Saturday, August 21, 2010

Van Morrison and the Technique of How to Live

Whenever I read I highlight, but in a peculiar way. I don't highlight for facts or ideas. Rather, I only highlight things that, for whatever reason, resonate with me on some deeper level.

When I finish a book, I go back and re-read what I have highlighed, which reinforces that Resonant Thing inside of me. My posts often consist of articulating and amplifying this resonance, so that hopefully it will resonate in you as well. (In my book this is symbolized ≈. That with which ≈ resonates is ¶.)

I finally finished this book on Van Morrison that I started reading at least a couple of months ago. This morning I've decided to review the scattered passages I highlighted. In what follows, you may see that a kind of narrative emerges, one that is certainly relevant to me, but perhaps to you as well.

"I don't want to just sing a song... anyone can do that... something else has got to happen" (VM).

America exists as an emotional idea, both within its own people and the wider world.

The BBC depended upon imported American records during the Second World War.

Port cities throughout the UK emerged as centres of Britain's growing popular music scene.

... jazz, blues, country records, all saturated with the spirit of America, the sound of a far-off new world dream, where even songs of poverty, hard work and harder luck seemed magical.

"Blues isn't to do with black or white; blues is about the truth, and blues is the truth" (VM).

... if 'having the blues' is a cultural shorthand for feeling down, then 'singing the blues' is surely something else -- suggestive of resistance and endurance.

Sun's going down, nightfall gonna catch me here. --Robert Johnson

... the blues can sound like anything -- it is in performance that they become "truth."

"I wanted to make my own blues, my own soul music, to do something of my own with it. That's where I'm coming from" (VM).

So he wanted to take the tradition, and innovate within and beyond it.

... these songs were not necessarily born to be sold, to be "listened" to for pleasure or "consumed" by others; other imperatives came to bear upon their coming into being.

Morrison was perhaps at the deepest point of his interest in the metaphysical power of music -- music as healing force.

"Jazz is not a kind of music, it is an approach, and it applies to how one goes about finding their voice, relating to a tradition, stepping into the unknown and swinging" (Ben Sidran).

... Morrison has called it "the sense of wonder," the unconscious living in the now, that seems to fall from us as we make the transition from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to experience.

Paul McCartney once described the riff of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" as "the riff of the universe... that just keeps going forever."

[Gloria] is simplicity of a near-primal kind... the feel -- that which cannot be transcribed -- is everything.

[Gloria is] so pure, that if no other hint of it but this record existed, there would still be such a thing as rock and roll.

"How can a 51-year old sing that? I can't relate to it. Why am I expected to, anyway, at 51? I wrote it when I was 20. I was never paid for Brown Eyed Girl" (VM).

The memory of it [the Garden] is both a thorn in the side, a reminder of the Fall, but also a spur on to working towards some kind of return.

So there is this literal use of the term [healing] to consider, and it is certainly part of Morrison's deeper interest in music, in its nature and its "secret power."

"Any kind of art or music is involved in healing, whether it's rock 'n' roll or classical music, it's all healing.... All this is just the foreground, but the background is something else."

... the ancient roads are under our feet, criss-crossing what appear to be our fixed navigational material realities, hidden but perceptible.

This is the role of the ancient highway, to provide a link between the "forgotten" reality and the present material circumstances...

"He's after the musical technique of how to live" (Patrick Kavanagh).

Samuel Becket said that the most he could dare to hope for was to make or leave "a stain on the silence".... [His] ambition was to create what he called "a literature of the unword."

"The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express" (George Duthiut).

Distrust the artist who tells you they know exactly what their work is "about."

In Morrison's art, silence is at the centre, and sometimes when he approaches that centre on a good night onstage -- when something is about to happen -- the conditions need to be absolutely right or it won't happen.... [It is] where the commonplace can become the marvellous.

... silence is a positive presence, rather than a vacuum, or an absence. It is an aspect of being, rather than non-being.

Q: ... [Y]ou seem to sing somewhere between your throat and your heart.... [I]s that the zone you want to both come from and resonate in other people, the heart?

VM: Eventually it'll get into the heart. That's what the eventual goal is -- Exactly.

Why was I writing this kind of material when my contemporaries weren't? So I wanted to find out where I stood and which tradition I came from. Well eventually I found out that the tradition I belonged to was actually my own tradition. It was like being hit over the head with a baseball bat. You find out that what you've been searching for you already are. --VM



ge said...


what guts to make those many giddy squeals and monolog and quote James Brown...and to keep the take!

Gagdad Bob said...

Great. I like the description:

"Biographer Brian Hinton calls it the central song in the album and 'perhaps in Morrison's whole career. "It starts just like 'Cyprus Avenue', no coincidence as the line about 'songs from way back when' hints, and with a walk down the avenue (of dreams), to the sound of a haunted violin. A song of full, blazing sex as well as revelation. The healing here is like that in Arthurian myth, the wounded King restored through the action of the Holy Grail, but it is also through as graphic a seduction, almost, as the original live version of "Gloria"'.

"Author Clinton Heylin concludes that "what makes the song, and indeed Into the Music work is its self-awareness. Gone is the awkward self-consciousness...It is replaced by a newly assured tone, born of a genuine awareness of what he (Morrison) was attempting."

Gagdad Bob said...

This Saturday music thing is not working. I think I'll go on hiatus for now. We shall return at such a time as we have something novel to say to ourselves.

Magnus Itland said...

I'm with you on the resonance part, except I don't physically highlight in paper books. But for the most part, any book worth reading at my age is worth reading for the resonance. The resonance wakes something in the heart, and the sum of that which is awakened this way becomes a treasure of the heart. It cannot easily be taken away.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Unfortunately, I cannot listen or view the videos, which I'm certain are great, however, I do get "something" from your words, Bob, and often the words, or rather the meaning they convey in the comments.

For example: "VM: Eventually it'll get into the heart. That's what the eventual goal is -- Exactly."

Indeed. Not only does Van's music, and all truly deep music touch my heart but it becomes a part of my heart.

And it grows, and as it grows it...heals. Literally.

And what he said about the blues, the Resistance it offers, or rather the strength to help me resist, to endure, Indure, and to stand fast...until I get to that moment where I overcome!

That's what truly great music can do, and more...

It conveys or speaks God stuff to my entire Being.

I shudder if I even attempt to imagine a cosmos without truly great music. Can't do it.
Thankfully, it's impossible. Truth, Goodness n' Beauty...Love! Simply cannot exist without it.

Indeed, how can one properly praise God without it? Great music is an essential part of the language of O and an essential part of human life.

Thanks Bob. Thanks.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Well really, Van is the spiritual evolution of music beyond vapid recitations and affectations. He is a worshiper and understands that the glory of his music does not redound only unto himself.

It is a healing wellspring, this music from the Muse of muses. Why shouldn't it be giddy? I was blind and now I see the 7th intervals! Yes, when it gets right next to you, out of you, no. . . through you like a channel, a torrent, a river of life. How can you stand yourself?

You can't. There's no room for even a small self when the Healing is crowding out the noise and the blue and jive and resurrecting it, remaking it new, bornin' it again.

Yeah. Like that.


Gagdad Bob said...

Raise your hand if this reminds you of that old girlfriend.

Joan of Argghh! said...

NRBQ! Wow, it's been a while.

Rusty Southwick said...

Morrison could be the quintessential cerebral musician of our time without even trying to be. Music itself resonates on many levels, but when it becomes transcendent, that's the magic. Occasionally, an artist will stumble across transcendent material. Morrison, on the other hand, was immersed in it. To be consistently transcendent is almost otherworldly. Or maybe it is...

One highlight of his for me was the 1986 album "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher." And one can't go wrong with Moondance.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think this must have given Van the idea for Moondance.

ge said...

a Van tune that for me stands out on its album 'Too Long in Exile'
is TILL WE GET THE HEALING DONE [I crave the chorus's bass riff/organ]:

Down those old ancient streets
Down those old ancient roads
Baby, there together we must go
Till we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till you're satisfied with your life
Till you're satisfied with your life
Till you're satisfied with your life
And it's running right
And it's running right
Sometime you've got to sit down and cry
When you deal with the poison inside
Till we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till you feel the tingle up your spine
Till you're satisfied and you're mine
Till you feel a tingle up your spine
Get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till you live in the glory of the world
Till you live in the land of the sun
Till you feel like your life has just begun
Till we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till we dwell in the house of the Lord
Till you don't have to worry no more
Till you open a brand new world
Till we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till it makes you feel alright
Till you're satisfied with your life
Till you know you live in the light
Till we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till you look at, well, the mountains every day
Till you wash all your troubles away
And you live right here in the day
Till we get the healing done
Until we get the healing done

Till it's truth and it's beauty, and it's grace
Till you've finally found your true place
Till you know your original face
Till we get the healing done
Child, till we get the healing done

When everything is going right
Till you're satisfied with your life
Till you're living in the light
Till we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

When you feel it, when you feel it in your soul
Baby, and you really know
That you reap just what you sow
When we get the healing done
Till we get the healing done

Till you know that it's working every time
Till you work it out in your mind
And you know it straight down the line
Till we get the healing done
Make no worry till we get the healing done

We gonna go back, back to our favorite place
Look at it again
See it all through a different eyes
When we get the healing done
When we get the healing done

ge said...

Virgo dawning, Van b-day next week

Virgo :
Technique must be learned. Barring very unusual cases, it must be learned from one who is a "master of technique." Thus he who wants to learn the secret of smooth, easy and supremely effective performance has to become an apprentice. He must become objective to his own ways of behavior. He must analyze them and refuse to be blind to their defects. He must be absolutely honest and un-glamoured in the evaluation of any performance: his and others also. He must learn to criticize dispassionately and without prejudice. He must be keen in discrimination. He must be "pure."

Northern Bandit said...

Another cool rock'n'roll item from my pal's collection: Signed Eat a Peach

ge said...

sort of on-topic: but check out this strange old & trivial but to me then believable theory of a brainy druggy pal!
re the cover of Dylan's SLOW TRAIN COMING.
FILE UNDER 'hidden messages'*
HERE'S theory: the closest image to the viewer is the bent arm---which 'is' an impotent johnson! My pal felt that was BD's intentional """message"""
'He shall rise again' and all

*just now remembering an awkward at my mom's house trying to convince her that 'Cypress Avenue' was 'about' sex or a sexpot's confession!
:) Since then, VM's little-girl thing has appeared oft enough to be old hat!
she a practical virgo like lusty Van, poo-poo'd the whole idea & probably felt i was too into stuff like that..

Van said...

Joan said "Well really, Van is the spiritual evolution of music..."

Really... thanks... but all this talk is getting kind of embarrassing... I really wasn't that....


You mean that Van....

that is embarrassing.

"I wrote it when I was 20. I was never paid for Brown Eyed Girl" (VM)."

I don't know about that Van, but I know that this one is paid every time he hears it.

Van said...

Gagdad said "I think I'll go on hiatus for now. We shall return at such a time as we have something novel to say to ourselves."

I was afraid this is what you meant by that (no new post yet on Monday).

Ok MacArthur... we'll keep an eye out.

JP said...

We need an open thread.

Van said...

Hmmm... I hope Cousin Dupree is being kept on retainer as a caretaker for the grounds...

Cuz! Pliers! Blowtorch! Get 'em!

Cousin Dupree said...


Rick said...


Just writing to let you know we miss your daily broadcasts out here on the moon.

Mostly all we "get" is the OC Channel on this contraption.

Rick out.

Aloysius said...

So why doesn't Van Morrison know how to live? I like everything about this blog except the treacle music that Bob loves.

Gagdad Bob said...

"Treacly" is not an adjective I would have chosen to describe my taste in music.

Okay, maybe the sunshine pop.

Tigtog said...

It would seem Gagdad has assumed a hermit's life. Does anyone know the cause of his recluse? Just back from travel and in need of a good dose of verticalness.
I have been piecing together the intersection of Zarathustra, the Jewish Prophets and Christ. The concept of the Saoshyant was rather striking.

Hope all is well.

Jack said...

I found this interesting.

From the liner notes of Jon Hassell's *acoustic* record "Fascinoma":

"With this recording, I locate myself squarely within that aspect of music which is fundamental and irreducible: the beauty of the sound. This is what Dane Rudhyar calls "tone-magic"-- a concept derived from ancient practice wherein the quality of the tone itself communicates meaning quite apart from any further arrangement in an 'artifice' of music."

JP said...

Bob periodically decides not to blog.

It is what it is.

Van said...

JP said "Bob periodically decides not to blog.It is what it is."


Yep, I think sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and as long as Cuz can find the pliers & blowtorch as needed, it's all good.

Good job Cuz.

(There's a flask hidden in the garage for ya... but careful searching... you remember what happened last time....)

Gagdad Bob said...


Quite true. No amount of virtuosity in the potter will transform clay to gold. "There once was a note, pure and easy / Playing so free, like a breath rippling by...."

Jack said...


I am itching for something on the ECM ambient Jazz side of things. Any recommendations?

Gagdad Bob said...

Well, Jon Hassell released one of the landmark ambient albums on ECM, Power Spot. More recently he's released Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street, which I haven't heard but is getting great reviews. I just got this one, Quiet Inlet (great title) by Thomas Strønen, and I really like it. Another one I like is Holon by Nik Bärtsch, which has elements of ambient, but still with some jazz meat on the bones.

Jack said...

Power Spot was on my list to get. I do have Hassell's most recent release and it is some really great stuff. I will check out "Ronin" and "Quiet Inlet".

Thank you.

Jack said...

"You can divide things into hip, pre-hip and post-hip," he says. "Pre-hip and post-hip have things in common: hip is a dangerous part, because you’re totally involved in being au courant. Post-hip means that you’ve punched through the sound barrier, and you’re discovering that clichés can be true; you’re discovering that what we call a cliché can be fundamental. And you then have the courage to be there wholly."

-Jon Hassell

Jack said...

"In order to grasp the enormity of the situation—that we are living in a psychologically geometric space, carved from words, slogging our way through a multidimensional traffic jam where accidents are happening all around you every second—you have to suspend disbelief and try to imagine the unimaginable, to feel intuitively that which is not yet known." -Jon Hassell

okay. I'll stop. Too good not to share!

ge said...

Van MORRISON, born August 31, 1945...

he aint no Clown...
neither are his VIRGO musical sunsign-mates
through GEORGE JONES, JOHN KOERNER, JOHN STEWART [do check him out for inspired rich-baritoned americana]---and 'quicksilver [mercury, get it?] messenger service' was mostly august-sept babies tambien !
also Holst & Virgil Thomson, the latter of whom i once dined with

dwongmeichi said...

Robert, You are so strange, I love you, in the purist of ways!

Tigtog said...

To blackhole re:

"Bob will begin a new book project within a fortnight. The book will be a success."

You may be right. One wonders what new dimension he will bring to his cosmology.

I have often wondered why the age of Prophets ceased. Was it that people were not in the mood to listen or did they substitute physicists, scientists and philosophers in their stead? Bob makes a very valid observation concerning Darwin's thoughts becoming a religion. Ditto Marx. They have become a "state religion" to the properly indoctrinated (see Ivy League and their admirers). As a state religion, they inspire bigotry and a deadening of the spirit when applying their dogma. They are also very boring.

Happy Saturday coons, may the Miles Davis vibe be with you.

Jack said...

Speaking of Miles Davis...

I've been thinking about the controversy between what Miles Started to do in the late sixties and the reaction from the jazz traditionalists.

Stanley Crouch and Wynton Marsalis define Jazz in a very particular way. Off the top of my head things like:

1) The Blues
2) 4/4 swing
3) The "spanish tinge"
4) Revolving form.


I am perfectly willing to concede these points, mainly because I have no real dog in this fight. There is so much GREAT music that falls perfectly into that definition of Jazz and I am perfectly fine with that.

But particularly from "In a Silent Way" and "Bitches Brew" on, Miles may have started a whole other tradition of improvisation which one can call Jazz or not. I think it was Jan Gabarek that said something to the effect that after "Bitches Brew" everything changed.

I've been looking deeper into the work of trumpeter Jon Hassell who didn't really come to his approach through jazz, but through contemporary composition. He studied with Stockhausen in Europe and later hung out with American minimalists like La Monte Young and Terry Riley (the inspiration for the repeating patterns of "Baba O'*Riley*). Finally he studied North Indian Raga with Prandit Pran Nath (as did Young and Riley).

But with all that Hassell was also *heavily* influenced by "Bitches Brew".

Some would call this "fusion" but I don't think that's what it really is. Not in the sense that say someone like John Scofield et al is a Jazz + Rock = Fusion.

I think something entirely different came about and it is still hanging around the margins of various genres. There is probably a lot more of it being created in out of the way places and since it doesn't have a name, or a magazine etc it is likely to remain somewhat obscured.

But I also think it is a epochal change in how humans make music.

Tigtog said...

To Jack re:

"Stanley Crouch and Wynton Marsalis define Jazz in a very particular way."

Can't speak for Crouch, but I have always thought Wynton Marsalis was nothing more than a museum curator. He has all the technique right, but lacks the inspiration. I guess in his case its a family business.

While Bitches Brew was interesting, I liked Miles much better when he returned to playing a clean horn over a pop ballad. He did a Cyndi Laupner tune that I thought was genius somewhere in the 1980s. Can't remember the name of the tune. I have it around somewhere. My point is that Miles' sound is so distinctive and personal to him that to fudge it up with a lot of distortion seems a sacrilege. Why spend all those years discovering your own sound only to distort it through mechanical gimmickry? If you want to sound like a synthesizer, then play a synthesizer. I guess I am a purist. I have also thought that Miles was a little envious of the guitar during the sixties. Up until the late 50s, the instrument of expression in America had been the trumpet (see Satchmo) and saxophone. Then came the age of the guitar.

ge said...

'time after time' was the great miles sooprize

Tigtog said...

To ge re: Time After Time

That's the one. I heard a live recording of Miles covering this tune and was completely stunned. How he could take a sticky sweet pop ballad and give it a whole new understanding was brilliant. Interesting what a great artist is capable of.

Gagdad Bob said...


I think a big part of it simply has to do with the idea that "the medium is the message," to coin a phrase. For example, the emergence of the long playing album in the early '50s meant that jazz players could really stretch out, culminating in an album such as A Love Supreme, which is one continuous suite.

Jazz was an album medium way before rock was. Rock was primarily a singles medium, and didn't begin selling albums in huge numbers (Beatles excepted) until about 1967.

So that's when the big money really began flowing in. Which is when the major labels began signing rock acts, including Miles's label, Columbia, which, under Clive Davis, in one year signed Santana, Sly Stone, Joplin, Blood Sweat & Tears, Moby Grape, Laura Nyro, Mike Bloomfield, and a few others I can't think of at the moment.

Anyway, what changed Miles was hearing about the royalty checks of his labelmates, especially Sly Stone, which dwarfed his. Therefore, Bitches Brew is really an attempt to incorporate the funk sounds of Sly, so that Miles could maintain his commercial viability.

And after that, I think it's just a case of inevitable cross-fertilization that occurs as a result of being aware of so many other "musics," i.e., globalization. It's the same with, say, Christianity, which must now deal with a world with very different faith traditions. One way is to just reject them outright, but I think that's a non-starter (as does the Catholic church). Jazz has always integrated whatever came along. It has always been a hybrid music. It's just that today the jazz musician had a much wider selection of sounds to integrate. It's totally artificial to isolate one particular synthesis, as does Marsalis. That is the way of death -- and his music has always struck me as kind of dead, like a museum piece. He's at the cutting edge, only facing backwards instead of forward.

Tigtog said...

Well look who showed up? Hi Bob, good to hear from you.

Unfortunately for most neophyte jazzers the attention payed to Wynton's opinions on the PBS Jazz documentary created the incorrect impression that Wynton is considered something of an expert. If Burns had spread his intellectual wings and interviewed a wider range of jazzers his film would have been something greater than the canned "black - white" thingy. Its as if Burns took the opinion of many PBS jazz radio stations that won't play white jazz artists. We have that problem in DC. Nothing like injecting race into something that originally transcended such sentiments. That is the quickest way to kill a living art-form.

Tigtog said...

I had the opportunity to listen to "Cast Your Fate Into The Wind" by Vince Guaraldi recently. No matter his composition, I always found his chordal mastery to be beguiling. Too bad he left so soon.

Jack said...

"He's at the cutting edge, only facing backwards instead of forward."

That's as great description of Wynton Marsalis as I've heard.

I don't at all dispute that Miles' motives were less than purely aesthetic. I guess I am finding what he *did* come up with at that point--for whatever reason--to be very musically fruitful. More so "In a Silent Way" than "Bitches Brew".

Not Jazz. Not Rock. Both but neither.

Or maybe that's merely what I am taking from it...what I *need* (or want?) to take from it. It's certainly where I want to be heading.

Jack said...


Miles went down the path of processing his trumpet at a relatively early stage of signal processing. Whatever one thinks of Hassell...he definitely acheives a "warmer" result with processing his trumpet. I've heard Ron Miles process his trumpet to good results.

But I agree that for most of his career Miles had such a gorgeous, human, almost "tragic" sounding tone, that his use of wah-wah and shrieking in the higher registers was not necessarily an improvement.

But with all due respect I don't see his 80's stuff as anything other than his scattered attempts to cash-in and be somewhat relevant. Not at all my personal favorite Miles timeframe. I find it to be fluff.

Mile's at his most "pure" for me is from "Kind of Blue" through the second quintet up to "Nefertiti" and "Sorcerer". The shift started to occur during "Filles de Kilimanjaro".

After that I feel he was doing something other than straight Jazz.

Tigtog said...

To Jack re:

"Mile's at his most "pure" for me is from "Kind of Blue" through the second quintet up to "Nefertiti" and "Sorcerer". "

Completely concur. Would add "Sketches of Spain" to the list.

I am particularly fond of this late 50s early 60s moment for jazz. Its almost like a tropical flower that only blooms once in twenty years and only for a few days. That time in music was special. Too bad they couldn't have stretched it further. Drugs and distractions I guess?

During the fusion moment I did like Weather Report and Return to Forever. That too did not last long.

Jack said...


Yes, "Sketches of Spain" is beautiful. That whole period, from the late 50's to the mid- to- late 60's was surely one of those time periods where there was that precarious balance between innovation and tradition.

For the most part the musicians were well-trained and highly knowledgeable and, Miles in particular, maintained a certain "classical" balance to their innovations.

Not always of course. But their was a sense of humanity and depth to what they did.

I am sometimes pessimistic as to how much the same can be done today. But I try to play my small part in it all...I hope I do, anyway.

Finding that same balance in our own changed circumstances is not so easy. I guess if was, everyone could do the saying goes.

Gagdad Bob said...


Re Miles' artistry -- I don't dispute that at all. However, part of it is that he made a lot of money, and could therefore employ the greatest sidemen -- guys all capable of leading their own bands but for the financial constraints.

Take Bitches Brew. Throw Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinal, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and Larry Young into a room full of cocaine, and something interesting is bound to come out!

Jack said...


That actually made me laugh out loud! Excellent!

Miles was no fool in that sense, and yes he had the ability to PAY the for the best players. Few if any Jazz guys really did at that particular point in time.

That's the greatness of Jazz! (plus or minus the cocaine...or earlier than that--- heroin). Not only did Miles have his own "voice" and musical vision but he was able to bring together incredible musicians that themselves had a distinctive, well-developed voice and vision. And for the most part get out of their way.

(something I wish was more often the case...but I digress!)

You are absolutely right, it would have been unlikely that given all these great musicians in one room that they would fail to create something interesting.

And let's not leave out Teo Macero...from what I've read Miles wasn't exactly "hands on" regarding the post-production.

So maybe when I say "Miles" I am, in this case, taking the most visible part as representative for the whole.

Tigtog said...

To Jack re: late 50s early 60s Jazz

I forget to mention MJQ. I always liked their sophisticated arrangements. Very cool and silky.

Jack said...

MJQ is the epitome of Jazz "neo-classical" elegance. Truly dignified music.

Jack said...


"It has always been a hybrid music. It's just that today the jazz musician had a much wider selection of sounds to integrate."

I guess for me that brings up the seemingly unanswerable question...what *is* Jazz?

I've heard it said that Jazz is something that Jazz musicians do (and really, how useful is such a circular definition?).

Bill Frisell is quoted as saying that, "jazz is an approach, not a distinct sound." What is that approach and how is it distinguished from other approaches to improvisation?

Some would say Frisell doesn't play Jazz. Is the lifelong engagement with this particular tradition i.e. learning the repertoire, being able to play all the standards etc? Is it taking one's main inspiration from the canonical jazz greats?

I do like the idea of Jazz as an approach rather than a style or a rigid genre. That it is more an attempt to form an integrated improvisational voice in light of the total music possibilities while retaining a certain "core" that is recognizably "Jazz".

But something doesn't seem right about that? I don't know what.

I guess if one has to ask...

ge said...

did i ever tell this blog my apparently true M Davis Xmas party story?

~A NY record exec./art director type threw such a '70s bash, Miles was guest of honor; in the back room a mirror was proffered by the host w/ little lines for each inclubber present, a dagger there used to chop the powder.
Miles' turn: he took the mirror and with the dagger pushed all the lines into one biggie and snorted it up a nostril. He raised the dagger and hissed to the host "Where's m'other line mothaf----??"

Grant Maher said...

I don't like the cessation of new posts on this blog.

People depend on this blog. If you don't mind, blog author, post some new material ASAP.

I think I know why you stop. You get bored, especially by your readers/commenters.

You are waiting for novelty, for inspiration, for the urge to blog again, to come back into your life.

But you could, without too much effort, throw us whatever you've got in the meantime. Doesn't have to be stellar.

The first mandate of life is to exist. So, exist. Do not cease your activity. Thank you.

ge said...

ah, to imagine a world where ditties like T H I S
greet your cochleae & stirrups
insteada the overblown predictable compressed macho 'rock' crap on every FM station but the fringes of the dial

[been moving stuff from a studio where the only option is radio]

Tigtog said...

To Jack re:

"I've heard it said that Jazz is something that Jazz musicians do (and really, how useful is such a circular definition?)."

My take is they twist and stretch the square into something sublime. Keep the melody but suspend, flatten or sharpen the chords. By in large that's what I see as the major difference. Beyond that its a duel with your instrument to see if you can speak honestly to the sound. Kind of like blues but wider and much more unpredictable.

Tigtog said...

While in Baku I noticed a strange new pattern among young women; drinking Jagermeister and Red Bull. Quite the cocktail. A new take on the goofball perhaps?

Must be an awful hangover.

ge said...

not to answer for GB, but as Virgil Thomson once wrote re Inspiration:
'when it's flowing you let it; when it isn't you don't force it.'

Jack said...


I've sometimes thought of Jazz as a form of Meta-blues. Like N. Indian Raga to me Jazz is an "infinite game" and does transcend "genre" at least far more so than other forms i.e. it is a universal musical matrix that contains all other musics. At least potentially.

At least that's what I think in my more expansive moments.

But I've been known to exaggerate from time to time.