Sunday, January 14, 2007

RIP Turiya (and Brecker)

Sad to get the news that Alice Coltrane has passed. Surprised she was "{only" 69 years old.

Amazed by the following excerpt from an article on her on the AP wires:

"> "As fascinating — and influential — as her later music was, it
> tended to obscure the fact that she had started out as a solid,
> bebop-oriented pianist," critic Don Heckman told The Times on
> Saturday. "I remember hearing, and jamming with, her in the early '60s
> at photographer W. Eugene Smith's loft in Manhattan. At that time she
> played with a brisk, rhythmic style immediately reminiscent of Bud
> Powell.
> "Like a few other people who'd heard her either at the loft or
> during her early '60s gigs with Terry Gibbs, I kept hoping she'd take
> at least one more foray into the bebop style she played so well," he
> said.

Okay, Don Heckman.

My favorite Alice Coltrane performance is the live two album set with Reggie Workman and Roy Haynes, Transfiguration.

Just a few days ago I was listening to Billy Cobham's Crosswinds and said to myself, "Self, who is that on tenor sax?" It is, of course, Michael Brecker. Gifts come in all sorts of packages.

As for Alice Coltrane...imagine being John Coltrane's pianist after McCoy Tyner. Imagine carrying on a completely unique and immediately recognizable musical (and pianistic) style after John Coltrane's death. Yeah, Heckman, really too bad she didn't play that bop again.


Good Times said...

so incredibly pitiful with the bebop nostalgia. Live In Japan? Live At the Village Vanguard Again? "We" still haven't assimilated that music (which I suppose is why "we" are having nostalgia feelings of days of Bop gone by.)

What an incredible voice on the piano!

Brecker's passing was sad as well. No doubt you've read David Valdez's piece on Brecker. I was given moment for pause when I read:

I sat with Anders in the balcony at the concert. Every single line Brecker played that evening Anders was able to tell me what record it was off of. These lines weren't just short licks, they were entire phrases of music. I heard it then for the first time. Brecker was more of a composer than an improviser!

"More of a composer than an improviser." Hmm. You don't say.

Another occasion for pause was reading Paul B's post on Bagatellen's Brecker post:

Brecker's pyrotechnical chops aside, he definitely took Coltrane's approach (post-bop and modal Trane, that is) and moved it up another notch.

Definately? Post-bop and modal Trane moved up another notch? Up another notch in the tax bracket? Does that mean anything? What does that mean? Do you know? Is it true?

I ask: What if Brecker chronologically came first? What if having never heard Coltrane, Brecker was put in Coltrane's situations (Monk's group, Miles' group, the "classic" quartet etc--would he have sounded like John Coltrane? Would he have come up with all the things that Coltrane came up with?

What if Coltrane had Brecker's benefit of Coltrane having done all the hard math ahead of time? Do you think Coltrane would sound like Brecker?

peter breslin said...

Pitiful is a fine, resonant term. Santa Fe is a very small town and as such the music community is even smaller (with a seasonal swell during the opera and chamber music festivals in the summer) and the subset of "jazz" musicians is even smaller. (The chamber music festival used to feature a couple of token jazz shows, even getting hip enough one year to bring Steve Lacy and Irene the token shows are World Music, with for example Anoushka Shankar last year). Anyway the reality here is that one rubs shoulders with all sorts of hep jazz cats, the vast majority of whom think of bop as the pinnacle of the art form and lament its passing while simltaneously doing everything they can to evangelize the bop gospel. There are a very few jazz revivalists as well (a band called The Santa Fe Red Hot Chile Peppers, who stomp out ludicrously construed Dixieland). The edges of the music are not defined by the people on the edges but by the people who define a conservative mediocrity as jazz. We have amazing players here working in all sorts of new idioms...JA Deane, Chris Jonas, Molly Sturges, Joe Sabella, Dave Wayne, Mark Weaver, a few others and a host of younger players who are heavily into electronics and noise. But the contrasts are intense and the animosity sometimes rather pointed. Again, however, not from the "free musicians" toward the bop trad front, but the other way around.

As for the Brecker/John Coltrane, no, no. Most definitely no. I need to say again for clarity: no. The young players who sounded their way through the post-Trane world created something definably new for the tenor sax. But this was an effort to make Coltrane's "modal," scalar approach fit in several different musical contexts. Sonny Fortune's solo on Agharta Prelude with Davis, for example. Or the tenor players who went through Elvin Jones' bands. (Leib, Grossman, et al). I have not heard one tenor player from this generation (Brecker included) who had the sheer fiery musical conception of Coltrane.

White people in particular as well as certain critics, musicians and academics confuse the self-conscious and manifest use of musical materials with essential originality. Or are more willing to embrace a music with familiar, traceable materials. Rough hewn searching styles get "welcomed home" into slicker aesthetics that are more safe because the chops are more immediately apparent. Americans in particular are very childish and utilitarian in this regard.

Anyway we pity the tenor play after Trane. The pianist after Taylor. The bassist after Jimmy Garrison. The drummer after Elvin Jones. (We doubly pity the pianist after Tyner...a fine example of an exhilarating series of innovations that almost instantly became cliches and that stopped dead in their tracks almost 40 years ago).

Who do I want to play like today? Ah, the old bop masters of course. How often would it happen that smeone would say "wow, you sound just like Alice Coltrane!"