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Last spring at Rutgers, I took a course entitled “Jazz and Film.” In it, we discussed the historical relationship between the two American art forms, analyzing critical and popular responses along the way.
One of the most interesting classes came towards the end, when we dug into the widely-watched PBS documentary Jazz by filmmaker Ken Burns. I remember when the series came out on PBS — I was in high school at the time — but I didn’t watch it. I remember my jazz band director expressing both fascination (with the detailed storytelling) and disappointment (with the over-reliance on Armstrong and the dismissal of jazz after 1960.)
Revisiting those controversies proved to be an enlightening exercise. Eight years after the fact, the conversation spurred more impassioned discussion than anything else that we covered in class. The debate even spilled over onto the Jazz MA program’s listserv, with many other students chiming in. Generally, reactions fell into one of two camps: “Jazz” was good, because it exposed a lot of people to the music’s tradition; or “Jazz” was bad because it twisted and misrepresented the music’s history to conform to the Albert Murray/Wynton Marsalis political agenda. Read the rest of this entry »
This week at A Blog Supreme, Patrick Jarenwattananon has brought together a few of the jazz youngsters writing about the music online to recommend recent releases to the listening public. He’s calling it Jazz Now, and I’m honored to be on the list of contributors. They include:
–Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR Music
–Lucas Gillan, AccuJazz
–Sebastian Helary and Justin Wee, Nextbop
–Dean Christesen, RVAJazz
–Alex Rodriguez, Lubricity (look at me! I’m famous on the Internet!)
–Adam Schatz and James Donahue, Search and Restore
–Lars Gotrich, NPR Music
–Mike Katzif, NPR Music
–Josh Jackson, WBGO
Some other bloggers are already joining the fun: Secret Society and Jazzblog.ca are the first I’ve seen to catch this, but I’m sure many more will follow. This is great company to be keeping — all of these guys really know their stuff.
Like Patrick, I’ll add links as they go live. Again, I’m really excited to be a part of this, and I hope that you take a listen to some of these things. If anything stands out, please let me know in the comments. And if you’re finding Lubricity for the first time, be sure to add me to your RSS reader!
I added this review to the tail end of my last post, but realized that it probably belongs here as its own entry. If all goes according to plan, music reviews will become a more common occurrence at Lubricity. If I’m going to write about jazz, after all, I can only avoid writing about the actual music for so long. So here it is, the first of many more musical musings to come:
First off, I’ll say that I had a great time. I had forgotten how rewarding it can be to check out a show with other people who enjoy the music. The hour-long trip back to New Jersey certainly went faster than usual, with so much to talk about after the show. Read the rest of this entry »
I had the pleasure of attending a show at the Jazz Gallery last night. Yesterday morning, I received a text from the Blogger Supreme that he’d be in the city checking out Ambrose Akinmusire‘s quintet there (Gerald Clayton, right, played especially well — more on that later.) The suggestion couldn’t have come at a better time, because I was in need of an excuse to get out of my apartment. So I rounded up a couple of friends and met him at the show.
I’ve lived in the New York City area for over eight months now, but I’ve only made it out to hear live jazz a couple of times in that span. Part of it has to do with the fact that I’m a cash-deprived graduate student, part of it has to do with the fact that I didn’t have a group of jazz-loving friends to see shows with at first, but I think most of it has to do with my own unwillingness to experience jazz from the perspective of the audience member. Slowly, that’s starting to change. Read the rest of this entry »
When I started this blog, I chose the title Lubricity for a variety of reasons. Most important among those was that I felt that it aptly described the ever-shifting state of the music today. Well, jazz isn’t the only thing going through some changes this month!
Last week, I had the privilege of working with Institute of Jazz Studies Assistant Director (and master photographer) Ed Berger on a new header image for the site. He graciously allowed me to borrow Jack Teagarden’s trombone from the rare items room for the shoot:
If you look closely, you’ll see that my mouthpiece barely fits into the end of the instrument — definitely the smallest trombone I’ve ever held that wasn’t an alto horn. He even let me toot a couple of notes on the instrument, although the slide was in such bad shape that it could barely move, so I wasn’t able to get much music out of the thing. Still, I felt so close to his spirit blowing through that instrument — even though he’s been dead for over 40 years.
But I wasn’t there just to hang out with the horn — my idea was to use it for the new header image for Lubricity. Ed and I tried a bunch of things but settled on the window of the Dana Room, across the hall from the IJS.
The final photo appears above as the new header image for Lubricity: me playing the Teagarden trombone with a Rutgers-Newark dorm looking on in approval. Think of it as a symbol of the newer, shinier things to come!
I didn’t realize how much of a reaction I would get to my last post, but I haven’t found anything inspiring to follow it up. I’m happy to see the negativity of the Teachout debate begin to fade, and to be back in class, but the increase in my outside activities is probably going to change the feel of the site over the next few months.
In the meantime, watch this highly entertaining clip of my man Jack Teagarden:
Notice that he plays his opening solo with his slide attached to a water glass! Trust me — this is REALLY hard to do. When Teagarden began his professional career a teenager in San Anselmo, Texas, he heard that Larry Conley, a rival trombonist in Dallas, was playing tunes with the bell removed. Jack never found out if the rumor was true, but figured out how to do it — just in case.
When I heard Jack tell that story (in a 1947 interview with C.E. Smith) I was reminded of something that many jazz fans and historians forget: these guys practiced their butts off! It may be a boring fact of a musician’s life, but it’s one that is common to everyone who became known as great jazz musicians. This “trick” alone — playing without the bell — would have taken hours of focused practice to work out. It’s pretty easy to tell that the work paid off!
Also of note in the video: Jack’s younger brother Charlie takes an impressive trumpet solo. He doesn’t quite steal the show from his big brother, but he certainly holds his own. If you ask me, Charlie Teagarden is one of the most-underrated trumpet players of the swing era.
So enjoy some more of my favorite ghost, and watch this space for some changes soon!