angelikabeener[at]gmail.com / @alternate_takes
Inspired by spring’s indecisiveness a couple weeks ago, I decided not to brave the wind and rain this particular day, but to do some season-inspired cleaning instead. Thumbing through my music library, I settled on some classic Blue Note repertoire to help me through my chores: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers’ Three Blind Mice, to be specific. As the gorgeous and fittingly titled Freddie Hubbard waltz “Up Jumped Spring” played, it got me to thinking about the layers of musical camaraderie jazz music has always had. Not just the cooperative nature of performing the music, but also in terms of what music was performed. The vast landscape of jazz repertoire which includes blues, Tin Pan Alley songs, show tunes, and pop songs, is most enriched by original compositions from jazz musicians themselves which, through the social contexts of the music, became standards in their own right. Songs from Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Wayne Shorter had become modern jazz standards of their times because of their popularity and exposure within the jazz community. I then started focusing on today, and my experiences at jazz performances. Yes, the headliner is playing his or her original work, and yes the band, on some occasions, may feature a tune or two from a bandmate, but what were the odds that they would play a tune by a musical peer beyond their own band? Slim to none, as far as I could tell. Which got me to thinking: What is the modern jazz standard?
Sure to put a pep in your step, Chicago-based Plug Research artists Simple X and Midas Wells, otherwise known as Tensei, have released their second EP, aptly titled Two, for free download (when you submit your email). The downtempo/soulful/afro-jazz sound is an easy vibe and it would be downright shameful not to cop and spin this a couple times.
Avishai Cohen (bassist) has a new album coming out on Blue Note titled Duende, releasing May 21st. In preparation for that, a video for the song "Soof" has hit the web. Here it resides, all ready for your eyes and ears. Enjoy.
One of my favorite people on Twitter to follow is a guy named Chris Watkins. Watkins attended Morehouse College and graduated a year after I did. Those of us from the Atlanta University Center who know Watkins endearingly refer to him as a villain for his tendency to be generally contrarian in any discussion and for other villainous activities that would be improprietous to say in this space. His diatribes on my hometown San Antonio Spurs (which as a person who's mostly indifferent to sports, I have little to say to him on the matter), relationships, religion, hip hop, and practically anything else have always been altogether amusing over the years and the slander he spreads on Twitter are a welcome reminder of times past. However it's his constant discussions on the continued relevance of historically black colleges and universities that have always struck a nerve; despite the discomfort I feel when he says our shared collegiate experience was altogether irrelevant, it's difficult to gloss over his nuggets of truth in his words, which is largely why his lack of a filter is such an inspiration (at least for those who can handle it). Watkins periodically posits that HBCU's are steadily becoming unnecessary because other institutions are less discriminatory in regards to admissions and that those blacks who are likely to succeed from a college education would not necessarily have needed such a specialized education to guarantee such success in life. When he says such things, it's hard to disagree with him unless there are certain intangibles that he's failing to take into consideration. While I'm certain that I would have gained many of the same skills at any other school, I still valued the sense of community I got from Morehouse and the rest of the AUC-- being surrounded by other black people and learning from our similarities and our differences without having to worry about the racial issues outside the luxury of such a bubble. That educational setting is important, at least it was to me. To a certain degree, I feel I'm right. To another degree, I'm confident that Watkins is right. This is a matter where objectivity can only go so far, but it's hard to believe that some folks in an academic setting won't feel a certain degree of disillusionment. Some schools, even with the same goals in mind, aren't the best fit for some people. As the jazz internet is coalescing around the relevance and restorative elements of a jazz education, the parallels between these ideas are pretty apparent.