Thursday, October 07, 2010

Link Dump- Levine being Manny?

This was too good not to mention- the arts blogger at compares James Levine and his uncertain contract status to... Manny Ramirez? I don't know where to start...

Destination Out has a great set of Steve Lacy/Evan Parker duos, on sale at their new shop! Congrats to the guys on their fantastic new ventures, and buy it already, will ya?

And Ethan Iverson continues his great interview series with the legendary Gunther Schuller. It's worth the long read, even if Schuller is just a name on the sleeve of "Birth of the Cool" to you. I don't know Gunther personally, though Ran Blake still considers himself Gunther's student, and one of my colleagues in my time at NEC, Eric Hewitt, served as his assistant for a number of years. Even now, according to them, his energy is amazing, and he is more impassioned and engaged in his work than most folks half his age.

Reading the interview brought up very mixed feelings about Gunther that I hadn't thought about for awhile. He is, of course, a peerless musician, with insanely good ears, and in his day was probably the best French horn player in the world. As president of New England Conservatory, he probably did more than anyone to try to bring the full spectrum of the jazz tradition to music schools. I continue to be so grateful for the small-c catholic vision of jazz that NEC teaches, where eminent musicians who probably can't agree on anything teach next to each other, and have for years. Personally, I find his writing like Elliot Carter's- clearly brilliant, but inscrutable and often way too dense for my ears.

The but... I remember in a workshop on jazz history at Eastman a visiting musician read a paragraph of Schuller's Early Jazz describing a seminal Louis Armstrong piece, and then a paragraph of Armstrong talking about making music. The language, the tone, the approach were not even on the same planet. In, I believe, an attempt to legitimize the brilliance of the musicians he clearly adores, he placed their music in a context they wouldn't even recognize. It may too have something to do with the patrician world Schuller had to function in as a classical musician. This disconnect between process and study, while almost inevitable in the arts, always struck me as a particularly acute problem in jazz education, and here may be the beginnings of it. (I should note that I think things here are better in many quarters than they were even ten years ago)

I'm not trying to dis Gunther Schuller here at all- for one, I don't have near the requisite credentials, and two, the brilliance and impact of his work is undeniable. But those who read this blog regularly know that the impact of jazz education on the music and culture of jazz is one of my bugaboos, and Schuller is in many ways the first king of jazz ed. Thoughts?

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