Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ethan Iverson revisits

Ethan Iverson has updated his original post that listed his favorite jazz albums from the years 1973 - 1990. When his first list came out in 2006, it ignited an excellent conversation about albums in that period that have been overlooked by fans and scholars. His update expands this idea further, focusing on post-bop jazz from the 1970's and 80's. There are some really interesting choices here, definitely food for thought in re-assessing an era that is often overlooked in jazz history.

Some of my favorite musicians made wonderful music in this period, so I'd like to add some more music to the mix:

Arthur Blythe: Alto saxophonist Blythe's early albums for India Navigation like The Grip and Metamorphosis built on free jazz and the loft scene, while his extraordinary run on Columbia Records (!) brought together standards, post-bop, Monk tunes, even strings for a great series of truly creative albums that deserve much more attention.

James "Blood" Ulmer: After playing in Ornette Coleman's electric bands Ulmer took Coleman's harmolodic concept and melded it to blues, funk and soul on the extraordinary Tales of Captain Black (featuring Coleman) and then a couple of albums like Odyssey and Black Rock that took his concept even further. (Could someone please write about post-Miles, pre-Marsalis Columbia Records jazz in the 70's. Blythe and Ulmer on a major label? Amazing!)

Miles Davis: Iverson mentions the dark-funk era Davis records, but admits they aren't his thing. I love them - sprawling live LP's often only originally issued in Japan like Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangaea are thrilling amalgams of funk and jazz that sound like nothing else.

Wildflowers: The Jazz Loft Scene: While Iverson mentions many of the key musicians that made up the vibrant loft jazz scene in the 1970's like Sam Rivers and Julius Hemphill, I think this five LP or three CD set that drifts constantly in and out of print is the best introduction to the fascinating and wide-ranging music that was the hallmark of the lofts.

David Murray: Saxophonist and bass clarinetist David Murray recorded many albums during the period, and Iverson mentions Murray's Steps, an album in a series of excellent octet recordings that include Ming and Home. I'd also like to point out the lean trio record The Hill with Richard Davis and Joe Chambers. Murray revels in the extra space of the trio without overplaying or using cliches. I think it's one of his best albums.

Black Saint/Soul Note: These wonderful Italian labels took up the slack (along with several other dedicated European labels) releasing wonderfully creative work by Murray, Billy Harper and a wide range of American and European jazz musicians.

Many, if not all of my selections were discussed during the first round of this conversation a few years ago, but it's good to reiterate the quality of these records, and state that most of these musicians are alive and still playing vibrant jazz. They should be celebrated for their accomplishments and given chances not only to have their past glories easily available for purchase, but given new recording and performing opportunities. It is through these measures that the continuum of jazz remains exciting and continually evolving.

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