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The History Of Jazz - Part 9
- Neo Jazz

Where It All Began
Jazz In The Twenties
The Age Of Swing
Then Came BeBop
The Sound Of Cool Jazz
Hard Bop
Free Jazz
Fusion Jazz
Neo Jazz
Smooth Jazz

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The History Of Jazz - Part 9
- Neo Jazz

In the Eighties jazz entered its post-modernist phase. As far as stylistic development was concerned it seemed to have run the whole gamut from ' Plainsong to Stockhausen in about 70 years ' meaning no further development was conceivable along those lines. After the Seventies jazz had been fused with every imaginable kindred and un-kindred form, not a great deal more could be done along those lines either.

Jazz had no single dominating figure, no Charlie Parker, no John Coltrane, no Ornette Coleman, instead we had a number of independent coteries. With the exception of those who continue to aim for some kind of fusion including Steve Coleman and M-Base, Bill Frisell and John Scofield, most jazz in the Eighties and Nineties had been involved in one way or another with the ‘exploration of The History Of Jazz.

Among the first to turn to jazz history were the young white musicians whose inspiration came essentially from Swing with an added element of Bop. The key figures here were the tenor saxophonist Scott Hamilton and the cornettist Warren Vache, both of whom appeared on the New York scene in the late Seventies and were immediately acclaimed by both fans and players alike. In their wake have followed a steady stream of recruits to this kind of jazz.

In the Eighties the virtuoso guitarist Howard Alden appeared from California and with him Dan Barrett, a trombonist who plays with great accomplishment in the manner of Jack Teagarden, Dicky Wells and the other great men of the Thirties era.

Around the same time Ken Peplowski began to make excellent records on which he played several reed instruments but increasingly and most impressively, the clarinet. The newest of these jazz men is Harry Allen, another outstanding tenor player, still only a young man.

With the occasional exception this approach has not much appealed to black musicians, they too however have been interested in The History Of Jazz.  Here the most prominent figures were the Marsalis brothers, Wynton and Branford from New Orleans.

Wynton a trumpet player of extraordinary virtuosity is especially passionate about maintaining the purity of the jazz tradition. His evolution however has been more complex.

Starting in the late Bop tradition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers he was for a while audibly fascinated by Miles Davis' work of the mid-Sixties, he then began an exploration of earlier jazz history i.e. that of  Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton without as yet evolving a completely convincing synthesis of all these influences.

In this delving into history Wynton has been followed by his pianist Marcus Roberts who actually performed Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton pieces on a 90's record release.

Branford Marsalis on the other hand has stuck to a super sophisticated amalgam of late Fifties / early Sixties tenor playing, especially that of Coltrane and Rollins which has in turn had an influence on musicians like the British tenor player Courtney Pine.

It is probably the lead of Wynton which was decisive in encouraging an even younger group of American musicians to take up Bebop, among them the splendid and fiery trumpeter Roy Hargrove, altoist Antonio Hart, the pianist Mulgrew Miller plus a number of tenor saxophonists of whom the most notable is perhaps Joshua Redman. The white altoist Christopher Hollyday, a Jackie McLean follower, belongs with this group too.

Wynton Marsalis got the publicity, but perhaps a more successful eclectic traditionalist has been the altoist Bobby Watson who was another graduate of the Messengers, though of a slightly earlier edition, Watson probably has the widest stylistic reach of anyone in jazz. Basically he plays Bop but he can also perform convincingly in the style of Johnny Hodges and for a while worked with the Swing Big Band the Savoy Sultans.

With the 29th Street Saxophone Quartet, one of many unaccompanied all-saxophone groups which emerged in the Seventies and Eighties he would move from passages suggesting a Big Band reed section to Free Jazz.

Also trying to perform the whole of jazz history at the same time, but from a different perspective, has been the group around the tenor player David Murray. Murray's point of departure was Free Jazz from which his recorded work constitutes a long journey back towards the older jazz tradition. His playing still has Free Jazz elements, but to judge from his recordings it became less and less.

A number of sometime Free Jazz figures have taken the same path as Murray, Archie Shepp for example and with him should be grouped three brilliant and eclectic trombonists all born in the Fifties, Craig Harris who has played in Murray's bands, George Lewis and Ray Anderson.

Next Time in Part 10 - Smooth Jazz

* Also see :- Louis Armstrong Biography
* Also see :- Dave Brubeck Biography
* Also see :- John Hammond Biography
* Also see :- Nica de Koenigswarter Biography
* Also see :- 52nd Street
* Also see :- Tin Pan Alley

Wes George (former Sony Jazz webmaster)
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