Here’s a couple of videos of me with my favorite funk band and top notch horn section, performing at the Falcon in Marlboro with the Funk Junkies
PICK UP THE PIECES
Here’s a couple of videos of me with my favorite funk band and top notch horn section, performing at the Falcon in Marlboro with the Funk Junkies
PICK UP THE PIECES
Joe Lovano’s creative mastery puts him among the top professionals who ever picked up the tenor saxophone. Lovano is considered by professionals, critics, and jazz enthusiasts as one of the most creative and brilliant improvisers alive today. I had the opportunity to interview Lovano in 2009 and gained insight regarding his journey toward the attainment of improvisational mastery.
Lovano credits his father as being his fist major influence and first real teacher. “Big T” Tony Lovano was a barber who moonlighted as a bebop tenor saxophonist. Tony was born in 1925 and played in and around Cleveland when Joe was growing up. His generation of musicians includes Max Roach (1923), John Coltrane (1926), and Miles Davis (1926). Cleveland born pianist Tad Dameron was also part of this influential group of musicians. Dameron played with the elder Lovano who taught his son many of those tunes. Consequently, the young Lovano was constantly hearing the language before he became a player. His father was thoroughly immersed in the musical scene in Cleveland within the African-American community, and many of those players were influential in his development. He believes that being brought up in such an environment rich in the jazz culture naturally promoted his musical development. It was during this time that he “developed a passion for listening to other musicians and fantasized about playing with them.” The desire to be appreciated by his father’s generation fueled his passion for playing. He credits his father for teaching him all this musical culture. Music was very important in the household. When asked how much of his early exposure to an immersion in the jazz culture influenced or contributed to his development as a jazz musician Lovano replied: “one hundred percent…I was lucky that it was in a real early time when I was learning the mechanics of my instrument and the theory of music at the same time and was aware of the multi-cultural world of jazz.”
As a young college student in 1971, Lovano fondly recalls his time at Berklee college of music in Boston as a time of discovery, where the people who made the deepest impression on him were some Brazilian students like trumpeter Claudio Roditti, saxophonist Victor Brasil, drummer Claudio Kareem, and others who played in the language of Charlie Parker but had a unique and different feel. Lovano quickly became fast friends with these foreign musicians and learned a great deal from the interaction with them, citing that this was the first time he was exposed to players with cultural influences from outside of the USA.
Lovano talks about a similar epiphany after joining the Woody Herman band in 1976 where he played alongside Frank Tiberi who Lovano says “is one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever known. Every time he took his horn out and played he’d never play the same thing. He’s a totally free player within the music that he played.” From that time forward, Lovano has gained an incredible amount of confidence through experience and the opportunity to play with and learn from countless other musicians. From this perspective he concludes that:
“Experience brings wisdom and knowledge of how to translate in musical terms where you’ve come from and how you got there. Each period of your personal development as a musician has to be held close to you…to let things evolve and build a stronger foundation all of the time. No matter what level you get to, every day becomes a summation of where you’ve been, where you’ve traveled.”
Reflections on Creativity
What does Lovano believe to be the essential elements of creativity and original thought in improvisation? Lovano realized early on in his development that “there is a difference between being a disciple and a clone.” By listening deeply to his father’s record collections he recalls thinking that a musician’s voice carries with it more than just the notes, rhythms, and the technical elements.
“I would hear Sonny Stitt, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin, and others play on the same tune. It’s then that I realized that the voice is all about your tone, your attitude, your ideas, your ear, the intervals that you play, and your conception of improvisation.”
Vibraphonist, jazz musician, and Berklee College professor Dave Samuels explains in the January 2009 issue of “Jazz Education” magazine:
Most musicians never learn to speak the musical language. They can read, but they can’t speak without having notes written on a page. They also never can learn the grammar of the musical language. Learning how to speak the musical language is not difficult- anyone can do it. The challenge is to have something worth saying when you speak the language. The difference between an OK improviser and a great improviser is not the skill- technique or memorization- it’s the concept and content. We all learn how to write in school, however, that does not make us all great authors.
Lovano echoes the thoughts of Samuels regarding the concept and content of improvisation:
When you learn how to play from memorizing patterns, riffs, and licks and repeat those things no matter how beautiful they are, you’re going to play the same solo on every tune. How many times are you going to play over a C7 chord in your lifetime? To actually use those tones and make shapes with them has to come from what you’re feeling, and not just what you’ve practiced on your horn. What Dave is talking about is developing a concept and an approach and a way of playing for yourself that translates your personal feelings. Lester Young played from his heart and soul, and he played on that same C7 chord that we play on. It wasn’t like he was just running scales and arpeggios, he was saying something in the piece of music- it’s like your attitude- it’s not what you play: it’s how you play it. There are so many ways to say “I love you”. So many musicians… they reach for the same place every time they play, so all of their solos [sound] like the same exercise.
Joe Lovano, 2009.
Christian Wissmuller, “Dave Samuels: Acheiving One Unified Voice,” Jazz Ed 2009.
The aesthetic philosophy of spiritualism in music is not a new ontology: it has been around since the writings of Plato. This philosophical ontology can be traced through the writings of Plato, nineteenth century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and the more recent works of music educator Anthony J. Palmer. Palmer, in his essay entitled “Multicultural Music Education: Antipodes and Complementarities”, theorizes the “why” question stating “Music is a psychic necessity that originates in the structure of the brain and is passed on genetically from one generation to the next.” This commonality of music amongst all human beings is the basis for a unified or universal aesthetic philosophy of music. Plato and Schopenhauer believed that an element of music exists in the universe that shapes human expression through a collective soul. They believed that this energy is the source of the spiritual component of music, which not only exists in the conscious mind but as a greater common energy shared by all living and reasoning beings. In the context of jazz improvisation this energy could be considered the medium through which many believe original expression is transmitted among musicians and listeners.
Physicalists vs. Metaphysicalists
There are two schools of thought among modern interpreters of mental sciences, those who believe the mind only exists within the matter of the brain (physicalists) and those who believe that the mind is more than just the brain and that some inner force drives its evolutionary forces (metaphysicalists and philosophers). Among those in the second camp are the transpersonalists, those who like Plato, believe that our minds are more than just a collection of neurons, that we are able to transcend our perceptions, and experience a consciousness greater than our individual selves, and that this meta-consciousness or world energy “determines its own fate and evolutionary path.”
Among the scholars that agree with the second philosophy are practicing physician and professor of neurology and psychiatry Oliver Sacks and psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. Sacks explains the philosophy of music as an embedded part of our spiritual psyche when he exclaims:
For virtually all of us, music has great power, whether or not we seek it out or think of ourselves as particularly musical. This propensity to music-this musicophilia- shows itself in infancy, is manifest and central in every culture, and probably goes back to the very beginnings of our species. It may be developed or shaped by the cultures we live in, by the circumstances of life, or by the particular gifts or weaknesses we have as individuals- but it lies so deep in human nature that one is tempted to think of it as innate, much as E.O. Wilson regards “biophilia,” our feeling for living things.
In his seminal book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihalyi
Csikszentmihalyi describes the higher state of consciousness as something that he calls optimal experience, or flow as: the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.
Csikszentmihalyi’s theories are consistent with those who believe that controlling the conscious mind is critical to mastery of any task.
Erich Neumann, in The Origins of History and Consciousness points to the origin of consciousness and the ego as the time when man first asked the question: “Where did I come from?” a time from which all creation and cosmology myths arose. This may also mark the beginnings of music and knowledge of music, a purely human phenomenon. This concept of the function of music as a psychic need to help answer mankind’s most spiritual questions aligns with another popular belief, that music is a product of human expression. Susan Langer wrote: “above all, Art … articulates human nature: sensibility, energy, passion, and mortality. More than anything else in experience, the arts mold our actual life of feeling.” This philosophy is in agreement with Plato’s Ideas, and is also echoed by Bennett Reimer who wrote “The arts are the means by which humans can actively explore and experience the unbound richness of human subjective possibilities.” These sentiments are based on the belief that music (over all the arts) has the ability to communicate the expressions of our innermost thoughts through a medium which has no equal in its ability to articulate the seemingly boundless energies of human emotion. If music is an objectified representation of our innermost thoughts and sensibilities, then its existence may be a product of the life force that gives us the ability to appreciate self and others as part of an interconnected human community.
Anthony J. Palmer, “Multicultural Music Education: Antipodes and Complementarities,” Philosophy of Music Education Review 5, no. 2 (1997): 92.
Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne (New York: Dover, 1969).
Anthony J. Palmer, “Consciousness Studies and a Philosophy of Music Education,” Philosophy of Music Education Review 8, no. 2 (2000).
Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), x.
Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 4.
Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1954), 7.
Susan K. Langer, Feeling and Form: A Theory of Art Developed from Philosophy in a New Key (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953), 401.
Bennett Reimer, A Philosophy of Music Education, second ed. (Enlewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1989
I have been blessed with many fortuitous opportunities over the years that have helped define me as a musical person. Musical mentors have come and gone throughout this period; each one leaving their influential experiences to me in a way that has substantially contributed to my development.
It began with the maternal family, continued through elementary school, college, and the professional years. I am lucky to have had strong musical influences throughout my life but won’t take the time to list them all here and now. There is one exception, however, my latest mentor and friend, Joe Lovano.
Lovano and I met through a chance encounter several years ago at the IAJE conference in NY and quickly became friends. He has inspired me musically to the point that I designed my dissertation research around him. If I could list the one thing that he taught me over everything else it would be how to understand. Understanding is the gift that follows interpretation. Interpretation is the tool we use to understand. Because of Lovano, I don’t understand better, I understand differently.
Invented in 1973, the Acousticoil is a simple contraption
that fits inside your brass or woodwind instrument to
improve its responsiveness. By changing the instrument’s
acoustic dynamics, the Acousticoil provides “constructive
interference,” which improves focus, articulation, projection,
range, and intonation by reinforcing the standing
waves of any sustained pitch. Made of durable industrial
polyester, the Acousticoil easily compresses into the bore
of the instrument. It is available in a variety of sizes to fit
Blow it up at http://www.dmamusic.org/acousticoils
I first tried this insert several years ago and I believe it does “tighten up” your sound. I use it in my clarinet and flute as well. Some might be discouraged by the price, ($45.00 including shipping) but when you consider the durability of this polyester sleeve and the improved response it gives you, I feel it is well worth it.
This product has been on the market for over thirty-five years. The inventor is the person who sells it. I found him very easy to deal with. It comes with a money back guarantee if you are not satisfied for any reason.
Incidentally, I am not a paid endorser for this product, just a saxophonist who wants to share it with others. Enjoy!
This is a seven part series of articles in which I make a case for the inclusion of jazz education studies as a prerequisite for future music teachers. I examine the history of jazz as a multicultural phenomenon, as well as the philosophies that support a comprehensive knowledge of jazz practices and jazz culture. Jazz music, as a representation of both Western European traditional musical practices and several ethnic musical practices from around the world, including music of Africa and Latin America, has no equal in its multicultural facets. Its development as an American music from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day has taken many twists and turns. The music has spawned deep roots and sprouted many branches, and it has continued to remain a consistent medium for the expression of spiritualism and musical democracy. The jazz culture has represented the battle for cultural pluralism throughout the world through the voices of its pioneers and its practitioners. In an age where the story of America is told from a multicultural perspective, a closer look at the history of this music and the people who make it may lead us to a better understanding of diversity and the quest for cultural plurality in our society. Jazz music represents more than a genre where personal expression and communication exists at the highest level; it represents American values of democracy, free speech, and equal opportunity. Jazz training should be mandatory for music teacher training programs nationwide.
In today’s musical classroom environment, teachers are continually attempting to find new ways to provide diverse musics for study and provide a multicultural platform for the dissemination of musical knowledge, based on the model endorsed by MENC and the Tanglewood symposium of 1967, which asked “What do we need to do to make music education more useful to the American society of today and tomorrow? The resulting declaration not only called for the placement of music at the core of the curriculum in schools, but pointed to the importance of the arts in the actualization of the psychological and physiological search for self-identity and worth. It also included the charge for educators to take responsibility for addressing social issues such as values, generational hostility, and racial and international tensions. What followed was the Goals and Objectives project which was designed to make music instruction comprehensive and provide better resources and training for teachers. These declarations, while not new in theory to musical instruction, were in line with the idea of music’s important role in contributing to the ideals of a pluralistic society.
The following decades saw the rise of more MENC type musical societies and several initiatives that were aimed at strengthening the musical literacy of the community through music education and curriculum development. These included the Yale Seminar and the Julliard Repertory Project, which were not successful in their original intent, but provided models for creative thinking and opened the doors for curriculum reform.
Privately funded initiatives like the Contemporary Music Project and the Center for Arts Education Partnership Programs have spawned similar initiatives designed to broaden school curriculums and create stronger ties between the schools, community based organizations, artists, and university arts programs.
The Tanglewood philosophy of providing a multicultural experience to musical learning through the port hole of the Eurocentric model for music instruction may have the same shortcomings as those previously mentioned initiatives. Though the ideas are forward thinking and present new ways to approach music instruction, they provide superficial results in accomplishing the pluralistic ideals that they aspire to. Musicologist Patricia Campbell cautions that although the current trends in music instruction include music from the global community and diverse music making opportunities, the context in which they are experienced focuses less on “cultural interfaces, contexts, and processes of the music.”
The chasm between American music education and American music has continued to widen throughout the last fifty years and may continue to do so unless we begin to take a hard look at the foundational complexion of our educational practices. Patrick Jones examined the current state of American music education and concluded “the growth of school music may be hamstrung by the very traditions that it has developed.” The paradigm of the large school ensemble led by the autocratic music director may have outlived its usefulness in this age of democratic ideology and cultural pluralism. Jones believes that in order to provide a music education for our students that focuses on the goal of “creating life-long musical involvement in the community” , we should seek curricular activities that foster cultural participation, individuality, creativity, and innovation.
The first question to ask is: are we basing our musical instruction on a model that is so foreign to American music that it alienates most Americans from the start? Our music instructional practices have been based on the European Art musical tradition for more than one hundred years. Is this system one that cooperates with the ideas of pluralism and diversity? Is there another historical model of music that can better serve as the roots for understanding our musical heritage and provide us with a strong foundation from which we can pursue our pluralistic and multicultural experiences in music? Perhaps we should start with authentic American music in building a curriculum that will invite all cultures and ethnicities. A closer look at jazz history may provide us with answers to these questions in an attempt embody pluralism in our musical curriculum.
Mark, Michael and Gary, Charles, A History of American Musical Education, Third ed. (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Education, 2007), 364.
Campbell, Patricia Shehan, “Music Education in a Time of Cultural Transformation,” Music Educators Journal 89, no. 1 (2002): 31.
Jones,Patrick M., “Music Education and the Knowledge Economy: Developing Creativity, Strengthening Communities,” Arts Education Policy Review 106, no. 4 (2005): 9.
What can we learn about multiculturalism and cultural pluralism through the history and ethnomusicological study of jazz? Begin with the notions of what jazz represents, where it developed, and how it evolved. Noted jazz historian Paul Berliner set the stage when he described the European colonialist expansion and the African Slave trade as removing many “ancestral voices from their homelands… dispersing to many parts of the world.” These displaced peoples carried their musical customs and traditions with them, where in America they “cross-fertilized one another, producing new stylistic fusions that eventually (asserted) their independence from their parent traditions.” The mixture of African, European, Native American, Latin American, and Canadian customs and traditions combined in a manner that brought forth this music which represents an amalgam of the evolution of many of the world’s musical systems in a foreign land. Berliner pointed to jazz as a unique style of music that is capable of “absorbing new traits without sacrificing its identity.” In support of his theory, he listed several instances where innovative jazz musicians such as Jelly Roll Morton, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Calvin Hill, and others have, over several decades, successfully incorporated various African, Latin, French, Spanish, Indian, and other world musics into their own jazz styles. Further reinforcement comes from the fact that many musicians outside the USA are learning the jazz traditions and “reshaping its conventions according to their own musical traditions.” Jazz music, then, since its inception has been and continues to be a multicultural musical phenomenon. The ability of jazz to synthesize and embrace multicultural influences while maintaining its own identity is harmonious with the ideals of cultural pluralism and multiculturalism.
Berliner, Paul F., Thinking in Jazz:The Infinite Art of Improvisation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 489.
What is unique to jazz that is representative of America’s diverse musical practices? The investigation may draw parallels to our social history. As a relatively young nation of immigrants, Americans sought to establish their own culture through the establishment of universal American beliefs. American identities have been shaped by their forefathers who have pursued the ideals of democracy and freedom. Not withstanding the struggles for social justice, equality, civil rights, and cultural pluralism, they have built a national identity on this philosophical backbone. The spirit of America, it can be said, is based on the beliefs of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all men as framed by its declaration of independence. However, the ideology of the late nineteenth century America was reflective of the ideals of a small group of Northern industrialists who, following the civil war became the architects of American education. In his book on ideology and power William Watkins explained that “The dominating ideology is a product of dominant power.” The power brokers whose industrial fortunes shaped the policies of politics and education were men like Russell Sage, Leland Stanford, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie. Their influence in social issues and the structure of America was tied to the business model that provided them with an exorbitant amount of wealth and economic power. This power extended to education. These industrialists spent a considerable amount of money through philanthropic ventures that helped to establish policies for education throughout the south, in an attempt to best suit the workforce for their capitalist pursuits. Watkins explained, “Organized education, much like organized religion, has long been influenced by the forces of power structure, the state, and those with an ideological agenda.” The focus of this paper is not to retrace the history of educational philosophy in America, but it is important to recognize that educational policies were established and designed by the most powerful White industrialists in America’s history. Within this context of White aristocratic authority, America’s musical culture began to take shape. It should not be a surprising, then, that even today’s call for multicultural music education is held against a backdrop of the dominant Western European Art traditions.
The music of America throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was as diverse as its inhabitants. Music historian Burton Peretti in his dissertation about race, culture, and music in urban America pointed to the “cultural melting pot theories” of music that prevailed during the early days of jazz in the nineteen twenties. He contended that several different ethnic and cultural groups participated and contributed in the quest for a music that would symbolize the developing industrial nation’s artistic life as America’s Music. The melting pot was not only a symbol for the multiethnic contributions to American music, but was also reflective of the racial difference and discrimination that was part of American life during the early part of the twentieth century. Peretti suggested that jazz played a significant role in the American social climate that followed. “The blending of musics, then, held a symbolic significance in this highly heterogeneous nation: increased contact between the races in the future would heighten the significance of heterogeneous musical cultures.” Considering this perspective and the fact that jazz has survived the same challenges as our social history and continues to represent the pluralistic musical paradigm, should it be included in the foundation for the multicultural experiences we are seeking in music education?
Throughout its one hundred year history, jazz has evolved as a democratic institution that embraces multicultural diversity and celebrates individual freedom of expression. Jazz in the twenties originated from the American working classes of both Black and White musicians who could make a decent living from royalties made from recordings, radio, and performances. Peretti wrote that the jazz culture grew out of mass musician migrations from New Orleans to Chicago, and New York where musicians adopted certain values, styles of dress, behavior, and self-education. He wrote that “jazz, at the very least illustrates ordinary American’s struggle, amid scarce resources, to obtain a more perfect and expressive urban culture.” In the case of the African-American, Peretti believed that the historical “study of early jazz fills a void in the scholarship of the Great Migration.” It was through the institution of jazz that these migrants became “artistic citizens” of the urban culture.
Much of the historical culture can be discovered through the music as Berliner explained, “As a result of diverse influences contributing to its tradition, jazz in performance reveals layered patterns of cultural history (for both the performer and the educated listener).” The process of jazz musicians combining the knowledge of their predecessor’s musical ideas with their own improvisations can sometimes produce spiritual happenings that transcend time and place. Berliner believed that: “Such performances can assume a spiritual quality in which improvisers draw strength from a symbolic link to the past, as if becoming joined to a long chain of expressive human history.” This spiritual connection helps to preserve history and retell the
Watkins, William H., The White Architecs of Black Education: Ideology and Power 1865-1954, ed. William Ayers, Teaching for Social Justice (NY: Teachers College Press, 2001), 9.
Peretti, Burton William, “Music, Race, and Culture in Urban America: The Creators of Jazz” (Doctoral Dissertation, University of California, 1989), 61-63.
Why is it important to look at the spiritual dimension of music? Music Educator Anthony J. Palmer describes the importance of the spiritual dimension of music with regards to identity when he said: “All cultures … however formalist might be some of their aesthetic views on art, harbor beliefs in the spiritual power of music, that music holds some special capabilities to lift us toward a higher self.” The fact that all human families have developed musical systems that hold significance for their particular cultures underscores the communal power of music to affect human consciousness. Palmer suggested that this awareness of self-and-others is what validates being human.
Which music, then, holds the greatest potential for the spiritual growth and cultural identity of all Americans? David Ake, in “Jazz Cultures” wrote, “History isn’t collected, it’s told. Each jazz musician, critic, and listener tells a slightly different story of the music’s past and present, emphasizing this participant, ignoring another.” Ake points out that the musical relationships that occur and develop in a jazz context between players, listeners, and scholars alike present “different visions of the past, present and future.” He contends that jazz is “one of the twentieth century’s earliest and most successful activities for bringing disparate racial and cultural groups together.” In this age of diversity and cultural plurality, it would seem logical that a music that embodies individual expression through performance and continually embraces multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural histories as part of its ongoing discourse would be a prudent source of study for the advancement of America’s musical spirit, as well as its pluralistic societal goals.
Palmer, Anthony J., “Music Education and Spirituality: A Philosophical Exploration,” Philosophy of Music Education Review 3, no. 2 (1995).
Ibid.: 100, 01.
Ake, David, Jazz Cultures (Berklee and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002).
How would comprehensive education in jazz studies help to better prepare current and future teachers for teaching music using a multicultural approach? Ake briefly discussed the beginnings of a focus on jazz studies at institutions of higher learning during the nineteen- fifties with a jazz history course at NYU, and the appearance of further programs that centered on jazz studies like Berklee College of Music, Westlake College of Music (1945), and North Texas State University in 1947. He suggested that the academy was very slow in adopting the music for serious study, however, “In 1972, only fifteen colleges or universities across America offered degrees in jazz studies.” The recent trend has been a rise in jazz programs however, as Ake writes that by 1998 MENC statistics reported 97 collegiate degrees in jazz studies with 2000 jazz faculty teaching over 1500 jazz ensembles. Jazz history has become the largest enrolled general music class as well. The now defunct International Association of Jazz Educators, an offshoot of MENC, had made significant progress towards the advancement of jazz and jazz studies in the universities and in secondary schools with its campaign for jazz. Its members provided the educational community with an abundance of jazz educational materials in the last few decades. One of its previous annual conferences recently drew more than “8000 participants from forty-five countries.”
Many “name” jazz performers have been hired in recent years to fill those 2000 university faculty positions that have first- hand experience in the process, culture, and product of jazz. These musicians can provide authentic learning experiences for students and serve as “culture bearers” as Campbell pointed out, as outlined by the International Society for Music Education’s initiative, with the goal of presenting through musicianship “a perceptual shift in the understanding of the ways a group of people thinks and behaves.”
Ake, David, Jazz Cultures (Berklee and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002).
Chinen, Nate, “Jazz Is Alive and Well. In the Classroom, Anyway.,” New York Times, 01/07/07 2007.
Campbell, Patricia, “Music Education in a Time of Cultural Transformation,” 30.
The benefits of jazz education as mandatory teacher training education may be in providing a strong foundation in America’s music from which teachers can apply a multicultural perspective in the classroom. Unlike the European traditional foundation, a foundation in jazz studies provides a multitude of practices that are representative of what Jones listed as the “Composite list of ideas generated in late twentieth century music education movements.” Among these concepts are improvisation, composition, creativity, authenticity, indigenous repertoire, contemporary relevance, American history, theory, and philosophy, and the ability to develop skills in a music that students can use for the rest of their lives. The traditionalist or formalist may argue that the Western European model based on large ensembles can offer all these opportunities, but Jones argued,
There is little room for student creativity. This model is in direct opposition to the traits of knowledge workers, the intellectual heritage of the music education profession as manifested in various movements of the twentieth century, and may actually work against most students achieving the voluntary national and mandatory state standards for music education.
Performance opportunities in small jazz combos create platforms for musicians to communicate and create creative dialog in ways that are consistent with many of the world’s indigenous musical practices. Musicians who are trained in this genre strive to contribute meaningful dialog through these intimate musical conversations that reveal a musician’s background, training, and life experiences. Ingrid Monson describes this interaction as “A moment of community, whether temporary or enduring, (that is) established in such moments through the simultaneous interaction of musical sounds, people and their musical and cultural histories.”
This is not to imply that certain Western practices are not essential to the development of musicianship in the jazz genre, in fact, jazz musical proficiency demands the same rigorous theoretical and technical basis as its classical counterpart. However, as a music more reflective of popular genres in American society like rock, pop, country, bluegrass, gospel, and blues, jazz proficiency provides a springboard from which these other genres, as well as countless other world musics can be approached. For these reasons, jazz is America’s multicultural music, and should be the center of American musical education instead of the marginalized genre of a minority culture. The philosophy for its implementation is summed up by music educator David Elliott who wrote in “Music Matters”,
As a result of the multicultural nature of music, school music programs are also a primary way by which students can achieve self-identity, self-respect, and a sense of tolerance for themselves and others. Since schools today are concerned with preparing students for work and life in pluralistic societies and since schools themselves are more culturally diverse than ever, it stands to reason that schools should support the rich, cumulative, and enjoyable multicultural learning experiences that inhere in school music programs that induct children into a variety of music cultures.
The logical place to begin this musical revolution is in the teacher training programs of American universities, where future educators can become a bridge for the transformation of the culture of jazz from its historical practitioners to the American music educational system. In conjunction with the multicultural movement in American music education and the philosophies some of today’s leading musicologists it may be time to redesign the foundation of our musical practices in a way that is more representative of social pluralism. Jazz music, with its rich history of improvisation and spiritual representation of the struggle for human rights is too important in America’s history to be marginalized in the curriculum. Jazz music is America. Through inclusion in all college music preparatory teaching programs we will not only be working towards including America’s music in our classrooms, but providing educators with a substantial role in making sure that we are preserving the history of this music and the people who make it, a practice that may lead us to a better understanding of diversity and the quest for cultural plurality in our society.
Jones,Patrick, “Music Education and the Knowledge Economy: Developing Creativity, Strengthening Communities,” 8.
Monson, Ingrid T.(Ingrid Tolia), Saying Something: Jazz Improvisation and Interaction (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Elliott, David, Music Matters a New Philosophy of Music Education (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 309.
Remembering Michael Brecker
This is an article that I wrote on Michael Brecker’s birthday, only 2 months after his untimely death in 2007. Having only shared this with a few close friends since then, I thought it would be fitting to publish it now after the fifth anniversary of his passing on January 13, 2007.
I begin this chronicle with a recollection of some historical points of my jazz experience, both past and present. Being a saxophone student and performer for the last thirty six years of my life, and achieving several levels of satisfactory proficiency during that time, I can say that although I am not now (and will never be) considered one of the giants of the industry, I have attained a considerable amount of knowledge of the craft through my experiences of listening, performing, education, and teaching about the masters of the tenor saxophone both past and present throughout the history of the American genre of jazz.
I have been lucky enough to rub elbows during this time with some very influential and accomplished musicians on the jazz scene who have given me a wealth of knowledge, understanding, and hours of personal instruction that have sent my head spinning in a never ending quest to learn the idiosyncrasies that make this music so unique and definitive. During this process I have ultimately become a better musician myself, understanding that the gift of personal correspondence allows the musician to better appreciate the recorded works of their comrades and mentors. It is not my intent to drop the names of Joe Viola, Frank Tiberi, and Joe Lovano as a means to identify who I am, but only as a means to identify some of the educators and artists that have shaped me from a personal interaction in my jazz studies. In reality, although these giants of jazz have had a profound influence on my life through personal contact, I have also been equally influenced by those performers that I only heard on record, or heard stories relayed to me by the aforementioned mentors. Among these fantastic musicians was a man named Michael Brecker.
During the last few years of his life, I was bestowed the great opportunity of meeting Michael Brecker, but his influence on me starts way before that. In 1973, when I was just a 12 year old saxophonist playing in the school band I heard Brecker on the new album “Back to Back”, which became a popular fusion hit album soon after. My exposure at that time to saxophone was limited to one of my grandfather’s records of Coleman Hawkins playing “Body and Soul”. As a young saxophonist, my ears were turned inside out after listening to the modern approach by Brecker. Coltrane, Bird, and Miles were not part of my vocabulary at this time. I was, however impressed enough by the sounds that I heard coming from this man’s horn, (along with the respect I had for my grandfather’s musicians) to seriously consider a career as a musician at the ripe old age of 12. Something about the Brecker finesses on the saxophone intrigued me enough to want to know as much about that instrument as I possibly could. The more I investigated, the more I became addicted.
The night I met Michael Brecker was in March of 2004, at Birdland in N.Y. He was performing with David Liebman and Joe Lovano in a group called “the saxophone summit”. My connection to Lovano allowed me backstage access. Michael gave a riveting performance that evening including his trademark technical precision and soulful licks that have given him his easily recognizable sound. I remember thinking that he looked very pale and thin, though if you closed your eyes you couldn’t tell he was suffering.
After the show I waited backstage just to say hello and express my appreciation for his work. I had to wait for a few others to finish grabbing his ear first. When I finally did get to introduce myself all I could think to ask him was “Do you remember that record you made with Jack Wilkins back in 1978 called ‘You Can’t Live Without It’? Your solo on ‘Invitation’ has remained one of my favorites and has been very inspirational to me over the years”. He looked at me with tired eyes and managed to crack a polite smile. “That was a real, real, long time ago” he said as he shook his head to the side. I could sense that he was not in the mood for small talk, so I thanked him for his performance and said goodnight. That first encounter that I had with Michael Brecker turned out to be his last official public performance. Soon after that I learned about his illness and that he had cancelled the rest of his “summit” tour.
As a forty-six year old school music teacher who still studies and plays the tenor saxophone, I would like to share with you one of the most inspirational thoughts of my recent past. While traveling to New York City along the metro-north railroad this past January 2007 to the IAJE conference, I decided to listen to Michael Brecker’s latest CD called “Wide Angles”, which, incidentally, I had purchased at the IAJE two years before. As I looked out the train window at the cold river fading behind me I could only imagine the great performances that awaited my arrival at the conference. The music that rang in my ears was nothing short of spectacular and it reminded me of the future in the sense of what new hip live sounds I was about to hear. There is no one hipper than Michael Brecker, let’s face it! I listened intently as I watched the icy river and the grey sky slip past my view from the rearward facing train seat.
When I got to the conference, I was astounded, and took in as much of the live event that I could. The performances, as usual, reminded me of the greatness of the human spirit that this music embodies. This annual conference attracts over 10,000 of the world’s most enthusiastic jazz aficionados, teachers, tradesmen, and professionals. There is no larger single gathering of the jazz community on earth! After three short days at the conference, after hearing some of the most uplifting and enjoyable performances of my life, and after finding time to say hello to some of my mentors, (Tiberi, Lovano) I stepped on the train and headed back upstate.
When I arrived back home that evening I learned that Michael Brecker, who had been seriously ill for some time, had passed away that afternoon from complications of a blood disorder. I was in shock. “The world has truly lost one of the greatest tenor saxophone masters of all time”, I thought. “How ironic that his passing coincided with the end of the conference.”
I immediately emailed Wayne, an old friend and college buddy of mine who also is a tenor player and asked if he had heard the sad news. He had, and replied to me “Do you remember that time in 1982 when we drove around the Island of Hawaii listening to his ‘Straphangin’ recording? Wow! Wasn’t that the greatest thing we ever heard? Two tenor players fresh out of Berklee driving around the isle of paradise hanging on every note that came from the car stereo.”
In the three months that have followed my trip to NY I have listened to many of my collection of Michael Brecker recordings and the one thing that keeps bothering me is a certain air of “finality” that permeates these recordings that I didn’t notice before. Not in the recording of 2004, the recording of 1982, or any of the many recordings in between. Even though I have listened to all of these records many times before, they suddenly sound different to me. Now, when I listen, I listen suddenly to a legacy instead of a contemporary. I always knew Michael Brecker was a great jazz saxophonist, I just never expected him to find a spot on my shelf this soon next to my Coltrane and Bird collections. Let us hope that the music of this giant of jazz lives forever, in our hearts and in our heads, with the other masters who have truly earned their places among the greatest saxophonists that have ever lived. God bless Michael Brecker. May a piece of him rest in all of us, and may he rest in peace.
March 29, 2007
The Roots of Jazz: New Orleans and the Euro-Latin-Afro Connection, Part 1
The common perception among scholars, the jazz community, and the world at large is that Jazz originated in several US locations simultaneously in the early part of the twentieth century and was representative of the African American narrative in this country. Although mentioned in many accounts of the history of jazz, the Creole contribution has been treated synonymously with the African-American. This essay raises new questions regarding the origins of jazz and those who created it. Among these questions are the following:
As an illustration of the common theories regarding the origins of jazz,
quotes were taken directly from four college level music history textbooks written between 1976 and 2004. These quotes provide an example of a common thread of thought that attributes the origins of jazz to the folk traditions of West Africa. Although most of the books acknowledge some influence from Western European traditions, all exclusively maintain that the syncopated rhythms found in jazz are of African origin, and that the most significant jazz musicians have been African-American. Consider the following quotes: “In the beginning, jazz was uniquely a product of Black Americans.” [i] “Popular music in America has always been involved with Black folk music.”[ii] “Jazz is … (a) style that grew up among black musicians around 1910.”[iii] “The styles of Ragtime and Blues coalesced in jazz.”[iv] Even Mark C. Gridley, who’s jazz history text provides an in depth analysis of the genre, proclaims “Most of the earliest jazz musicians were Black, and almost all historically significant jazz musicians have been Black.”[v] According to Craig Wright, “Foremost among (the musical influences of jazz) are the traditional musical practices of Africa, as manifested in the spirituals and blues of American Blacks in the South.” [vi]
To further demonstrate popular jazz theories, several other points expressing the views of when and where jazz developed were examined:
“Jazz originated about 1910 almost simultaneously in many southern and Midwestern cities.”[vii] “Ragtime, a syncopated American piano music was the precurser to jazz and was made popular by Black composers in the 1890’s.”[viii] “With the entrance into the field of white and trained musicians, a refining, and in a sense, a corrupting process began. The crude virility of primitive jazz was mellowed by the intrusion of European elements.”[ix]
Each one of those statements, though containing some measure of validity, does not tell the complete story. According to Thomas Fiehrer, “The roots of jazz lay in the nineteenth- century evolution of this (Creole) society since most early jazzmen were Creoles from Louisiana or from somewhere in the Caribbean basin.”[x]Furthermore, ragtime, considered a parent of early jazz, composed and first published in Missouri, was actually first performed by Creoles in the city of New Orleans from1840-1865. The music was spread as far as the West Indies, and into interior farmland America via the traders and the steamers of the Mississippi. “As far as the racial make-up of ragtime composers, out of thirty-one of the most prolific, twenty-one were born in the Mississippi watershed. Only seven were black, including two of the most popular- Scott Joplin and James Scott.”[xi]
[i] Leon Dallin, Listener’s Guide to Musical Understanding, Fifth ed. (Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown Company, 1983), 3.
[ii] Joseph Kerman, Listen, second ed. (New York: Worth, 1976), 352.
[iii] Ibid., 354.
[iv] Dallin, Listener’s Guide to Musical Understanding, 380.
[v] Mark C. Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, second ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1985), 43.
[vi] Craig T. Wright, Listening to Music, Fourth ed. (Belmont, CA.: Clark Baxter, 2004), 406.
[vii] Ibid., 407.
[ix] Dallin, Listener’s Guide to Musical Understanding, 381.
[x] Thomas Fiehrer, “From Quadrille to Stomp: The Creole Origins of Jazz,” Popular Music 10, no. 1 (1991): 27.
Creoles, a term used for people who were born in New Orleans, were both of European and mixed descent, the latter referred to as Creoles of Color. These multi-ethnic and multi- racial people were some of the most prolific musicians at the turn of the century and made significant contributions to the idiom of jazz. Some of the most prominent New Orleans musicians that were credited with being influential first generation jazz men were of Creole ancestry. Notables are pianist “Jelly Roll” Morton (1885- 1941), trombonist “Kid” Ory, (1886-1973) and saxophonist Sidney Bechet (1897-1959). Also noted for his considerable influence on teaching New Orleans clarinetists was “Papa” Louis Tio, (1863-1927) of Latin European ancestry.[i]
During the maturation of jazz styles in the nineteen twenties, show tunes were incorporated into Black musician’s repertoires, but the European influence was evident decades earlier. The French and Spanish territories of Louisiana and Upper Louisiana (Missouri) were both Creole settlements where musics diverse as French Opera, Ragtime, and Military style street bands co-existed and flourished among the inhabitants during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In fact, many Creole musicians were educated by Europeans during this time. According to Gridley, “Children in Creole families often received high quality, formal musical training, some even traveling to Paris for study at a conservatory.”[ii] Thomas Fiehrer concurs that “Creoles studied with musicians of the French Opera house and with scores of itinerant Latin American and European conservatory-trained performers.”[iii] These statements support the theory that European influences were instrumental in the development of the music of the Creoles, and that the emergence of jazz was not simply due to the synthesis of African-American forms of music into the culture of New Orleans. Fiehrer takes this argument one step further by concluding “as it emerged from a society West Indian in origin, French in speech, Catholic in belief, European in its dominant tastes, contacts and referents, early jazz was certainly ‘foreign’ to America.”[iv]
Finally, Gospel and Blues were unique forms of music that were performed by African-Americans originally in the deep South, and remain unique idioms. While exhibiting some commonalities with jazz, and carrying some cross-over elements, they remain separate genres to this day. The African-American genres that were based on call and response, field hollers, and spirituals were “less formal” and retained some African elements.[v] The culture that was responsible for introducing this type of music was the English speaking slaves and later free people who inhabited the area of New Orleans North of Canal St. They were known as “Uptown Blacks”. First as slaves, and later as free Blacks they danced on Sundays in an area known as Congo Square, and brought such African musics as blues, spirituals, and African drumming to the culture of New Orleans.[vi]These musicians learned mostly by ear, and were influenced by the call and response style of music as well as the rural music of the church and plantations from which they came. Up until the segregation law of 1886 they did not socialize or congregate with the French speaking Creoles of the downtown area. Some of the most influential of these Black musicians were Charles “Buddy” Bolden, Joe “King” Oliver, and later Louis Armstrong. Their contributions are well documented, and need not be elaborated on in the scope of this essay.
[i] Burton William Peretti, “Music, Race, and Culture in Urban America: The Creators of Jazz” (Doctoral Dissertation, University of California, 1989).
[ii] Gridley, Jazz Styles: History and Analysis, 40.
[iii] Fiehrer, “From Quadrille to Stomp: The Creole Origins of Jazz,” 28.
[iv] Ibid.: 29.
[v] Ibid.: 40.
[vi] Joan Brown et al., “Jazz History: New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park,” www.nps.gov/archive/jazz/jazz%20History_origins_pre1895.htm.
In order to understand the importance of the early influences on jazz, it is necessary to provide an historical timeline of the social structures of the city of New Orleans relative to its cultural milieu. A brief overview of the history of New Orleans from its colonial times reveals several changes in territorial ownership which may account for its rich European, African and West Indian cultural exchanges. The timeline of colonial New Orleans reads:
Colonial New Orleans was the central outpost and shipping port for French and Spanish trades to the new world and was one of the leading port cities for traders during the colonial period. The French and Spanish colony also was home to many “Free persons of Color” during this time that came from West Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Haiti. Many of these free people of color were highly skilled businessmen, craftsmen, educators, writers, farmers, and musicians. Their numbers were said to be about 10,000 by the civil war in 1860. The Mediterranean lifestyle which encouraged a “theatre of life in the street”[ii] was complimentary for the intermingling of the city’s inhabitants and the rich sharing of cultural heritage from European opera to Military brass bands to Latin American dance music to African street drumming. In this rich community of multi-cultural indulgence the roots of jazz emerged. A cultural profile of the colonial New Orleans city might look something like this:
Much of the music that developed into jazz came from the diverse cultural styles that were found in the French quarter, known as the “downtown” area, where musical influences from Europe, Latin America, Native Americans, Cuba, Mexico, and West Africa converged and emerged as jazz. Here, people of all these different origins celebrated life together and had many opportunities for musical expression within the Creole community. According to the National Park Service Study Team, the brass bands that were popular in the country in the 1880’s were also a rage in New Orleans. They contend: ”The roots of jazz were largely nourished in the African American community, but became a broader phenomenon that drew from many communities and ethnic groups in New Orleans”[iii]
Among these groups living in the downtown Creole community were several European immigrants, including a large neighborhood of Sicilians. These Italian immigrants were among the first popular white musicians to play the new brass band “Dixieland” style. The founder of the first of these jazz bands was a Sicilian native named George Vitale who used the stage name “Papa” Jack Laine. Laine’s Reliance Brass Bands (1890-1913) were integrated before segregation pressures increased.[i] His bands were training grounds for many of the Creole and White musicians. According to Court Carney, “Laine’s bands represent the strongest link between the brass bands of the nineteenth century and the early jazz of the twentieth century.”[ii] He is considered by many as the “father of White jazz” in New Orleans. His “Reliance” brass bands performed a varied repertoire of material- from “religious songs, minstrel songs, and ragtime songs”- for events as diverse as “parades, civic ceremonies, dances, community concerts, and funerals.”[iii] One of his protégés was Nick LaRocca, whose Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded the first jazz record in 1917 in NY, making “Dixieland” music an overnight sensation worldwide. The traditional New Orleans Brass bands are tied to the Cuban and Caribbean style which evolved from Turkish and European military bands in the 1700’s.[iv]
The Cuban Connection
Christopher Washburne documents the “existence and function of certain rhythmic cells in the jazz repertoire that are most typically associated with Cuban music styles.”[v] According to Washburne, many jazz scholars attribute the rhythmic foundation of jazz as African. Gunther Schuller points out that the West African drum patterns are similar to the Charleston, while Ernest Borneman states that the 3+3+2 rhythm over two bars of 4/4 is unmistakably African in origin.[vi] These rhythms, incidentally, are identical to the Cuban tresillo (3+3+2) or the son clave (any grouping of 2-3 or 3-2). Although many of these rhythms may have originated in Africa, their prevalence in Cuban and other Caribbean musics combined with the cultural climate in New Orleans during the nineteenth century’s formative period of jazz, suggest that jazz may be more of an Afro-Cuban rhythmic style than an African one. The Cuban habanera and rumba became extremely popular dance beats and were often performed by brass bands in the nineteenth century.[vii] According to Fiehrer, “in the last quarter of the (nineteenth) century a Mexican presence was joined to the jazz process.”[viii] The Mexicans became increasingly popular as instructors during the late eighteen hundreds, marked by a rich history of clarinet players instructed by a single family of conservatory trained instructors named the “Tio’s.” Cuban music was published in New Orleans and Chicago after 1950, indicating that “jazz interacted with Latin classical and pop genres for at least a half a century before its “birth.”[ix]
[ii] Court Carney, “New Orleans and the Creation of Early Jazz,” Popular Music and Society 29, no. 3 (2006): 302.
[iv] Christopher Washburne, “The Clave of Jazz: A Caribbean Contribution to the Rhythmic Foundation of an African-American Music,” Black Music Research Journal 17, no. 1 (1997).
[v] Ibid.: 3.
[vii] Fiehrer, “From Quadrille to Stomp: The Creole Origins of Jazz,” 26.
[viii] Ibid.: 30.
[ix] Ibid.: 31.
With evidence of the rich cultural and ethnic background of colonial New Orleans, it is not surprising that the city would become the perfect nesting area for the formation of jazz; yet many historians overlook the multicultural contributions and use the vagueness of the term African-American to describe jazz. As confusing as this may seem, it is even further ambiguously noted in the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture that “Jazz in the South was created and exported by Blacks and Whites, by musicians of every background- only to conclude that ‘jazz was created by Black musicians from a multi-ethnic culture.”[i] One possible explanation for this ambiguity may have to do with the ruling of the white segregationists. The ruling of Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896 which legalized racial segregation and forced the Creole and African-American cultures to converge had a great deal of influence on the development of jazz. Prior to the passage of this law that labeled everyone with any African blood as Black, downtown Creoles and uptown Blacks existed in separate environments. Aside from their cultural differences, they had different opportunities for employment, different levels of education, and played different styles of music. This law now caused the White community to view both groups as African-Americans. According to Christopher Washburne,
“The passage of this law was a threat to Creole cultural identity and caused them to remain a tight community. The African-Americans, however, perceived the law as an opportunity to immigrate North to escape the prejudice and the hardships of the South; they were consequently more enthusiastic to travel than the Creoles. This difference may provide the reason why the Creole influence on the origins of jazz, which includes Spanish, French, Haitian, and Cuban traditions, has not been systematically explored.”
The lassie-faire attitude of tolerance and multiculturalism that existed in New Orleans in the mid- eighteenth century was instrumental in providing a hotbed for the incubation and birth of jazz. Many scholars equate the Mediterranean atmosphere of the city as a prime reason for the multitude of musical experiences possible, where French Opera houses co-existed with neighborhood street bands and brothels. Such diverse cultural musical opportunities existed nowhere else in the country at this time. Races intermingled and many mixed blood people were born into this new civilization. The resulting Creole people represent an amalgamation of many different cultural influences. Their music, which spread like a wild fire after the Jim Crow segregation laws forced many Negroes to migrate North to escape the hardships of the South, had actually existed for years before in the city at the mouth of the Mississippi. Not until the first recording of the ODJB in 1917 was the world fully cognizant of the treasure of the Euro-Latin-Afro music from New Orleans- Creole or Dixieland Jazz.
As we move forward in the twenty-first century, it is imperative that we take a closer look at our past presumptions and re-investigate the historical narratives that have come to represent who we are and where we come from. This philosophy is fitting in the history of jazz, where popular theory has not changed in thirty years despite several accounts that provide evidence of omission. Perhaps a further investigation into the cooperative enculturation of the people that identified eighteenth and nineteenth century New Orleans will serve as model for multicultural understanding in an ever shrinking Global community. In this spirit, more research is needed in the history of jazz, which has been labeled “America’s classical music.” The complex contributions of many diverse people who inhabited New Orleans at the turn of the twentieth century should not be overlooked, but further investigated as we seek to understand what jazz is- a metaphor for life in the city where its roots took hold over one hundred years ago.
[i] Ibid.: 35.