30 January 2010

Must Read

If you're snowed in like I am, take a look at David Hadju's New York Times essay on Fred Hersch's comeback. It is a detailed chronicle of Hersch's comeback from near death due to HIV complications, as well as an exploration of his style. It is worth your Sunday morning. However, I must quibble with his somewhat reductive take on the music of Hersch, Brad Mehldau, Vijay Iyer, and others. As Hadju describes it
A new movement in jazz has surfaced over the past few years — a wave of highly expressive music more concerned with emotion than with craft or virtuosity; a genre-blind music that casually mingles strains of pop, classical and folk musics from many cultures; an informal, elastic music unyielding to rigid conceptions of what jazz is supposed to be. It’s fair to call it "post-Marsalis," in that it leaves behind the defensive, canon-oriented musical conservatism of '90s jazz.
As a definition of the music for listeners not familiar with Hersch, this is an okay start. The value of emotional expression over all else works, and "post-Marsalis" gets the point across, but the whole definition feels a little anti-intellectual (which is most likely not his intent, I'm sure). Craft and virtuosity are still pretty important to Mehldau, Iverson, et al, but only as a means to an end, rather than an end itself. But that is but a minor disagreement in an otherwise solid piece.

Bonus: Follow it up with Nate Chinen's piece on Pat Metheny's new project, Orchestrion, along with some extra material on his blog.

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