“I wondered whether music might not be the unique example of what might have been — if the invention of language, the formation of words, the analysis of ideas had not intervened — the means of communication between souls.”
From In Search Of Lost Time, Vol. 5: The Captive & The Fugitive (1913-27) by Marcel Proust.
A how do you do song by Johnny Burke (lyrics) and bassist Bob Haggart (music): intimate friends meeting each other after a while catch up. 'What's New' is their story told from one point of view, our hero's.
The first verse is a compliment; the second the story of the break up, self deprecation on the protagonist's part; and then the curious bathos of the last lines: 'I understand Adieu/Pardon my asking what's new/Of course you couldn't know/I haven't changed, I still love you so'.
Bob Crosby, tune writer Haggart was in his band, did the song early on with a 1938 version as did his famous brother Bing.
Erroll Garner's followed much, 14 years or so, later.
Garner has a fantastic sense of melodrama in his version of the song. It is very visual and full of decoration in an instrumental, solo piano version.
Any great song can be played on nearly any instrument, taste not a factor perhaps sometimes, however. I can't imagine a rendering of 'What's New' on the kazoo given all the goodwill in the world beyond a bit of novelty.
The skill of the instrumentalist is to make the song exist without the crutch of words to paint pictures and these images have to somehow be extremely vivid especially if the song is known to the listener which it often is given the age of some classic jazz standards and the distance of time and if they have been played a lot on the radio or become identified with a singer, say Frank Sinatra or Linda Ronstadt down the years in this instance.
I actually prefer Bags' Wizard of the Vibes version to Erroll Garner's. Its mood is completely different and not just because the melody emerges from the vibes and the counter melody of John Lewis' piano, adding layers of harmonic resource and melodic invention. The Kenny Clarke drum part is jauntier, his brushwork a Picasso, and the bass of Percy Heath is magisterial.
During the 1950s Stan Kenton and Coleman Hawkins delivered versions as did Clifford Brown. The song suits Clifford Brown best of all and this is my overall pick. Listen. It will stop you dead in your tracks and invade you. The song in Brownie's hands has been reborn. It is a stillness.
The song remained popular in the 1960s and versions pile in. Dudley Moore did one worth seeking out as did the great Wynton Kelly.
Let's stop off for a breather by taking Art (grindingly superlative two-punningly as you can glean) much much later and then a 1990s Hammond B3 slow slow version by Joey DeFrancesco to be listened to back to back if you can. That trademark tart reality from Art; super softness and tender elasticity from Joey D show the imagination at work from both. The sheer scope the song allows artists down through the years is remarkable.
What is good about truly evolved abstract music which this is is that it forces deep thinking or simply private personal contemplation to begin and remain. Look away if you don't want to do this: other novelties are definitely available. This music will change you.
Recorded in Boston in April last year Daniel Carter's use of flute does much of the running on the opener which is the first part of the 'Seraphic Light' suite, the whole work not at any point overstaying its welcome and clocking in economically in terms of time at under an hour.
A co-composition of the three distinguished free improvisers they collectively develop their ideas live. It is utterly remarkable not only how coherent the ideas are but how varied and plentiful they arrive and belong together.
All three navigate independent routes awake to the collective direction of travel. You do not notice process so much as outcome, that balancing of time and silence a few distracting coughs from audience members here and there and sensible amounts of audience applause notwithstanding.
Robust declarations are made that are sometimes intersecting, or oblivious to one another. William Parker is a magnetic presence for instance, has a whole story going on, walking his bass furiously or simply soliloquising; while Carter on muted trumpet (and later choosing a number of reed instruments, probing and exploratory on clarinet for instance) draws out direct, more emotional moods and that shift seems to inspire Matthew Shipp even more to explore the deeper octaves of the piano and possibilities that embrace everyone.
Part of an event called Art, Race, and Politics in America which was a concert and discussion involving all three players Seraphic Light is released in May and lights up the avant spring like a meteor. Label.
Talk about a tough gig. No pressure: stepping up the plate at the well established John Coltrane festival no less in the States, Sheila E's dad and Sheila, above, herself... plus the blessèd Gregory: http://www.greensboro.com/blogs/gotriad_extra/john-coltrane-international-jazz-blues-festival-announces-headliners/article_fbcb2874-61ab-5288-96cd-6450b8f2c099.html
A New York Times obituary of Nathan Davis: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/obituaries/nathan-davis-jazz-saxophonist-and-educator-is-dead-at-81.html
The Los Angeles mayor is a jazz fan... thank goodness for small mercies or, more in the real world, the considered results of the focus group are in, are they? Send that focus group a few albums as a thank you: The mayor can pen the next sleeve notes! Oh, hang on a second: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-eric-garcetti-president-interview-20180414-story.html
Slate goes Miles and Coltrane 'bootleg' a-go-go. Sadly not tangles of tapes doted over by fans spun out from tape recorders hidden up their jumpers but pretty gripping, fairly apparently. Fred takes up the thread: https://slate.com/culture/2018/03/miles-davis-and-john-coltranes-the-final-tour-reviewed.html
And what's playing? Well it has to be one of my favourite Jeff Williams albums to date. Singlehandedly (well not quite or that probably at all if you see what I mean) keeping Cool cool. And no Kit isn't at the kit or on organ for that matter. Surely one of the year's best so far.