path (january 1983), gave him the opportunity to write Baiana and Lunacy for Four For All (march 1987). Barron, now a star, was devoting himself to terrifyingly tedious collections of standards and old originals, notably wasting a trio with bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Roy Haynes for the awkward selections of Wanton Spirit (february 1994). Only a few compositions displayed the old touch: the bossanova The Moment and the romantic Tear Drop on The Moment (august 1991), Gardenia on Sambao (may 1992), Mythology and Nikara's Song on Other Places (february 1993). Then Barron staged the spectacular rebirth of Things Unseen (march 1995), featuring an unusually large ensemble (for someone who always preferred the trio format) of tenorist John Stubblefield, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, guitarist John Scofield, violin, bass, drums and percussion. It contained several lengthy originals that displayed his old magic: the 13-minute Marie Laveau, the nine-minute The Sequel, Rose Noire, Things Unseen, Joy Island. Then the consummate pianist started delivering again his melodic, swinging and occasionally adventurous compositions: Twilight Song on Night And The City (september 1996), a duet with Charlie Haden, The Wizard on Spirit Song (may 1999), Zumbi and Clouds on Canta Brasil (february 2002), with a Brazilian rhythm section, and (possibly his swan song) the 18-minute Images on Images (october 2003), in a quintet with saxophonist/flutist Anne Drummond, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Kim Thompson. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Los Angeles' white pianist Joanne Brackeen who moved to New York in 1965 and played in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1969-72). She debuted as a leader at 36 with Snooze (march 1975), reissued as Six Ate, in a trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart. A similar trio cut Invitation (july 1976), a better display of her lengthy, erudite and intricate post-bop compositions (Six Ate, Echoes, C-Sri). Tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker joined Brackeen, Hart and McBee on Tring-A-Ling (march 1977), the first album entirely devoted to original compositions (the twelve-minute Shadowbrook-Aire, the nine-minute Echoes, the twelve-minute Haiti-B). Aft (december 1977), in a trio with guitarist Ryo Kawasaki and bassist Clint Houston, emphasized textural and timbral nuances of her playing (Haiti B, Aft, Winter Is Here, the nine-minute Green Voices of Play Air). The closest reference point for her piano playing would be McCoy Tyner.
In the meantime she had been playing with Joe Henderson (1972-1975) and Stan Getz (1975-1977), but now she began to focus on her solo career. Her first solo-piano album, Mythical Magic (september 1978), sounded a bit shy (except Mythical Magic), as did Keyed In (may 1979), in a trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette, devoted to relatively simpler pieces. On the contrary, the four lengthy originals of Ancient Dynasty (may 1980), that added tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson to the rhythm section of Gomez and DeJohnette, boasted both the intensity and the brains of her most inspired moments. Special Identity (december 1981), again in a trio with Gomez and DeJohnette, was even more adventurous in terms of group interplay and solos (Special Identity).
She never quite recaptured the magic of the 1970s, despite featuring trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis on Fi-Fi Goes To Heaven (august 1986). Live At Maybeck Recital Hall (june 1989) debuted several new originals for solo piano (Dr Chu Chow, Curved Space, African Aztec) among a plethora of predictable standards. She returned to her favorite format of the trio on Is It Really True (july 1991), that delivered more evidence of her compositional mastery (the eleven-minute Haiti-B, the nine-minute Dr Chu Chow, the nine-minute Estilo Magnifico), and reunited with Gomez and DeJohnette on Where Legends Dwell (september 1991) for a set of impeccable post-bop and pre-fusion demonstrations (notably Picasso and Asian Spell). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

White San Francisco-based pianist Jessica Williams began to improvise in the vein of Thelonious Monk but in a rather shy manner, both as a solo performer, for example in the psychological vignettes of Portal of Antrim (1976), and as a member of a small ensemble, notably on Orgonomic Music (june 1979). During the 1980s she recorded very little under her own name but her technique achieved supernatural status, a worthy disciple of Art Tatum although in an altogether different voice. By the time she resurfaced with And Then There's This (february 1990) in a trio, she had become one of the greatest living virtuosi of the piano. Unfortunately the consequence was that she devoted most of her recordings to interpretations of jazz standards, returning to creative terrain only with Inventions (january 1995) and Joy (january 1996). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Cleveland's white tenor saxophonist Ernie Krivda coined an incendiary style on Satanic (1977), The Alchemist (january 1978) and Glory Strut (december 1979).

White trumpeter Jack Walrath (Charlie Mingus' last trumpeter) was emblematic of the slightly more experimental contingent of traditionalists during his golden decade, from Demons In Pursuit (august 1979) till Neohippus (august 1988).

Ohio-born white tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano studied music in Boston and moved to New York in 1980. He refined his style while playing with Paul Motian (from 1981) and John Scofield (from 1989). His relationship to free jazz was ambivalent. Lovano basically bridged bebop, hard-bop, fusion jazz and free jazz as if he wanted to transform John Coltrane into a mainstream jazz musician.
The short pieces of Village Rhythms (june 1988), by a quintet with Werner, trumpeter Tom Harrell, bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Paul Motian, struck a balance between impressionism and abstraction while exuding humility. Lovano assembled a "wind ensemble" (Lovano on tenor sax, soprano sax and alto clarinet, trumpeter Tim Hagans, trombonist Gary Valente, two guitarists, bass and drums) that included Motian and Bill Frisell, to accompany improvising vocalist Judi Silvano (Lovano's wife) on the live Worlds (march 1989), featuring extended pieces (Tafabalewa Square, Worlds, Round Dance) that were in the tradition while introducing a personal jazz language. From the Soul (december 1991) was the best of the early albums, thanks to soulful accompaniment by pianist Michel Petrucciani, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Ed Blackwell, and to at least one Lovano gem, Evolution. Universal Language (june 1992) marked the return of Judi Silvano's wordless soprano singing, "backed" by a piano-sax-trumpet sextet with Hagans, Werner, Charlie Haden or Steve Swallow on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Lovano played soprano and alto saxophones, flute, alto clarinet and even some percussion. The vocals were just one of the instruments, and each piece sounded like a tribute to a different jazz style, with some (Sculpture, The Dawn of Time, Chelsea Rendez-Vous) being more adventurous than others, but none being avantgarde by any stretch of the imagination. Except for Trio Fascination (september 1997), a trio with drummer Elvin Jones and bassist Dave Holland (and Lovano, as usual, on both tenor and alto sax, plus alto clarinet), Lovano later turned to mainstream pop-jazz muzak. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

On his own, Pat Metheny's white keyboardist Lyle Mays, an instrumentalist equally brilliant at the acoustic piano as at the synthesizer, and a prolific composer who penned many of Metheny's classics, showcased his articulate, elegant contrapuntal craft in the 14-minute Alaskan Suite, off Lyle Mays (april 1985), and in the 20-minute suite Street Dreams, a kaleidoscopic blend of progressive-rock, electronic music, new-age music and world-music, off Street Dreams (1988). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

New Orleans-born trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, one of the most popular jazz musicians of all times, was educated to classical music but, after joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1980), adopted the hard-bop trumpet styles of Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard, as mediated by the sound of Miles Davis' acoustic quintet of the 1960s, and flirted with the spirit of the swing era. He became the ultimate neo-traditionalist with Wynton Marsalis (august 1981), whose best compositions (Father Time and Twilight) were performed by a quintet with pianist Kenny Kirkland and his saxophonist brother Branford Marsalis (although the others featured Miles Davis's rhythm section of pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams).
The mediocre Think Of One (february 1983), with Knozz-Moe-King featuring the quintet with Branford Marsalis, Kirkland and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, and the terrible Hot House Flowers (may 1984) introduced a cynical entertainer, more interested in melodic standards for atmospheric background than in original compositions.
On the other hand, Marsalis impersonated a superb Miles Davis imitator on Black Codes (january 1985), a collection of seven originals (including Black Codes and For Wee Folks) for the quintet with his brother and Kirkland. Scaled down to a quartet with pianist Marcus Roberts, J Mood (december 1985) was less charming if still effective (J Mood).
His mission was to restore the "moral values" of jazz music that had been lost in the intellectual turmoil of cool jazz and free jazz. Faced with the schism of the 1960s, that opposed free jazz and fusion jazz, Marsalis chose to disavow both and retreat to the previous era. His music therefore tended to be rather predictable and dejavu, no matter how elegant and passionate.
His ambitions as a composer (as well as his nostalgic view of his birth town) surfaced on The Majesty Of The Blues (october 1988), that contained the 15-minute The Majesty Of The Blues for sextet (Roberts, Todd Williams on tenor and Wes Anderson on alto) and the 36-minute three-movement suite The New Orleans Function (ruined by a lengthy spoken-word performance).
Marsalis better fine-tuned his arrangements for the septet (Roberts, Williams, Anderson, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley) on Blue Interlude (1991), whose centerpiece, the 37-minute Blue Interlude, achieved the grace and romance of Duke Ellington's classic years. Eric Reed replaced Roberts on piano for the large-scale suite In This House On This Morning (march 1993), premiered in may 1992, basically a neoclassical mass inspired by black church music, and including a suite within a suite, the 28-minute In the Sweet Embrace of Life.
Marsalis was now a master of the extended composition, and proceeded to score the three-movement ballet Citi Movement (july 1992), leaving behind the Ellington model for a post-modernist cacophony. However, the dance scores Jump Start (january 1993) and Jazz - Six Syncopated Movements (august 1995), documented on Jump Start and Jazz, Sweet Release for jazz orchestra and Ghost Story for a quartet without Marsalis, documented on Sweet Release and Ghost Story (august 1999), and Them Two's (june 1999), were more traditional in their quotation of the jazz tradition. So was Big Train (december 1998), a suite for big band that was shamelessly in the tradition of Duke Ellington. The film soundtrack Reeltime (october 1999) was utterly trivial in the way it quoted folk, blues and jazz music. This prolific period culminated with the 13-movement childishly impressionistic Marciac Suite (february 1999) for jazz septet.
Notable among his classical compositions (straddling the border between Charles Ives, Duke Ellington and Igor Stravinsky) were: the seven-movement first string quartet, At the Octoroon Balls (premiered in may 1995), dedicated to New Orleans; the colossal oratorio Blood on the Fields (premiered in april 1994), that draws from the entire history of black music; the twelve-movement suite All Rise (premiered in december 1999) for jazz big band, symphony orchestra and 100-unit gospel choir. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

There was no question, though, that Wynton Marsalis' commercial and critical success (both in jazz and classical quarters) helped revitalize mainstream jazz at a time when it seemed incapable to connecting with the audience, and doomed to an inferior status than avantgarde jazz.

New Orleans-born saxophonist Branford Marsalis cut his teeth with Art Blakey (1980-81) and younger brother Wynton Marsalis (1982-1985), developing a style reminiscent of John Coltrane while retaining the romantic flavor of the mainstream jazz whose demise Coltrane had caused. After a stint with pop singer Gordon "Sting" Sumner, Branford Marsalis debuted as a leader on Scenes In The City (november 1983), with Solstice, Royal Garden Blues (july 1986), the mediocre Renaissance (january 1987), Random Abstract (august 1987), with Crescent City and Broadway Fools (on soprano saxophone), Trio Jeepy (january 1988), with Housed From Edward and Random Abstract (on soprano saxophone). Specializing at the tenor saxophone but doubling on soprano, and employing variable ensembles, Marsalis failed to exhibit an original persona or a musical program.
His group finally stabilized as a quartet with pianist Kenny Kirkland, bassist Bob Hurst and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts on Crazy People Music (march 1990), containing Spartacus and Wolverine (on soprano saxophone). Marsalis did even better in a trio without the pianist on The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born (june 1991), possibly his compositional peak, from The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born (on soprano saxophone) to Gilligan's Isle, from Dewey Baby to Xavier's Lair, turning the apparent contradiction of his Coltrane-ish traditionalism into a personal language.
After collaborating with blues greats on I Heard You Twice The First Time (october 1991), Branford Marsalis formed Buckshot LeFonque with disc-jockeys, rappers and an army of jazz musicians to concoct an exuberant fusion of hip-hop, jazz and rhythm'n'blues on Buckshot LeFonque (july 1993) and Music Evolution (1996). That experiments helped Marsalis craft the stylistic Babel (hard-bop, rock, funk) of the trio's The Dark Keys (august 1996), notably The Dark Keys, Sentinel and Lykief on soprano.
The piano-based quartet of Requiem (december 1998) wed this acquired eclecticism with the original Coltrane-ish stance (A Thousand Autumns, 16th St Baptist Church) although the recording was left unfinished after the death of Kirkland (a trio-only version of Elysium). He was replaced by Joey Calderazzo on Contemporary Jazz (december 1999), that featured the full-blown 16-minute version of Elysium for piano-based quartet. The 18-minute Eternal was a comparable tour de force for the same quartet on Eternal (october 2003), a postmodernist take on the form of the ballad that managed to bridge the lyrical Duke Ellington and the metaphysical John Coltrane. The smooth, eloquent and austere tone of these lengthy compositions finally granted Branford Marsalis a major ranking among the neo-traditionalists after a much tortuous journey. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Kansas-born alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, yet another alumnus of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the 1970s, led the hard-bop revival of the 1980s (both through his own recordings and the recordings with the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, which was de facto the hard-bop equivalent of the World Saxophone Quartet) and gave it some of its most popular compositions: The Punjab of Java Po from Post-Motown Bop (september 1980), Beatitudes from Beatitudes (april 1983), Appointment in Milano from Appointment in Milano (february 1985), The Misery of Ebop from Love Remains (november 1986), etc. His group, named Horizon, also relied on the compositions of bassist Curtis Lundy, such as Orange Blossom on Jewel (april 1983) and Present Tense on Present Tense (december 1991). With Tailor Made (december 1992) Watson began to venture into big-band jazz. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Memphis-born pianist James Williams, a former gospel organist and yet another alumnus of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, merged soul music and hard bop on his most personal albums, such as Alter Ego (july 1984).

White trumpeter Tom Harrell, a member of Phil Woods' quintet in the 1980s, penned atmospheric cool-toned hard-bop in two-horn settings with expanded rhythm sections. Play Of Light (february 1982) and Moon Alley (december 1985) set the standard of his carefully sculpted and orchestrated compositions. The free-jazz detour of Form (april 1990), with Joe Lovano on saxophones and the rhythm section of bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, heralded the introspective mood of the more mainstream collections of Stories (january 1988), with Harrell on flugelhorn, and Passages (october 1991), another collaboration with Lovano. Harrell switched to three horns for Upswing (june 1993), with Harrell on flugelhorn, Joe Lovano on tenor and Phil Woods on alto, Labyrinth (january 1996) and the Latin-tinged Art Of Rhythm (july 1997). Continuing that progression towards more and more complex harmonies, Harrell ventured into big-band jazz with Time's Mirror (march 1999). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

New Orleans-born trumpeter Terence Blanchard, another alumnus of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1982-86) like Wynton Marsalis (whom he replaced), was, like Marsalis, heavily influenced by Freddie Hubbard's sound, shot to the forefront of the hard-bop revival when he formed the quintet with altoist Donald Harrison and pianist Mulgrew Miller that debuted on New York Second Line (october 1983). The more original Crystal Stair (april 1987) and Black Pearl (january 1988) featured pianist Cyrus Chestnut. His "solo" career (still leading a sax-piano-trumpet quintet) began with Terence Blanchard (december 1990), with the 13-minute Afro-Cuban shuffle Azania, and Simply Stated (october 1991). The soundtrack for a Spike Lee film was turned into The Malcolm X Jazz Suite (december 1992), again scored for his quintet. That was his first major accomplishment as a composer (Blues For Malcolm, Malcolm At Peace) and as an original (not derivative) arranger. Romantic Defiance (december 1994) and especially Wandering Moon (june 1999), with Joe & O, perfected his baroque mastery of the hard-bop quintet. Blanchard's romantic ambience had become a cliche' within the cliche'. Bounce (february 2003) expanded the quintet to a sextet by adding electronic keyboardist Robert Glasper and guitarist Lionel Loueke, but marked a retreat by the composer. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

While still a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1983-86), pianist Mulgrew Miller refined a modal style of playing that evoked McCoy Tyner's more mainstream work. It took a while for Miller to also emerge as a composer and an arranger. Wingspan (may 1987) featured him in a small-ensemble context (a quintet), playing relatively harmless originals. The idea was applied to Countdown (august 1988), in a quartet with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams, and especially to the septet of Hand In Hand (december 1992), that contained his most sophisticated art yet.

White pianist Fred Hersch coined a lyrical and sentimental style through the trio recordings that peaked with Horizons (october 1984), the first album of mainly original material, definitely maturing with the lullabies and elegies of Heartsongs (december 1989) and Forward Motion (july 1991).

White soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman, who played with Miles Davis (1973-74), had demonstrated his austere compositional ambitions and his multi-reed skills (soprano sax, tenor sax, flute and clarinet) on the live Open Sky (june 1972), in a trio with bassist Frank Tusa and drummer Bob Moses. Liebman mixed ideas from classical music, progressive-rock, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and Lennie Tristano in the 13-minute Places, the ten-minute Questions and the eight-minute Constellation. Lookout Farm (october 1973), the project with pianist Richie Beirach, offered an original blend of cool jazz and free jazz in the 14-minute Pablo's Story and the 24-minute M.D. /Lookout Farm. Drum Ode (may 1974) veered towards a baroque and exotic fusion (The Iguana's Ritual and Loft Dance), thanks to a line-up that featured Liebman on soprano sax, tenor sax and alto flute Beirach, Moses, guitarist John Abercrombie, percussionists Barry Altschul and Collin Walcott, vocalist Elene Sternberg, as well as bongo, conga and tabla players. The group (including Beirach, Abercrombie, bassists Charlie Haden and Frank Tusa, percussionist Don Alias, sitarist Arooj Lazewal, tabla player Badal Roy, tamboura player Gita Roy) toyed with Indian-jazz fusion on Sweet Hands (july 1975), but the highlight was the funk-jazz-rock workout Dr Faustus. Forgotten Fantasies (november 1975) was, instead, just a duo of Liebman and Beirach, straddling the border of fusion jazz, cool jazz and free jazz in Beirach's 13-minute Obsidian Mirrors.
After briefly flirting with Herbie Hancock's funk-jazz, and recording a straightforward hard-bop album such as Pendulum (february 1978) with a quintet featuring Beirach, Tusa, trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Al Foster, mostly devoted to Beirach's 18-minute Pendulum, in 1978 Liebman formed his Quintet with veteran Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino and guitarist John Scofield. Their Opal Heart (february 1979), Doin' It Again (august 1979) and especially If They Only Knew (july 1980), with their most mature post-bop compositions (If They Only Knew, Capistrano and Move On Some), were much more structured and linear than the music of Lookout Farm.
Liebman's chamber music surfaced on the drum-less Dedications (september 1979), containing pieces for soprano saxophone, piano (Beirach), bass (Eddie Gomez) and a string section (The Delicacy of Youth and The Code's Select Code) as well as a duo of soprano sax and cello (Ode for Leo) and a duo of soprano and violin (Mr K).
Its ludic alter-ego was What It Is (december 1979), featuring Scofield, pianist Kenny Kirkland, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, bassist Marcus Miller, drummer Steve Gadd, percussionist Don Alias.
The project of Lookout Farm was de facto reprised with Quest, another collaboration with Beirach but this time in a quartet with Liebman on soprano only and in a lighter context: Quest (december 1981), with Napanoch, Quest II (april 1986), the live NY Nites (march 1988), Natural Selection (june 1988), bordering on new-age music, Of One Mind (july 1990), devoted to free jazz, etc.
More important were Liebman's solo-saxophone (with overdubs) concept album The Loneliness Of A Long-Distance Runner (december 1985), Trio + One (may 1988), a set of creative improvisations with bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, the neoclassical Chant (july 1989), a new duo project with Beirach including three Beirach Incantations and three Liebman Invocations, and a second solo concept The Tree (april 1990), all of them focusing on the soprano saxophone.
While the David Liebman Group featuring keyboardist Phil Markowitz and guitarist Vic Juris largely disappointed in the linear, structured pieces of Songs for My Daughter (may 1994), Liebman's most intense work was for the chamber setting, whether the impressionistic vignettes of The Seasons (january 1993), for a chamber trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Billy Hart, and of The Elements - Water (january 1997), for the same trio augmented with guitarist Pat Metheny, or the solo meditations of Time Immemorial (november 1997), four lengthy suites for soprano, tenor, alto and baritone, as well as bamboo flute and dudek, further processed by producer Walter Quintus, and of Colors (august 1998) for tenor saxophone. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

California-born tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, the son of tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman, who moved to New York in 1991, was hyped as the next Sonny Rollins or John Coltrane when he debuted at 22 with Joshua Redman (september 1992), although his technique was a humble blend of soul and hard-bop cliches, and, other than the Coltrane-ian Sublimation and Wish, he was still a rudimentary composer and arranger. Wish (1993), by a piano-less quartet featuring guitarist Pat Metheny, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Billy Higgins, was, globally, an amazing waste of talents, as it persevered in that conservative approach to hard bop and soul music. The enfant prodige finally matured on Moodswing (march 1994), a set of originals for a quartet with pianist Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade, that, while derivative to the point of sounding like standards, nonetheless displayed his true voice (Rejoice, Sweet Sorrow). A similar quartet was documented on the live double-CD Spirit of the Moment (march 1995) containing quite a few extended originals (the waltzing soprano-led Second Snow, the ebullient and funky Herbs and Roots, the Coltrane-ian ballad Neverend, the teetering Lyric). Adding a guitar to his favorite quartet, Redman ventured into funk and hip-hop rhythms on Freedom in the Groove (april 1996), his sax solos imitating gospel and soul vocals (Invocation, Stream of Consciousness). His most ambitious and introspective album yet, Beyond (may 1999), experimented with different time signatures, looser improvisation and Eastern modes (Leap of Faith, Last Rites of Rock'n'Roll, Twilight and Beyond). The seven-movement suite Passage of Time (june 2000) was the natural evolution of that experiment, finally delving into the psyche of the musician rather than into the tradition of jazz (Our Minuet, Bronze, Enemies Within). As his music became more profound, his melodic gift actually became more striking. On the other hand the trio formed with organist Sam Yahel and drummer Brian Blade, first named Yaya3 (january 2002) and then Elastic (march 2002), indulged in eclectic groove-oriented funk-soul-jazz feasts. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

St Louis-raised white alto saxophonist David Sanborn, who had played with Paul Butterfield (1967) and Stevie Wonder (1972), specialized in catchy and danceable pseudo-jazz drenched in rhythm'n'blues, funk and pop music. Trivial collections such as Hideaway (1979) and Voyeur (1980), mostly inspired by bassist Marcus Miller, became best-selling albums. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Texan trumpeter Roy Hargrove debuted at 20 with Diamond In The Rough (december 1989) as one of the "young lions" of the hard-bop and bebop revival. His solos were praised by the establishment but added very little to the history of jazz.

Detroit-born tenor saxophonist James Carter, who relocated to New York in 1988 and already a teenage sensation, established himself as one of the faceless stylists of his generations with J.C. on the Set (april 1993), playing tenor, alto and baritone in a quartet with piano, bass and drums (notably on the 14-minute Blues For A Nomadic Princess). Carter flirted with funk and rock on Layin' in the Cut (june 2000), accompanied by rock guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and drummer Calvin Weston. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Cuban-born trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, exploited the Latin element on Tumbaito (1985) and Danzon (november 1993), but more appropriately displayed his unusual range, fire and speed on the hard-bop originals of Swingin' (january 1996). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Stanley Jordan was perhaps the first real innovator of the guitar since Jimi Hendrix. He invented a way to play the guitar as if it were a piano, with two independent hands. In fact, he occasionally played two guitars at the same time. Albums such as Touch Sensitive (1982) and Magic Touch (september 1984) created a sensation but, like many in the neo-trad generation, Jordan wasted his talent playing rather tedious material.

Blind pianist Marcus Roberts, Wynton Marsalis' pianist since 1985, coined an original neo-traditionalist style based on the lessons of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk on The Truth is Spoken Here (july 1988). He went even as far as to rediscover archaic jazz techniques such as stride piano on As Serenity Approaches (november 1991). However, he best expressed his tormented persona on the Ellingtonian suites of Blues for the New Millennium (may 1997).

White pianist Brad Mehldau specialized in Bill Evans-style trios propelled by his lyrical but rather lightweight playing. After establishing his voice on Introducing (april 1995) and Art of the Trio - 1 (september 1996), Mehldau began to adopt the austere approach to the piano of a Keith Jarrett with the solo piano meditations of the Elegiac Cycle (february 1999) and the trio concept of Places (march 2000). Further expanding his horizons, the chamber pieces of Largo (april 2002) ran the gamut from droning to dissonance to electronics. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

White trombonist Steve Turre, who also became a virtuoso of the conch shell while accompanying Roland Kirk, reinvented chamber jazz through ever more complex and longer compositions and diverse settings that ranged from ensembles of conch shells to traditional jazz combos. The depth of his music kept increasing via Fire and Ice (february 1988), Right There (april 1991) and Rhythm Within (1995) until the delicately baroque take on Latin music of Turre (june 1996). TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

British black tenor saxophonist Courtney Pine (1964) grew up with funk, soul and reggae music, influences that were still discernable on Journey to the Urge Within (july 1986), containing the hit song Children of the Ghetto. The influence of John Coltrane and of the neo-traditionalists merged instead on the acoustic Destiny's Song + the Image of Pursuance (august 1987), but that turned out to be only the beginning of a tortuous stylistic itinerary that took him from Jamaica to Africa to India and that peaked with To The Eyes Of Creation (1992). Even the strictly jazzy Modern Day Jazz Stories (1996), featuring keyboardist Geri Allen, trumpeter Eddie Henderson and vocalist Cassandra Wilson, turned out to be a detour rather than a maturation because Underground (1997) employed turntables, drum-machines and digital programming. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

Canadian-born pianist and vocalist Diana Krall, who relocated to New York in 1989, was the most successful pop-jazz crossover artist of the 1990s, selling millions of copies of her album The Look of Love (january 2001), but her ballads were the quintessence of mediocrity.

The Death of Jazz

Many of the musicians of the older generations thought that jazz music was rapidly dying. What was dying was the traditional concept of jazz as a history of how to play instruments. Older musicians and critics had always analyzed and appreciated jazz first and foremost as a set of instrumental techniques. A jazz musician was deemed to be a classic if his/her style was immediately recognizable, unique, profoundly personal. In the 1990s, instead, jazz was entering an era in which few jazz musicians could boast such a personal style.

Bebop, cool jazz and free jazz had changed a lot of features of jazz, but not its fundamental attribute: of being the art of how to play instruments. While both merely a development of previous styles (hard bop and free jazz), jazz-rock and creative music shifted the emphasis from the instrument towards the atmosphere, the overall "sound", the soundscape. The effect was to downplay the importance of the instrumental technique. Thus the death of jazz for those who thought that the history of jazz was the history of how Louis Armstrong played the cornet and how Charlie Parker played the saxophone and how Miles Davis played the trumpet. The new jazz was a descendant of Duke Ellington not of Louis Armstrong.

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