Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jazz Code In Cincinnati

Have you heard Rebecca Coupe Franks? The security guard at my work loaned me one of her CD's this week, and I'm pretty impressed:

The CD that I'm borrowing is called Suit Of Armor, and it's a nice, smoky sounding album. My wife pointed out to me the other day that I use the word 'smoky' where most other people would say 'sultry', or 'sexy'. I'm not sure what that means about me, but I don't think any of these words would be wrong to use as descriptors of the Suit Of Armor album.

I ended up talking to our security guard about jazz by accident. One day he overheard me use the name Ron Carter in conversation, and interjected, 'Ron Carter, huh?' and I said, 'Not the bass player.' and he smiled and said, 'So you know what I'm talking about then!' and entered into the conversation I was having, which quickly became about jazz music. I had never really talked to him too much before, but apparently jazz was the topic we needed to break the ice. He's a mountainous guy with a stoic demeanor who doesn't really seem to invite conversation. He lit up on this topic though. Apparently he had a public access jazz talk show back in the day, and was a connoisseur on the subject, whereas I am merely a hobbyist. This was established right at the beginning of the conversation:

The Mountain: 'You listen to Jazz?'
Me: 'Yeah, I like jazz.'
The Mountain: 'I love jazz. I live for it, Jack.'

Okay. The conversation was fairly rudimentary. We engaged in a ritual that I've discovered is necessary every time one jazz enthusiast meets another one. We tossed out names of jazz musicians we liked, and then responded with excitement when it turned out the other guy knew and liked that guy too, as if we were paleontologists rejoicing over new fossil discoveries. When one of us would name a guy the other didn't know about, we'd say, 'oh, man. You've got to check him out.' and give a little background on the guy and cite some of his better work. I exhausted my list of names much faster than The Mountain, but it turned out we were into the same kind of stuff, more or less. Once the initial name trading was done, and once we had gotten the stories of 'how we got into jazz' out of the way (he was brought up in a house full of jazz musicians. I owe my interest in jazz to my grandfather for loaning me a copy of 'What A Wonderful World' and Woody Allen's film scores), I assumed the role of Padawan and he assumed the role of Jedi master, which was more than appropriate.

Neither of us cared for the smooth, studio sounding jazz too much. If it was studio, it had to be innovative. We both have huge Andrew Hill collections, and both like Joe Maneri. Our point of diversion was on John Coltrane. The Mountain thinks he's the greatest, but I'm turned off of him because his music reminds me of the scores for a lot of kung fu movies from the seventies.

One thing that we agreed on was that unlike a lot of music, good jazz demands that you listen to it. It's not for the background. Not white noise. I think that's why I've never been able to really get into classical music too much, unless it was kind of jazzed up Uri Caine kind of stuff. You can clean the house to Mozart's 'A Little Night Music', but you have to sit down and listen to John Zorn's 'The Big Gundown'. It would be impossible not to.

That's all, just wanted to share that little exchange. Jazz fans are a specialized breed in Cincinnati. There are people who may like the idea of jazz, but there are much fewer who have taken the time to investigate it. More often than not, if you run into someone who says they like Jazz in Cincinnati, one of the first names they're going to drop from their mouths is going to be Norah Jones or B.B. King. Not that there's anything wrong with Norah Jones or B.B. King, but, you know.




Cross Posted at The Daily Kos


Lodo Grdzak said...

With jazz, you're more often gonna learn of a new artist via word of mouth as opposed to...well, what other method is there? Sad, but that's what makes it more intimate. Hadn't seen that Joe Maneri clip. Thanks for turning me on to that. Reminds me a lot of Henry Threadgill's Zooid (one of my personal, NYC favorites). And Zorn--shit! That name's just shorthand for late 80's, NYC, alternative jazz. Great clips yo!

Spencer Troxell said...

Word of mouth is better, because your opinion of the recommender can help you decide whether or not something is worth investigating.

I haven't heard of Threadgill. I'll look into it.

Lodo Grdzak said...

The name of his band I like best is Zooid. I'm sure you'll have to order it on-line. He's avant-garde, but not so much that you cant listen to it. Its accessible--much more so than some of his stuff you'll find on YouTube. Much like Maneri, but different instrumentation. And...I just really like Henry.