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Conrad Herwig: Amazing musician and teacher

This year has blessed me with a series of steps forward for which I am very grateful, many of them related to my work in jazz documented here from May through September.  I thought that a look back at this past year, the first in which I have really found a home in the jazz community, would be a good way to start my 2010 blogging odyssey anew.

2009 began with a big move:  just after Christmas, I drove from California to New Jersey, arriving on January 2nd.  Along the way, I stopped for lunch in Vernon, TX, Jack Teagarden’s hometown, which I learned was completely in the absolute middle of nowhere and smells like cow pies.  My girlfriend Marina joined me for the trip, and we celebrated the new year inauspiciously at a Days Inn in Roanoke, Virginia.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

I promised that I’d follow up my appreciation for Canada with a recap of the Toronto trip and the reason that I went: to look through Joe Showler’s collection of Jack Teagarden materials, living in his old house in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke, Ontario.  Teagarden, the subject of my MA thesis at Rutgers, is that guy blowing the trombone at the top of the page.

This coincides with my first front-page feature at jazz.com, a collection of the various trombone biographies that I have written for the Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians.  This enterprise has taken up most of my summer, and in a certain sense built up to this visit to Toronto over the weekend.  Since enrolling in the MA in Jazz History and Research at Rutgers, I have delved into the early history of the jazz trombone, which has resulted in a surprising reinvigoration into my interest in jazz across its entire century-plus of history.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve been meaning to discuss the recent brochure published by the National Endowment for the Arts for awhile now; finally, Ted Gioia’s thoughtful post at jazz.com has provided me with the inspiration to chime in.

I disagreed somewhat with Mr. Gioia’s Chicken Little take on the state of jazz today, but this time I can’t argue with the fact that the NEA findings are indeed ugly news for the jazz community.

The report lists 11 key findings, nine of which have something specific to say about the state of the jazz audience (findings 3 and 4 are somewhat tangential to jazz specifically.)  After the jump, I’ll take a look at what each one means for the (un)changing demographics of the jazz audience. Read the rest of this entry »

No need to add my two cents to the Michael Jackson thing when so many others in the jazz community have posted excellent remembrances.

The one thing I will say, though, is that I was born after the release of Thriller and grew up without MTV.  I did see Captain EO at Disneyland a few times but that was about it.  I didn’t really get into MJ until college, when my band covered Thriller for a Halloween party.  This was a full two decades after its original release, and it still made the crowd go crazy.  Like those to whom I linked above, I’m confident that his musical legacy will outlive the tabloid craziness that has consumed his life, at least since I’ve been paying attention.

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