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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

JAZZ TODAY: Is Innovation Required In Jazz Today?

It’s inelegant and silly for arts critics to pick fights with each other. And goodness, it’s hard to imagine a dust-up between jazz scribes making much difference in the world.

cover artSo, although I’m going to use the PopMatters review of the new recording by the Branford Marsalis Quartet as my straw man here (sorry, Max Feldman, brother—it ain’t personal), my point is not to take issue with a tepid and curious review of a recording that I very much like. Rather, the question I’m interested in is whether art—and specifically jazz—becomes irrelevant if it isn’t evolving or stepping into innovative ground.

Put another way, does a jazz musician become pointless, is each individual jazz performance or recording lesser, if it is not in the vanguard?

A Premium on Novelty?

Feldman seems to think so. His review of Branford Marsalis’s new Four MFers Playin’ Tunes is cheekily dismissive. Not because the recording stinks. “It’s not a bad record by any means,” he writes. The problem, rather, is that the music contains “not very much to set [it] apart from everything else that’s just like it that you’ve probably heard before.”

Feldman’s review makes this point over and over again. “It’s the same old studious conservatism that we know and loathe—it stands its ground and doesn’t look outside of the sadly deforested jazz jungle for inspiration.”
Read the entire column here:  Is Innovation Required In Jazz Today?

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