Saturday, June 30, 2007

I made another presentation to our senior group at my library yesterday. This one was a bit of a gamble, because it wasn't about either legendary musicians that they would probably know or singers performing standards they would recognize. No, this one was a self-indulgent presentation on “Today's Jazz.” I thought that I had kept the set list pretty middle of the road, there's no way anyone can capsulize the diversity of the jazz scene today in 90 minutes, so I decided to just play some highlights of young-ish instrumentalists (my anti-vocalist bias raising its ugly head again) and give some background. What surprised me is how strange and unusual the music sounded when I listened to it from the audience's perspective. I'm so used to seeking out and listening to adventurous music that I had forgotten that most people look for music that provides them comfort and does not challenge them. Four people actually walked out during Michael Blake's “Surfing Sahara” giving me questioning looks as if to say “what is this?” Luckily some of our regulars stuck it out to the bitter end. I probably should have given more consideration to the playlist, opting for more melodic material over anything else, but I was pressed for time and wound up just slapping it together. The two points I was trying to make in the presentation were that today's jazz musicians were drawing on a wide variety of material, often from different cultures to add to more traditional forms of jazz. To this end I played the aforementioned “Surfing Sahara” with it's swirling solo from Blake and Ben Allison's “Disposable Genius” which has a very distinctive kora solo from Matamou Diabate. I also spoke about how younger jazz musicians were drawing from rock and pop music much as their predecessors drew from Broadway show tunes. I demonstrated this with Brad Mheldau's take on The Beatles' “Dear Prudence” and the version of Blondie's “Heart of Glass” by The Bad Plus. Overall, I guess it went OK, I'm still not that comfortable speaking to groups, but I didn't seem to talk myself into a corner too often. We started with a respectable crowd of 20 and then four drifted out... and one fell asleep! One lady told me afterwards that it was nice to see someone so passionate about a topic, so I guess that was a compliment. Here's the complete playlist:

Disposable Genius by Ben Allison
Surfing Sahara by Michael Blake
Chasin' The Gypsy by James Carter
Dear Prudence by Brad Mehldau
Fire Waltz by Jason Moran
Peeping Tim by Nicholas Payton (Not a senior-friendly tune, but included as a much needed dose of self-deprecating humor)
Minor Blues by Kurt Rosenwinkel
Heart Of Glass by The Bad Plus
Foxy by Reid Anderson
Lakbay Ang Sayaw by Susie Ibarra
Zurich Mark Turner by Mark Turner

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