Friday, January 29, 2016

Terri Lynn Carrington

© -  Steven A. Cerra - copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“I gravitate to this kind of drumming. It doesn't feel lick-oriented. It feels organic, open, like you're playing off what you're hearing, as opposed to things in your repertoire.”
Terri Lyne Carrington

There are two things about the following Blindfold Test by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington that especially impressed me: [1] she nailed the identity of all but one of the drummers and [2] she describes their respective drumming styles with a vocabulary that is fresh, inventively descriptive while at the same time being expressively clear for those who are not conversant with drum speak.

“Drummer, composer, producer and Grammy winner Terri Lyne Carrington bedrocks her forward-looking musical output with an exhaustive knowledge of the roots and branches of jazz, world music and technology. She plays an array of instruments on her new CD, The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul (Concord).” [Ted Panken]

This is her first Blindfold Test. It was conducted by Ted Panken and appears in the February 2016 edition of Downbeat.

I have underlined those portions of Terri’s impressions that I found to be particularly new, different and helpful as descriptions of each drummer’s style of playing.

Ali Jackson

"Ali Got Rhythm" (Amalgamations, Sunnyside, 2013) Jackson, drums; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass.

It's swinging hard. Something in the ride cymbal pattern reminds me of Ali Jackson. I love his forward motion on the beat. It doesn't feel rushed, but it's real edgy. I tend to play more behind the beat than that, but I appreciate when somebody does it well. Usually I'd rather listen to something that was done when the style was fresh, cutting-edge, pushing a boundary, but musicians who preserve a style from another time period are playing an important role. 31/2 stars overall; 41/2 for Ali, because I could pick up his ride cymbal.

Kendrick Scott

"Never Catch Me" (We Are The Drum, Blue Note, 2015) Scott, drums; John EIlis, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; Mike Moreno, guitar, Taylor Eigsti, Fender Rhodes; Joe Sanders, bass.

The toms and snare sound like Kendrick Scott, but the bass drum sounds heavier than Kendrick's. Some things remind me of Eric Harland, and there's a beat I've heard Jamire Williams play — there's a school of drumming that's pulled from the same sources. I enjoyed the counterpoint between the two melodies. I like the piano sound. The drums are featured, but aren't overwhelming. It's nice to hear something in 4. So much music now is in odd time signatures, which I like playing, too— but you have to balance it. I would buy this track for sure. 4 stars, [after] Kendrick's playing has grown. His articulation, ideas, everything feels more intentional.

Jeff "Tain" Watts

"Brilliant Corners" (Blu, Vol. 1, Dark Key, 2015) Watts, drums; Troy Roberts, tenor saxophone; David Budway, piano; Neal Caine, bass.

Jeff Watts. From the first beat. Jeff has a distinctive way he plays that swing-funk thing. His triplet is very distinct. With the metric modulations, the tune sounds like either something by [Thelonious] Monk that he arranged or wrote in Monk's style as a tribute. I'm not crazy about the sound of the recording, though it has a certain rawness I like, with everyone playing in a room. At one point, he started playing a hi-hat, and it was overwhelming. I don't know who the tenor player is, but he sounded great. The piano solo was great. 4 stars. The playing is strong enough that I can get past the sound.

Antonio Sanchez

"Fall" (Three Times Three, CamJazz, 2014) Sanchez, drums; John Scofield, guitar; Christian McBride, bass.

That's Antonio. That little sound, the bell, [bass solo] During the ostinato, I couldn't tell it was Christian, but the solo tells me. It sounds amazing. I'm used to hearing Sco play more lines; this is a pastoral sound. Antonio is playing very cinematically and texturally. I love the sound of the recording and his drums—full and powerful, so balanced. 5 stars. The song itself sucks you in; it isn't over-arranged, and it's the right combination of players. Antonio masterfully took up the right amount of space without overplaying. What he played was tasty, but also meaningful.

Lewis Nash

"Y Todavia La Queiro" (The Highest Mountain, Cellar Live, 2012} Nash, drums; Jimmy Greene, tenor saxophone; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Renee Rosnes, piano; Peter Washington, bass.

That song took me back. At first I wasn't sure it was Lewis Nash, with the fingers on the drums (though I've seen him do that), but I knew it was him when he picked up the sticks. He's steeped in the bebop tradition, and plays it in a way that sounds modern and has an excitement factor. It's the ferocity he puts on the tempo, undeniable, like a train. The track is a drum feature, done live, and it's so well-executed ... just great drumming. He's a master at what he does. 4l/2 stars.

Myra Melford

"First Protest" (Snowy Egret, Enja-Yellowbird, 2015) Melford, piano; Tyshawn Sorey, drums; Ron Miles, trumpet; Liberty Ellman, guitar; Stomu Takeishi, bass guitar.

The drummer likes Jack Dejohnette. The sound of the snare makes me think of Brian Blade, though it's a little more on top, and the ride cymbal is brighter. I gravitate to this kind of drumming. It doesn't feel lick-oriented. It feels organic, open, like you're playing off what you're hearing, as opposed to things in your repertoire. When the piece started, the piano soloing with the drums, I thought it would stay in the vein of contemporary classical musicians who also improvise, but then it entered an area where I heard M-Base inflections—someone who has gone through that camp or been influenced by it. I like the loosey-goosey effect in this player's groove as opposed to some others from that school. 4 stars.

Brad Mehldau/MarkGiuliana

"Luxe" (Mehliana, Nonesuch, 2014) Mehldau, synthesizers, keyboards; Giuliana, drums, electronics.

I'd never heard Brad play electronic instruments; I'd never know it was him if I didn't know the record. I like it. Some elements remind me of Weather Report, a little Joe Zawinul creeping in. Mark is a strong, well-rounded drummer. I like the minimalism of the groove: I only heard the toms a few times in the piece, and he really held my interest with just the kick-snare and a hi-hat in the pattern, [keeping] a relentless feeling to the groove while improvising inside of it. His choices never took away from what's making me dance to the track. I like the '70s lope that pops into the beat. 4 stars.                                                        

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Coltrane on Coltrane - Don DeMichael

© -  Steven A. Cerra - copyright protected; all rights reserved.

“The first occasion I had to speak with John Coltrane at length was during his recent engagement at the Sutherland hotel [Sutherland Jazz Lounge, Chicago, IL]. In our initial conversation I was struck by his lack of pretentiousness or false pride. The honesty with which he answered questions  —  questions that other musicians would have evaded or talked around — impressed me deeply. We discussed my doing an article about him. But when I saw how really interested he was in setting the record straight, I suggested that we do the piece together.

As it turned out, Coltrane did the vast majority of the work, struggling as most writers do with just the right way of saying something, deciding whether he should include this or that, making sure such and such was clear. The results of his labor is the article appearing on these pages. The words and ideas are John's—I merely suggested, typed, and arranged.”                 

In considering a source for new material for the blog, I suddenly realized that Don DiMichael, a Jazz writer who taught me so much about the music and how to appreciate it, has had too few “appearances” on these pages . The following essay is one attempt to rectify that omission. There will be more of Don’s writings on JazzProfiles in the near future.

The following “interview” is probably one of the first that John Coltrane gave after leaving trumpeter Miles Davis to form his own quartet which finds McCoy Tyner having recently replaced Steve Kuhn but some months before bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones joined John to form the legendary Coltrane Quartet.

Up until his death in July 1967, John rarely give detailed interviews preferring to let his music speaks for itself: “it’s all in the music, he would say”

If you want to know how Coltrane did what he did to achieve what Ira Gitler termed his “sheets of sound,” I doubt that you’ll uncover a better explanation than the one he gave to Don DiMichael in the following essay.

By JOHN COLTRANE in collaboration with Don DeMicheal
September 29, 1960, Downbeat

“I've been listening to jazzmen, especially saxophonists, since the time of the early Count Basie records, which featured Lester Young. Pres was my first real influence, but the first horn I got was an alto, not a tenor. I wanted a tenor, but some friends of my mother advised her to buy me an alto because it was a smaller horn and easier for a youngster to handle. This was 1943.

Johnny Hodges became my first main influence on alto, and he still kills me. I stayed with alto through 1947, and by then I'd come under the influence of Charlie Parker. The first time I heard Bird play, it hit me right between the eyes. Before I switched from alto in that year, it had been strictly a Bird thing with me, but when I bought a tenor to go with Eddie Vinson's band, a wider area of listening opened up for me.

I found I was able to be more varied in my musical interests. On alto, Bird had been my whole influence, but on tenor I found there was no one man whose ideas were so dominant as Charlie's were on alto. Therefore, I drew from all the men I heard during this period. I have listened to about all the good tenor men, beginning with Lester, and believe me, I've picked up something from them all, including several who have never recorded.

The reason I liked Lester so was that I could feel that line, that simplicity. My phrasing was very much in Lester's vein at this time.

I found out about Coleman Hawkins after I learned of Lester. There were a lot of things that Hawkins was doing that I knew I'd have to learn somewhere along the line. I felt the same way about Ben Webster. There were many things that people like Hawk, Ben, and Tab Smith were doing in the '40s that I didn't understand but that I felt emotionally.

The first time I heard Hawk, I was fascinated by his arpeggios and the way he played. I got a copy of his Body and Soul and listened real hard to what he was doing. And even though I dug Pres, as I grew musically, I appreciated Hawk more and more.

As far as musical influences, aside from saxophonists, are concerned, I think I was first awakened to musical exploration by Dizzy Gillespie and Bird. It was through their work that I began to learn about musical structures and the more theoretical aspects of music.

Also, I had met Jimmy Heath, who, besides being a wonderful saxophonist, understood a lot about musical construction. I joined his group in Philadelphia in 1948. We were very much alike in our feeling, phrasing, and a whole lot of ways. Our musical appetites were the same. We used to practice together, and he would write out some of the things we were interested in. We would take things from records and digest them. In this way we learned about the techniques being used by writers and arrangers.

Another friend and I learned together in Philly — Calvin Massey, a trumpeter and composer who now lives in Brooklyn. His musical ideas and mine often run parallel, and we've collaborated quite often. We helped each other advance musically by exchanging knowledge and ideas.

I first met Miles Davis about 1947 and played a few jobs with him and Sonny Rollins at the Audubon ballroom in Manhattan. During this period he was coming into his own, and I could see him extending the boundaries of jazz even further. I felt I wanted to work with him. But for the time being, we went our separate ways.

I went with Dizzy's big band in 1949. I stayed with Diz through the breakup of the big band and played in the small group he organized later.

Afterwards, I went with Earl Bostic, who I consider a very gifted musician. He showed me a lot of things on my horn. He has fabulous technical facilities on his instrument and knows many a trick.

Then I worked with one of my first loves, Johnny Hodges. I really enjoyed that job. I liked every tune in the book. Nothing was superficial. It all had meaning, and it all swung. And the confidence with which Rabbit plays! I wish I could play with the confidence that he does.

"But besides enjoying my stay with Johnny musically, I also enjoyed it because I was getting firsthand information about things that happened 'way before my time. I'm very interested in the past, and even though there's a lot I don't know about it, I intend to go back and find out. I'm back to Sidney Bechet already.

Take Art Tatum, for instance. When I was coming up, the musicians I ran around with were listening to Bud Powell, and I didn't listen too much to Tatum. That is, until one night I happened to run into him in Cleveland. There were Art and Slam Stewart and Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown at a private session in some lady's attic. They played from 2:30 in the morning to 8:30 — just whatever they felt like playing. I've never heard so much music.

In 1955, I joined Miles on a regular basis and worked with him till the middle of 1957. I went with Thelonious Monk for the remainder of that year.

Working with Monk brought me close to a musical architect of the highest order. I felt I learned from him in every way — through the senses, theoretically, technically. I would talk to Monk about musical problems, and he would sit at the piano and show me the answers just by playing them. I could watch him play and find out the things I wanted to know. Also, I could see a lot of things that I didn't know about at all.

Monk was one of the first to show me how to make two or three notes at one time on tenor. (John Glenn, a tenor man in Philly, also showed me how to do this. He can play a triad and move notes inside it — like passing tones!) It's done by false fingering and adjusting your lip. If everything goes right, you can get triads. Monk just looked at my horn and "felt" the mechanics of what had to be done to get this effect.

I think Monk is one of the true greats of all time. He's a real musical thinker — there're not many like him. I feel myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him. If a guy needs a little spark, a boost, he can just be around Monk, and Monk will give it to him.

After leaving Monk, I went back to another great musical artist, Miles.

On returning, this time to stay until I formed my own group a few months ago, I found Miles in the midst of another stage of his musical development. There was one time in his past that he devoted to multi-chorded structures. He was interested in chords for their own sake. But now it seemed that he was moving in the opposite direction to the use of fewer and fewer chord changes in songs. He used tunes with free-flowing lines and chordal direction. This approach allowed the soloist the choice of playing chordally (vertically) or melodically (horizontally).

In fact, due to the direct and free-flowing lines in his music, I found it easy to apply the harmonic ideas that I had. I could stack up chords — say, on a C7, I sometimes superimposed an Eb7, up to an F#7, down to an F. That way I could play three chords on one. But on the other hand, if I wanted to, I could play melodically. Miles' music gave me plenty of freedom. It's a beautiful approach.

About this time, I was trying for a sweeping sound. I started experimenting because I was striving for more individual development. I even tried long, rapid lines that Ira Gitler termed "sheets of sound" at the time. But actually, I was beginning to apply the three-on-one chord approach, and at that time the tendency was to play the entire scale of each chord. Therefore, they were usually played fast and sometimes sounded like glisses [glissandos - a glide from one pitch to another].

I found there were a certain number of chord progressions to play in a given time, and sometimes what I played didn't work out in eighth notes. 16th notes, or triplets. I had to put the notes in uneven groups like fives and sevens in order to get them all in.

I thought in groups of notes, not of one note at a time. I tried to place these groups on the accents and emphasize the strong beats — maybe on 2 here and on 4 over at the end. I would set up the line and drop groups of notes — a long line with accents dropped as I moved along. Sometimes what I was doing clashed harmonically with the piano — especially if the pianist wasn't familiar with what I was doing — so a lot of times I just strolled with bass and drums.

I haven't completely abandoned this approach, but it wasn't broad enough. I'm trying to play these progressions in a more flexible manner now.

Last February, I bought a soprano saxophone. I like the sound of it, but I'm not playing with the body, the bigness of tone, that I want yet. I haven't had too much trouble playing it in tune, but I've had a lot of trouble getting a good quality of tone in the upper register. It comes out sort of puny sometimes. I've had to adopt a slightly different approach than the one I use for tenor, but it helps me get away — let's me take another look at improvisation. It's like having another hand.

I'm using it with my present group, McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass, and Pete LaRoca, drums. The quartet is coming along nicely. We know basically what we're trying for, and we leave room for individual development. Individual contributions are put in night by night.

One of my aims is to build as good a repertoire as I can for a band. What size, I couldn't say, but it'll probably be a quartet or quintet. I want to get the material first. Right now, I’m on a material search.

From a technical viewpoint, I have certain things I’d like to present in my solos. To do this, I have to get the right material. It has to swing, and it has to be varied. (I'm inclined not to be too varied.) I want it to cover as many forms of music as I can put into a jazz context and play on my instruments. I like Eastern music; Yusef Lateef has been using this in his playing for some time. And Ornette Coleman sometimes plays music with a Spanish content as well as other exotic-flavored music. In these approaches there's something I can draw on and use in the way I like to play.

I've been writing some things for the quartet — if you call lines and sketches writing. I'd like to write more after I learn more — after I find out what kind of material I can present best, what kind will carry my musical techniques best. Then I'll know better what kind of writing is best for me.

I've been devoting quite a bit of my time to harmonic studies on my own, in libraries and places like that. I've found you've got to look back at the old things and see them in a new light. I’m not finished with these studies because I haven't assimilated everything into my playing. I want to progress, but I don't want to go so far out that I can't see what others are doing.

I want to broaden my outlook in order to come out with a fuller means of expression. I want to be more flexible where rhythm is concerned. I feel I have to study rhythm some more. I haven't experimented too much with time; most of my experimenting has been in a harmonic form. I put time and rhythms to one side, in the past.

But I've got to keep experimenting. I feel that I’m just beginning. I have part of what I’m looking for in my grasp but not all.

I'm very happy devoting all my time to music, and I'm glad to be one of the many who are striving for fuller development as musicians. Considering the great heritage in music that we have, the work of giants of the past, the present, and the promise of those who are to come, I feel that we have every reason to face the future optimistically.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lew Tabackin - Soundscapes

© -  Steven A. Cerra - copyright protected; all rights reserved.

On February 5, 2016, tenor saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin’s new, self-produced CD Soundscapes will be issued and the editorial staff at JazzProfiles thought you might like a little advanced notice in the form of Jim Eigo’s communique about the recording which incorporates Lew’s background notes and John Ross’ review of the CD from the January/2016 edition of Downbeat.

You can locate more about Lew and the forthcoming CD by visiting his website at

Soundscapes has eight tracks made up of two Jazz Standards - John Lewis’ Afternoon in Paris and Billy Strayhorn’s Day Dream, two tunes from The Great American Songbook - Yesterdays and Three Little Words, and one from Ellingtonia - Sunset and The Mockingbird. Interspersed among these familiar melodies are three of Lou’s original compositions.

Lew tenor saxophone style is laced with references to Coleman Hawkins, Lucky Thompson and Sonny Rollins [checkout his homage to Sonny on Three Little Words] both in terms of tone and his preference for vertical, harmonically oriented improvisations.

But make no mistake, Lew’s his own man and this nowhere-to-hide approach using only bass and drums makes his individuality very evident. Lew plays and plays and plays; one fresh, inventive idea after another. He has become a - for lack of a better expression - Force of Jazz.

Lew’s maturity as a soloist is inspirational and Boris Kozlov on bass and Mark Taylor on drums are a perfect tandem to power things along because they are both equally strong players who can hold their own with the persuasiveness and passion of Lew’s playing.

Here’s how the project came about.

At the urging of noted jazz photographer Jimmy Katz,I agreed to !let him record my trio with Boris Kozlov, bass and Mark Taylor, drums. The concept was to create a kind of organic, unpretentious approach. Recording at Steve Maxwell’s drum shop in Manhattan, we set up in very close proximity. Sometimes you can actually hear the sympathetic vibrations from the many drum sets in the shop —
good vibrations.

We played as if "live”in a club, with no real editing. As my old friend, the great Zoot Sims would say, "You turn on the tape and gets what you get". Playing the flute in this space and in that system, however, was a bit problematic since the room is quite "dead". I had to try to play without over compensating and remembered a Jean Pierre Rampal masterclass several years ago where he discussed trying to overcome a dead acoustical hall, with unsatisfactory results, Lessons learned. Ultimately, with help from [Recording Engineer] David Darlington's magic, the results are transcendent.

Most of the tunes require little explanation; I was just trying to retain some of the more traditional jazz values in an open, communicative way. Not much was pre-set. The three originals are a kind of Japan trilogy. Garden at Life Time was inspired by the garden of Yoshinobu, the last shogun of the Edo era. The garden is adjacent to a wonderful jazz club, Life Time, owned by Mr. Yutaka Kubota, who loves to play bebop piano and is a great supporter of jazz and other arts. I arn so proud of the way Mark and Boris captured the kind of "Gagaku" free improvisation throughout this piece. Bb Where It's At, is a light-hearted tune written for Bb, a wonderful venue in [the] Akasaka [district of Tokyo], where Mr. Akira Suzuki has given us unconditional support for several years. Our performances there are like playing for old friends.

Minoru was written for one of the last great, old school saxophone technicians, Minoru Ishimori, who literally saved the musical lives of so many of us through the years when we encountered instrument problems during tours in Japan. His passing was a great loss and he is dearly missed. Playing at Ishimori Gakkrs performance space during our yearly tours rekindles memories of this special individual. It's always great to connect with his sons Tomo and Shinji and the wonderful staff at this special oasis in Tokyo.

A little explanation of my "derangement" of Sunset and the Mocking Bird is in order. I tried to incorporate as much Bird shit as I could, even quoting a little Yard Bird in my opening solo, i hope Duke purists are not too offended. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the amazing contributions of Boris and Mark and look forward to continuing on our path.”

“Tabackin Gets Creative in Unique Space”
Downbeat, January, 2016
John Ross

“Saxophonist and flutist Lew Tabackin creates miniature compositions inside each piece of music on his new album, Soundscapes.

The self-released CD is Tabackin's first recorded session with his longtime trio of bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Mark Taylor in seven years. The multi-instrumentalist packs 70-plus years of playing into each tune, creating an album that is complex yet straightforward.

Tabackin has been a trio player for decades, but he's best known for his time spent in the big bands of his wife, Toshiko Akiyoshi, from the early 1970s to 2003. Tabackin's attention to narrative playing may have been heightened by the band's Japanese-leaning compositions; he later expanded this concept with study of the programmatic ideas in Japanese music and the shakuhachi, a type of wooden flute. But Tabackin said he's always concentrated on playing more than just the notes.

"I'm trying to tell a story, paint a visual," he said. "There's always a story on my originals, and I try to be faithful to the story and expand the narrative when I play. I like to have some kind of context to it and some meaning."

His latest project was recorded after hours at the Steve Maxwell Vintage and Custom Drums shop in New York City. The band played as they would in a concert setting, minimizing the number of takes and recording without the luxury of extensive editing.

It all began with some persistent needling by an old friend. Photographer Jimmy Katz, who has known Tabackin for 25 years, approached the saxophonist numerous times to get him to lay down another album. As Katz sees it, the new album, which he co-produced, is a document of Tabackin's playing at a particular point in time. Katz allowed, however, that the recording process makes some musicians anxious.

"What I'm interested in is trying to make it as easy and casual as possible so that people can give the best performance possible," Katz said. "That's really what history and lovers of the music are going to remember; they're going to remember the great performance."

Katz talked with Tabackin about various recording options. After settling on the live approach,  Katz and Tabackin tested out a variety of spaces before landing on the drum shop. Katz then recorded the trio, completed the rough mixes and shot all the photographs.

"I always ask, 'What is the situation that we could go into with you and your group and have you play at the highest possible level?'" Katz said.

While the space had originally been a recording studio, the store's current setup led to some creative arrangements of the musicians.

"We were huddled together," Tabackin said.

"At one point, we had to reorganize a little bit so [Boris] had room to play his bow. We were closer [together] than when we usually play at clubs."

The recording was not without its musical challenges, as well. Tabackin noted that the office where he played his flute wasn't acoustically bright and lively. Before getting used to the room, Tabackin said he was overplaying, pushing to bring his flute tone up to his high standards.

"Playing flute in a dead room is really quite difficult," Tabackin said. "When you play a note, nothing happens. There's no romance in the note."

He did, however, enjoy an unanticipated musical side effect created by the space. Due to the retail merchandise setting, Tabackin's tenor saxophone tones caused sympathetic vibrations in the surrounding drums, adding "another little perspective," he noted.

While Soundscapes is an appropriate record of where Tabackin is as a musician in 2015, the reedist said he really doesn't like to go through the recording process.

"Some people really love to record. I don't. That's why the two CDs before Soundscapes were live recordings," he said, noting that regular album releases are a necessity for most artists. "At my age, if you don't [record], people forget about you. You're not on their mind, so you have to represent yourself."              —Jon Ross

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Nothing New In Quincy, But ..." By BILL MATHIEU

© -  Steven A. Cerra - copyright protected; all rights reserved.

At the time of this article’s publication in the January 7, 1960 issue of Down Beat, Bill Mathieu was a young (22) Chicago arranger who spent 1959 as a staff writer for the Stan Kenton orchestra. For three months of '59, he played trumpet with the orchestra as well. An album of his arrangements by the Kenton orchestra, titled Silhouettes of Standards, was due for release by Capitol in the next few months.

Mathieu was not new to the writing of words, however. Born into a publishing family — his father retired recently as publisher of the Farm Quarterly, Writer's Digest, and Writer's Yearbook — he wrote music criticism all through his years as a student at the University of Chicago.

This perceptive criticism on the music of Quincy Jones was his first appearance in Down Beat.

To locate more information about Bill and what he is up to these days, please visit his website at

Of course, Quincy has gone on to a legendary career in the music business and you can “keep Up With Q” by visiting him at his website - www.quincy

“Wherever there is an artistic tradition, there are artists within it who are culminators (those who take what has been said in the past and re-say it more completely than anyone before them) and there are artists who are innovators (those who break from the tradition which spawned them). Both kinds of artists are rare, but the culminators are the rarest, for it is through them that a culture's expression reaches its highest point of maturity.

Among a culminator's attributes must be empathy and respect for tradition, clairvoyance, and simple good taste. It is the last quality — taste — that is the most difficult to come by.

Now jazz is largely a music of immediate, sensual, emotional release, especially Negro jazz, which is generally less restrained, more flamboyant. The value of Quincy Jones lies in this: he has come up with the perfect combination — a tasteful, cumulative application of the elements of a tradition rich in its unrestrained emotional appeal.

Quincy Jones is, both by his own description and by the nature of his music, a culminator rather than an innovator. His music contains nothing new; rather, it contains nearly everything of value that has been done before.
But this viewpoint, even coupled as it is with his excellent taste, is not enough to make his music as good as it is. The deciding factor is that Quincy is not only of but also beyond his tradition; beyond, I believe, because he has more information, a greater knowledge, a farther horizon, than most of the men who created that idiom from which he draws. These are the qualities (as I mentioned) which allow an artist to become the ultimate expression of his history.


Listen to Whisper Not (a beautiful piece, analysis or no analysis) on Quincy's Birth of a Band album (Mercury MG 20444). Right after the normal exposition of the tune, there is what seems at first to be a little coda orchestrated for unison saxes and cup-muted trumpet, a perfect instrumental echo of Zoot Sims' sound. Then Sims begins to play, and what we thought was a kind of coda now is seen to have been an opening of the door for the soloist, an ideal bridge between the written counterpoint of the exposition and the improvised homophony of the development.

But the beauty lies not so much in the device as in the rapport between the improvisor and the writer's interpretation of the improvisor.

Here is another example, more lovely than the first and proportionately more difficult to describe. First listen to Clifford Brown's solo on Stockholm Sweetnin' (Prestige LP 167). Then listen to the same tune on the big band recording (ABC-Paramount 149). On the latter disc, with infinite reverence, Clifford's earlier solo is orchestrated. If there has ever been a synthesis between the emotional freedom of jazz on the one hand and cerebral, conscious, esthetic control on the other, here it is. The result is the last word to be said from either point of view.


When a truly good writer has to write a commercial arrangement, even if the content of the music is terrible, the results are usually worth listening to. Strangely enough, Quincy's commercial writing shows off his technical skills to better advantage than does his serious work. His orchestrational abilities are prodigious. For a lesson in commercial (or any) orchestration listen to the record he made with Eddie Barclay's band in France (United Artists UAS 6023). The combinations of timbres, the balance of the instruments, the great concern for the musical integrity of each voice (try to pick out the second or third harmony parts to see what I mean), the careful unfolding of the arrangements, all these are most recognizable in this particular album. Another thing which makes this record especially valuable to arrangers is that there are very few improvised solos — that is, the written arrangement must sustain interest over an extended period of time. Any arranger who has suffered the pain that this problem can cause will be interested in Quincy's settings of these 10 insipid French popular songs.


In all of Quincy's writing there is not one sound that has not been heard dozens of times before. In fact, the very essence of his work becomes clear when we realize that what we are hearing is not a new invention, but a fresh reiteration of the past, a distillation of what has gone before. Because of this culminative approach, this composer means more to us than pleasant diversion. Those of us who are interested in the historical development of jazz can discern in this music a summing up, a tying together of many loose ends, a step altogether necessary before the next forward step occurs.

All is not praiseworthy in the writing of Quincy Jones. There are many breaches of taste (horrid ending chords, for example) many overworked, meaningless cliches (orchestrated pyramids built on perfect fourths). But the amazing thing is that his work misses the mark so seldom.

It is impossible to say whether Quincy Jones will continue his career from this present point of view. There is something in his music, some kind of restlessness, uneasiness, which suggests that the culminator and the innovator will be realized in the same man. Perhaps some day Quincy will begin to feel the weight of the chains which bind him to his tradition. Perhaps not. But whatever his future, he has already done the world a service.”

Looking back at Bill’s concluding remark about Quincy from the vantage point of 2016, one might be tempted to say that it was the epitome of understatement.