A GOLDEN AGE OF JAZZ?
THE GOLDEN AGE OF JAZZ
Early in the new year I saw a headline in the New York Times. The article made the case that jazz was possibly entering a new golden age, or at least jazz is getting interesting again. From what I have heard in Detroit, jazz has always been interesting.
It’s a Great Age for Jazz, but Don’t Call It Golden
by Nate Chinen
When was the last time you saw a jazz musician electrify a crowd? For me it was a couple of weeks ago, during Esperanza Spalding’s exultant concert at Town Hall, in midtown Manhattan. Singing the deftly intricate songs from a new album, “12 Little Spells,” she was the picture of vital intensity well before the encore, when she re-emerged in a jumpsuit emblazoned with the catchphrase “Life Force.”
Ms. Spalding is exceptional in every sense of the word, but she’s also part of a cresting wave. The music we call jazz has been undergoing an explosion of creative possibilities, carried out by musicians with an impressive range of new skills and ideas. Some of them have found traction with impassioned young audiences, achieving a rare balance of popular success and critical approval — enough, in some corners, to bring talk of jazz’s new golden age.
I just wrote a book about jazz in the new century, so I might be waving that banner, too. The music’s plurality of style, embodied by Ms. Spalding and so many others, amounts to an extension of the jazz tradition rather than any kind of heretical crisis. The music is meant to evolve, and we’re in the midst of its most wildly adaptive, thrillingly unruly evolutionary phase in some 40 years.
Nate Chinen went on to say.
So why do I balk whenever someone declares that jazz has entered another golden age? On some level its reflex: a resistance to hyperbole, and an awareness that whatever my convictions, we don’t have enough distance to see our moment with total clarity. On some level, too, it’s wariness about any exercise that weighs one era against another, brushing aside the broader context.
But I have even more fundamental reservations. To declare a golden age is to freeze a moment in time, locking a gilded frame around its edges. It ends up crowning some figures and crowding out others, distorting a reality that’s far richer and messier in practice.
THE GOLDEN AGE FOR JAZZ ?
I agree with Mr Chinen that you can’t take a snapshot and see a true picture of what is happening. Especially in jazz. Something game changing is probably happening somewhere every night, it is something we would only know if we were in the club or basement when it happened. This is why we go to see live jazz. I believe that golden moments in the life of an artist are only known by the artist. We can only recognize and acknowledge the results
Last week at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café we witnessed some jazz that makes the case that we are living at a pretty great moment to hear jazz in Detroit.
Ian Finkelstein is a Detroit jazz musician. Ian is a phenomenal musician and is part of our current golden age. I first heard Ian when he played piano at the Dirty Dog with the great Benny Golson. Ian was a U of M student at the time. How the heck did Ian get a gig like this? How the heck could a young guy like this know all Benny’s tunes? I don’t have a clue. I do know that word gets out when the next players are ready and they do get invited to the dance. This answer probably is the same answer to the question of, are we in a golden age of jazz?. Jazz is only as good as the generosity of its best players. Great musical knowledge keeps getting passed from one great player to a younger artist, who then spreads the knowledge to his/her fellow sponges, and so it goes.
It keeps happening and the new guys keep not just carrying the ball but moving it forward. Right now Ian is in fourth gear. Ian is usually on the move. When he is not gigging or composing , he is listening intently to all kinds of music. I remember watching Ian go by me in Ann Arbor hauling his keyboard I swear that I thought he was composing a tune in his head as he sped to his class or a gig. Ian Finkelstein is part of a Detroit renaissance that includes many of our young players hanging around, joining forces and adding new ideas. Fortunately today there are venues where they can be heard.
After hearing them play at New York’s Dizzy’s Coca Cola Jazz Club, New York Times Jazz writer Ben Ratliff wrote, “the band also included two young Detroit musicians, the tenor saxophonist Marcus Elliott and the pianist Ian Finkelstein, convincing and confident, evolved in touch and tone, the kind of musicians New York would be lucky to have. But they were practicing restraint, too, playing in service to the song, and the bandleader”.
A GOLDEN WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG
Last week Ian had four a day gig at the Dirty Dog Jazz Café. The consensus among those who were listening was that we will look back at the experience and remind ourselves how lucky we were to have been at the Dirty dog that evening back in 2019.
A GOLDEN NIGHT AT THE DIRTY DOG.
Playing bass last week was another young player, Jonathon Muir-Cotton . Jonathon is still a student at Wayne State. Last summer Esperanza Spalding conducted a seminar in the morning before her gig at the Dirty Dog. She asked for a student’s card before she left Wayne State. Jonathan got a call and was asked to play the set that evening. That night Ian was on piano, Jonathan was on bass. Teri Lynn Carrington was on drums and Esperanza was exploding with creative exuberance and mutual respect.
Whatever era we are in , jazz is alive and well in Detroit.
SOME FRESH FACES WILL BE COMING THIS WEEK TO THE DIRTY DOG
Zen Zedravec along with Charles and Gwen Scales are Detroit jazz artists that will be debuting at the Dirty Dog this month. They will be fresh faces kicking off a fresh year.
Zen is a Canadian pianist and saxophonist who composes and arranges his very original ideas.
Charles and Gwen are vocalists who have been headliners in Detroit music for some time. Help welcome them to the Dirty Dog.