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Innovators: 6 Unique Jazz Performances That Will Blow Your Mind

Don't dismiss these avant-garde breakthroughs in part 8 of the ongoing Jazz and Islam series.

Robert Spencer


April 5, 2013 - 7:00 am
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This statement is attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and is part of Islam’s general disapproval of the concept of bid’ah, or innovation. The prohibition of innovation refers specifically to new theological ideas — Allah tells the Muslims in the Qur’an that he has perfected their religion for them (5:3), and that’s that.

But all the frowning on theological innovation has fostered a general cultural attitude against innovation of any kind — which is one reason why Islamic states are not generally leaders in technological development or scientific exploration. In the West, by contrast, we generally respect and reward innovation when it leads to new insights and greater efficiency — and are the beneficiaries of a musical tradition that has celebrated innovators from Bach to Beethoven to Louis Armstrong. And there are many others, drastically unsung, who deserve a hearing.

Musical innovation is a tricky thing; one man’s startling and fascinating new musical development is another man’s noise. That’s why musical innovators have implored their hearers to listen without prejudice long before George Michael appropriated the term. And of course what may not appeal to someone at first may get through at some other point; I vividly remember the day when I became so completely absorbed in Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which had never much mattered to me before that, and came down from the mountain dazed and dazzled, not interested in hearing any other music ever again, ever.

The exaltation wore off, of course, as it always does, but the respect for musical innovation, and the resolve to listen without prejudice, remained. And so here are five jazz innovators whose work is usually classified as “avant garde,” which for most people is a synonym for “unlistenable.” I beg to differ. Listen without prejudice.

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Interesting that the Ornette Coleman Double Quartet album cover is emblazoned with what looks like a Jackson Pollock drop cloth that was called painting back in the day. Free jazz is (frequently) the sonic equivalent of Pollock and a bunch of others I studied but forgot because I came to not give a damn about because it looked like foolery: folks throwing paint around, making haphazard doodles in gaudy colors then coming up with an intellectual explanation to "sell" it. (The value of a BFA in a nutshell).

An the Lacy and Potts numbers are ripe for satire.

Talking about jazz is almost impossible. Either it has something in its' rhythms, melodies, harmonies, or something, that grabs you, gets your attention and takes you away to some degree or it don't. If it sounds like noise to your ears, that's what it is.

I found myself just the other day trying to sit through a CD by the Kronos Quartet that I borrowed from the library. Glad was I that I had not paid a dime for it. Second movement blew the whole thing for me. Ditto for Mahler's 8th train wreck. Only it used the Berlin Phil-H AND a Choir!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Fascinating to see the topic of jazz discussed on PJ Media. Somehow, sadly, it's the kind of topic that we PJ Media readers aren't supposed to be interested in.

Problem/Challenge is: in the spirit of the post, I think I'll quit "commenting/blogging" and start making some music. Heh, it's a lot harder....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I like jazz and listen to it all the time. I don't like Blue Note or freeform style jazz since it's completely lacking in discipline and structure. I liken it to enjoying freedom while disliking anarchy. I didn't like any of the pieces you linked (sorry!).

This is about as close to something like Blue Note and still enjoy it:
Stan Getz and Chet Baker 1983
(The Chet Baker section is more the Blue Note side of things)

These are things I listen to regularly:

Cannonball Adderley - Jive Samba - 1963

Dave Brubeck Quartet - 'Take Five' (Extended) | Live in Belgium 1964

Jonathan Stout and his Campus Five - Dark Eyes

I also agree that's it's the pretentious, phoney obsession with the new and edgy that has, - and is still - destroying the art world. What's been lost is quality, precision, composition and beauty.
1 year ago
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