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Revisiting New Jazz Music Concert Report

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2022

The day when I told myself that it had been a while since I last attended a jazz concert happened to be the pivoting point in my vision of New Jazz music. The concert featured the compositions that had been around for quite a while and seemingly had no surprises.

Nevertheless, because of a new and imaginative way to interpret the compositions known by millions of people for quite a while, the concert left a huge impact on me and changed my perception of the concept of the New Jazz music in general and the works of some New Jazz musicians in particular.

The impact that the songs left with me is very hard to nail down. On the one hand, the unique interpretations of the songs were a fresh breeze in the range of traditional reiterations of the already existing versions. On the other hand, some of the interpretations rubbed me the wrong way, perhaps, only because I was so much used to the traditional versions of these songs. Anyway, it was rather engaging to listen to the new ways of singing old time classics.

The shift from Fender Rhodes solo to saxophones trio in Gaviota might be considered too much of a risk for the band to take. Seeing how the song clearly sounded very differently from the traditional performance, the audience might have easily refused to accept the version suggested by the band. However, much to my surprise, the new vision of the composition did not cause any misconceptions or unwillingness to see Clare Fischer’s creation in the new light.

The change in the choice of the instrument, however, did lend the song a more lounge-like sound, which seems to go against the author’s intent. While Fischer’s original version chimed in with the charm of the Girl from Ipanema with its bossa nova style, the concert interpretation was clearly aimed at triggering associations with the style preferred in the XXI century, which blends the influences of the mellow, classic and lounge jazz.

The same cannot be said, however, about the interpretation of Joseph Kosma’s Autumn Leaves played during the concert; an obvious homage to the composer, the given version did not deviate from the one that was introduced initially. At some point, however, the idea of replacing the flugelhorn with a more upbeat trumpet can be considered a rather risky choice; because of comparatively higher range, the cheerfulness of the composition might be seen as somewhat out of place.

Michael Franks’s Tell Me about It was revamped rather successfully, too. Originally quite boring, for my taste, song that every single jazz musician needs to come up with at some point in his/her life for some reason, it gained a new meaning as it was performed by a female artist. Perhaps, owing to the fact that the performer’s voice did not match Franks’s pitch and let the song sink into a lower tone, the composition sounded more sincere and refined.

In contrast to Franks’s performance, the interpretation provided by the female singer actually helped understand the lyrics better and feel the light sadness that the entire song was shot through. It was not that Franks could not perform his own song the right way – it was just that the new performer added another shade of meaning to Tell Me about It, and I happened to like that new meaning better.

The same cannot be said, however, about the next song that I was offered to listen to, Dizzy Gillespie’s Soul Sauce (Sutro 169). In contrast to the performances that came previously, it was rather jumbled. In contrast to the traditional version, which had a weird yet appealing rhythm to it, the concert version, which was clearly going for a much smoother version, yet tried to retain the original sound, was all over the place.

Palmer’s Leapfrog to Harlem, along with George Stone’s I’m out of Time, Too, was performed rather nicely, yet it clearly lacked the sound of trumpet, which help the original composition together and made it unique. By replacing the trumpet with the saxophone, the performers managed to add the composition a distinct scent of the “big city lights,” yet the replacement was deadly to the originality of the composition, turning it into another lounge jazz piece.

Arguably, the musicians were in a no-win situation – there was nothing that they could have done to revamp the song and leave it recognizable. If they had made too many changes to make it more palatable, the audience would have said that the new song sounded nothing like the old one; if the musicians left it intact, the audience would have argued that this was another pointless recycling of the “old gold.” Anyway, the rest of the concert was quite decent and even had a few pearls to be discovered ahead.

Abstract Image, a composition written by Fred Sturm, did not have any major surprises for me in terms of the choice of the instruments; however, the performance was rather neat, and the saxophone that replaced the original penny whistle was quite clever. Unless the musicians had made the given change to the song, the latter would have been completely out of place in the realm of the XXI century smooth jazz that the concert offered its visitors to plunge into.

For me, the given interpretation of Sturm’s most famous composition was, actually, a chance to take a new and unbiased look at the whole New Jazz concept (Clark 8). Previously believing that it was nothing but consistent attempts to bring postmodern chaos into the music that was not supposed to be orderly and follow strict rules by default, in contrast to, say, the classical music, I finally realized that the New Jazz era is a means to breathe new life into the genre that has so much potential in it and yet is forgotten so shamelessly.

Speaking of New Jazz, the interpretation of Matt Harris’s Snap Crackle snatched me out of the gloomily thoughtful mood. While the performers clearly made it sound more smoothly, it still created a charming atmosphere of carelessness. Followed by James Miley’s Three-Fingered Jack, it served as a means to switch from the process of quiet meditation to the state of musical delight.

Sammy Nestico’s Mind Machine added more whimsy to the concert. Actually, at this point, I felt the idea of introducing more whimsy to the concert rather redundant, since the atmosphere created by the musicians needed a heartfelt moment rather than a moment of vivacity; however, at this point, the idea of changing the tone of the concert was a rather welcome change of pace.

Horace Silver’s Peace was a logical solution to link the previous part of the concert to the point at which it was going to end. Sophisticated and slow, it led to Tony Martinez’s famous Pa’lo Latino, which was a perfect way to end a fairly good performance.

The concert definitely left me in a completely different mood from the one that I was when I arrived there. While I could not say that I liked every single interpretation of the compositions that had already become household classics by the beginning of the XXI century, they definitely offered a lot of food for thoughts and even more for aesthetic savoring of the moment.

Works Cited

Clark, Andrew. Riffs & Choruses: A New Jazz Anthology. London, UK: Continuum, 2001. Print.

Sutro, Dirk. Jazz for Dummies. New York, NY: Wiley Publishing, 2006. Print.

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