Saturday, December 29, 2007

Jazz Stuff

I took my wife to see Sonny Rollins a few weeks ago. He was musical dynamite. At 77 years old, he was playing with all the verve and vigor of a 30 year old. While other players who get to be his age leave the heavy musical lifting to younger players, Rollins didn't let his sidemen overshadow him, and his sidemen were some mighty fine players.

Rollins only played one set, but it was close to two hours and his energy never seemed to flag. The other band members took solos, but Rollins really soloed. My wife thought that some of his solos were too long, but I could have listened to him go on all night. The next day I even pulled out some of his CDs because I just hadn't had enough.

He received a standing ovation as soon as he walked on stage just for being Sonny Rollins. He's one of the remaining survivors of his generation. We fans appreciated the fact that he was willing to come to Detroit and serenade us. Outside of Labor Day weekend, not very many big name Jazz musicians come here. People will travel downtown to listen for free, but it's hard to get people to pay for this music.

Another great player that I saw years ago, was Oscar Peterson, who sadly, died a few days ago. His technique never failed to amaze me, but it was more than technique, the music was passionate and beautiful. The one time, many years ago when I saw him in concert, the audience amazed me too. People were leaving during the encore to get to their cars in order to beat the traffic.

One old timer still around and still playing is Barry Harris, one of the myriad players both jazz and nonjazz, who have come from Detroit. He is doing his annual Kwanzaa concert in Detroit. My wife and I went to one of these concerts a few years ago. He was using local talent as his rhythm section, and if I remember correctly the bass player may have gotten lost at one point. It was still a fun concert.

Another elder, who like Rollins, Peterson, and Harris, has achieved the status of elder statesman of jazz is Ornette Coleman. Because he created music that was like none that came before him, he had a much tougher time than the other musicians mentioned. There's a fairly lengthy article in the current Rolling Stone, but you have to subscribe in order to read it on line.

And then there's Sun Ra and the Arkestra. Ra himself (keyboardist, composer, and leader of the Arkestra), left the planet a few years ago, but he left thousands of recordings both from the studio and live in concert. Some Ra fans are kind of like Deadheads, but mostly without the drugs. Sunny, as his fans affectionately referred to him would have frowned on that. Ra fans would go to every live show, buy every album (which Ra pressed himself on his own Saturn label), and record shows on portable tape players. Some of these recordings have become (sort of) legitimate releases. While I don't consider myself an obsessive fan, I do have a reasonable number of his releases. I saw him four or five times when he brought the Arkestra through town, and I bought a record or two every time.

Just this month, Transparency Records released a 28 CD set recorded during the Arkestra's extended stay the week leading up to New Year's Eve, 1981 at the short lived, long defunct, Detroit Jazz Center. I don't remember which one, but I went to one of those shows. I wanted to buy a set, but I thought it was going to be way to expensive. It wasn't. I only had to fork over $85.00 and a set (one of the only 400 released) is mine. The sound isn't that great. That's normal for a Sun Ra release, but the music so far, after listening to seven discs is phenomenal . . . if you like Sun Ra. Although he does play straight ahead jazz covering the whole history of jazz, the music can get pretty far "out there" so he's definitely not for everyone. I try not to play him if my wife is home.

Some people have even accused Sun Ra of being weird. Can you imagine that?

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At 1:54 PM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

I hear ya is my addiction too!.HAPPY NEW YEAR FULL OF BLESSINGS AND PEACE! :)

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Harry said...

And a fine addiction it is. My family allows it, because my whole family has it. Happy New Year to you too.


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