The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra (1968)

Categories: 1968 and Music.

Let’s put aside the ridiculous title for a minute. This is one of those ’60s efforts to try to bring free jazz into more conservative musical traditions. At least in conception, it reminds me a little bit of the [i]Symphony for Improvisers[/i]. There was definitely a group of musicians in the ’60s who wanted to use the language of the past to claim greater authority for their free jazz experiments. This one is pretty successful, the solos are about as out there for 1968 as you could imagine and even the band playing is pretty nuts at times. But the Read More

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

Categories: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, and Music.

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and quoting other composers’ music. And one of the reasons he failed to successfully perform it in 1962 is because the piece is monumental (that’s usually the word used to describe it): 4,235 measures long, which sounds like an awful lot. (I’ve also read somewhere that Read More

Liberation Music Orchestra (1969) by Charlie Haden, Carla Bley et al.

Categories: 1969 and Music.

This is like Mingus meets Shepp (in spirit, anyway) meets other free of the era (with a Latin tinge). It’s at times radical and at times thoroughly traditional and, if it could maintain that balance, it could be incredible. However, as others have noted, it’s kind of schizophrenic, and sometimes it feels like various solo records and sometimes there’s this orchestra (a very compelling orchestra). Unfortunately, it feels that the politics of the record may have been more important to Haden and Bley than the music. (That’s probably not fair, but that’s what it sounds like at times.) I am Read More

Officium (1994) by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard Ensemble

Categories: 1994 and Music.

I often have a hard time with “ECM” jazz. On the whole I prefer my free jazz loud and intense, not quiet and not so “cool”. In fact, ECM often just sounds to me like second wave cool; a little freer but that’s about it. Frankly, I don’t enjoy it much of the time. That being said, I think one purpose of art is to shock us out of our comfort zones – to piss us off and make us think. And I appreciate records that do that even when I don’t like the style of music. This is a Read More

Far East Suite (1967, 2003) by Duke Ellington

Categories: 1967 and Music.

This is a great piece: it’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s remarkably varied and it does sort of feel like a grand statement. But I can’t help but feel like it’s a statement made 3/4s of a decade too late. Though Ellington’s ability to make himself relevant again and to build upon people who built upon him – there is a definite Mingus influence here – is remarkable, there is also the fact that jazz musicians had been flirting with far more radical “eastern” influences for some time. I am thinking specifically of Trane but also the severely under-appreciated Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Read More