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Personal Notes - The History Of Jazz - Part 7
In Part Seven of 'The History Of Jazz' I try to piece together the Free Jazz days of the genre and uncover the musicians who pathed the way for the music that we listen to today.  
wes george

If you are already a jazz aficionado you will already be aware of the following details so this article is aimed at those of you who are 'new to Jazz' or 'catching up'.

Whenever an artist is mentioned in the articles, YOU can send us your take on THEIR BIOGRAPHY and we will link it to a separate page with your credits. Send us the Biographies to info@jazznet247.net ( We will reserve the right to edit before publishing ) - See Dave Brubeck

The History Of Jazz - Part 7 - Free Jazz

By the Fifties jazz had become habituated to messianic figures 'The Leather Stockinged Geniuses'. The critic Gary Giddins once said  ' Who was it came along and taught the world a new musical language? Was it Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker ... and who would be next? '

Was Ornette Coleman, an iconoclastic young altoist who had recently blown into New York from the West Coast, the new Bird?  It seemed probable at this time.

He had extremely disturbing musical ideas which defied conventional notions of harmony. His instrumental sound was raw, fresh and expressive in a novel way, just as Parker's had been. Previously  just like Charlie Parker and Lester Young, Coleman had been derided by older musicians and boppers like Dexter Gordon.

He had many of tile marks of a messiah but the jazz world was divided. Many, including the normally avant-garde Miles Davis and Charles Mingus were suspicious, openly suggesting that Coleman's playing showed not so much profound originality, but profound ignorance.

The radicality of Coleman's music divided the spirit of the times, it promised a great step forward, agreeable to the modern-minded Sixties and it proposed a new type of music which would be more clearly the possession of African Americans. This had been one of the initial motives of Bop, but that of course had been very quickly assimilated by white performers.

This new music, the 'New Thing' as it was sometimes called, was arguably a sort of a return to more purely African roots, jettisoning the European elements in jazz, conventional harmony and form and indeed some of Coleman's work does indeed suggest the most primitive Afro-American roots.

By the beginning of the Sixties a number of younger musicians were following Coleman's lead, including the tenor players Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp. By the mid-Sixties John Coltrane himself, another putative messiah had adopted Free Jazz. His major records in 1965 i.e. Ascension, Meditation, Kulu Se Mama were recorded with such collaborators as Shepp and an Albert Ayler follower called Pharoah Saunders who actually became the frontline partner in his regular band.

Although Coleman made the big splash others had already been working on parallel lines. The pianist Cecil Taylor had long been evolving a keyboard approach based on furious attack and dense textures and continued to develop along his own lines throughout the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. His music is more inaccessible and arguably more musically rich than Ornette Coleman's.

Another isolated experimenter was Sun Ra, a musician who has the unique distinction among big band leaders of having been born on the planet Saturn (an alternative theory holds that he was once called Herman Blount and came from Alabama).

Sun Ra started leading bands he called the Solar Orchestra in the Fifties (always with the tenor player John Gilmore), evolving towards a style which mixed musical freedoms with great theatricality. His musicians danced and processed and might be dressed in spacesuits or flowing robes.

This theatricality was shared with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, a band containing the trumpeter Lester Bowie and reed players Joseph Jarman and Roscoe Mitchell. The excitement of seeing this band live, its supporters claim, was much greater than that which was captured on its recordings.

Another player from Chicago is the composer and multi-instrumentalist Anthony Braxton, a performer whose work is occasionally beautifully persuasive, but often forbiddingly recondite (he was interested in the mathematical aspects of music which was interesting in itself).

The New Thing was a not a unified style like Bop or Swing, so much as a collection of coteries. Taylor's music, for example is not really compatible with Coleman's. Also it is not so much a musical language as a platonic ideal. Many musicians, for example the altoist Jackie McLean and multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy moved more or less 'outside', as it was called the boundaries of Bop.

To sum it all up! - As with much that happened in the Sixties there were many experiments attempted which didn't work and even fewer solutions were found. It was often the most strikingly expressive which was simplest, closest to the blues, the dirge, the cry, but to get to the sound that worked the listener often had to sit through lengthy stretches of rebarbative and self-indulgent chaos. This did not help the jazz gene in a musical landscape which threatened to banish jazz to a diminished popularity.

Not surprisingly it never developed much of an audience in the USA. Free Jazz found more of a home in northern Europe where it fitted into the existing tradition of esoteric modern classical music.

Many of the most prominent European players of the Sixties were affected by the Free Jazz movement including German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and British baritone saxophonist John Surman.  It was in fact in the Free Jazz movement of the Sixties that European jazz at last began to attain autonomy from its American counterpart.

Next Time in Part 8 - Fusion Jazz  ^

Catch Up
The History Of Jazz Part 1 - Where It All Began
The History Of Jazz Part 2 - Jazz In The Twenties
The History Of Jazz Part 3 - The Age Of Swing
The History Of Jazz Part 4 - Then Came Bebop

The History Of Jazz Part 5 - The Sound Of Cool
The History Of Jazz Part 6 - Hard Bop  ^

Wes George
Blog Page - Facebook.com/streetjazzblogpage6

Also See :-
* Gil Evans - Out Of The Cool Review
* Paul Desmond - Take Ten Review
* Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto - Getz / Gilbert Review
* Art Blakey - Moanin' Review
* Julie London - Around Midnight Review
* Round Midnight DVD Review
* Dave Brubeck - Time Out Review
* Charlie Parker - Now's The Time Review
* Billie Holiday - Lady In Satin Review
* John Coltrane - Blue Train Review
Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue Review
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Personal Notes - WELCOME TO THE WINTER OF 2020


This week I continue on some ideas for todays' Jazz Musicians from my own marketing perspective to perhaps 'Add Value To Their Projects' and a sample of 'Ways to Differentiate Themselves' from other projects.

It must be said again that these are my views as a marketer and a radio station producer, but 50 years in both sectors have given me an insight, projects and experience which some of you might find useful, some controversial and most will dismiss it as they are musicians and not marketers. Read it with an open mind.

Let me start with the Three Types of Artists from a Marketing Perspective ( or indeed this reflects many products on the market ), they are 1) The Innovators, 2) The Me Toos and 3) The Laggards

Marketing categorizes them as follows :-

1) The Innovators - they create an idea, launch it and financially gain the most from the product or service, circa 90% marketshare, they can also charge a premium for it as people want it. ( think Apple iPhone )

2) The
Me Toos - they see the ideas by The Innovators and think 'this must be a money making machine', I'll try it too. Unfortunately 'The Cream' has already be gleaned by The Innovators and there is only some preverbial 'Milk' left for The Me Toos ( circa 9% of the total market ). Me Toos must also discount heavily or they don't sell anything at all i.e.' after all it has already been done'.

3) The Laggards - This category has no ideas of their own and indeed may not even be interested in the product or service previously, but think that there might be a money spinning opportunity going on as 'Everyone else is doing it it must be the right thing to do'. By the time they get their product to the marketplace there is less than 1% of market value left and The Innovators have already released their next project at this time watched closely by the Me Toos for someone or something new 'to copy or imitate'.

As a musician you must know where you stand in this life cycle, are you original ?, are you copying?, do you offer 'Added Value' or are you just jumping on the merry-go-round with hope?

As mentioned last time I suggested that only a few artists, in percentage terms, ( top 5 to 10% ) make any money in the jazz genre, when I worked with Sony Jazz the percentage of Jazz v Total Music Sales was circa 3%, I don't think much has changed since the Noughties. Although Smooth Jazz artists are releasing huge volumes of new music I question the Quality and Originality and if the 200 tracks passing over my virtual desk each week are anything to go by, there is very little originality ( i.e. The Innovators ), lots of Me Toos, (60 - 70% of the new tracks are sax players) and the number of Laggards has proliferated considerably since Lockdown.

Unfortunately this is the reality as I see it and if you are a musician in today's jazz genre I would suggest that you look long and hard at WHY are you releasing a new project?, WHAT do you hope to gain from it? ( as most artists will be guaranteed a financial loss, see previous article ) LOOK at the current landscape and the opportunity to compliment the release i.e. by playing in music venues, concerts, galas, cruises etc etc That may take some time with present market conditions.

With Lockdown musicians were restricted to writing and producing new projects which was excellent ( I still think that todays' musicians spend more time promoting themselves and their music on social media and at very little return - see previous article ), but it looks to me as if the foreseable future may not see a return to life as we knew it for some time and confidence in the populations will have to mature before life returns to some normality.

That said, Artists MUST view forthcoming projects objectively and know clearly WHY they are releasing a new project and PLAN the cost in advance.

1) REALISTIC - If you hope for a Lottery win, good luck.
2) MANAGEABLE - Stay within your own comfort zone
3) MEASUREABLE - Don't lose your shirt by guesswork.
4) PROFITABLE - Do you operate a business or a hobby ?

As I mentioned in Part One of this article, if you are a hobbiest or semi-professional musician and your primary job can afford you to release your projects then 'Go For It', life is short, 'Realize Your Dreams', if you release projects to pay your bills - then think carefully BEFORE you spend your hard earned cash, once it is spent and you receive no return it is a hard pill to swallow ( use it as an Advertising Tax Write off ). I can't emphasize enough is that what I see happening today in the Smooth Jazz genre is nothing short of 'financial suicide' by most artists.

One of the ways that I recommend for artists to Stand Out In A Crowd is to try and Add Value to their projects, the best way I can demonstrate this is during the early days of the JazzNet247 Project in the Noughties when I was also the partner of my own Marketing and Multimedia company in the UK.

I got talking with one of the musicians ( from Colorado ) as I often do and he was looking for ways to 'Add Value' and 'Differentiate His Projects' himself, he was an exceptional musician, but he was not a marketer or businessman per se, he already had 8 or 9 brilliant CD releases, he was a Steinway Artist, a composer, worked as a Producer, wrote music theory books and he performed in concerts at home and abroad ( this might ring a bell with some other artists :>)

I developed an idea for him of Adding Value using our Enhanced CD design whereby a CD had 'two volumes' or 'partitions', one played on a computer which opened automatically upon insertion and displayed an interactive multimedia show. The first project that we did was for the 7 Star Presidential Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs whereby I designed the interactive multimedia show and provided him with the content idea which he provided with photographs from the Hotel, Facilities and Local Tourist Attractions.

On the other volume were 10 Audio Tracks from his own CDs which the end user could play normally in their car or on a home CD Player.

By selling the concept to the Corporate World his first order was for 5,000 ECDs of these GiveAways to the Visitors and Enquirers to this Hotel, its Facilities and we also marketed it to the Local Tourist Board and encouraged them to contribute to the On Costs. It was so successful that he took re-orders and we went on to sell the concept to more companies in Colorado.

Up until then his usual sales pattern of
'500 CDs was to 500 customers', this Added Value idea was selling 5,000 ECDS to 'one customer'. We went on to win a prestigious USA National Marketing Award in 2000 for this idea.

This was Adding Value to a Project, thinking Laterally and a Synergy of the meeting of two minds to create a successful third idea, The musician came to me with his thoughts, I suggested an idea and the synergy came up with a innovative End Product, he sold many more music albums and I made some money from my design and marketing.

Enhanced CDs are now dated but I went on to work with many other international artists and the arists at Sony Jazz at that time. How YOU might Add Value to your musical projects is worth considering. I recommend that you think 'Laterally' and with others, it doesn't matter how crazy an idea might seem, write it down, discuss it and only dismiss it when it has exhausted reality, manageability and is not measureable.

broadmoor digi pack image

The Broadmoor Enhanced CD Digi Pack Artwork
' Mountains and Memories '
2000 'Interactive Media' Winner in the USA

Next time :- Differentiating The Product, Product Perception


Also see :-
* Submitting Your Music To Us
Recording Liners to Support Your Music
Get a Free Radio Advert
Time Out Shows

Wes George (former Webmaster with Sony Jazz UK)  
Blog Page - Facebook.com/streetjazzblogpage6 top of page
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