FUTURE JAZZ by HOWARD MANDEL

 |   |  1 min read

FUTURE JAZZ by HOWARD MANDEL

In a recent column I said that when the histories of jazz last century are written one name will loom unnaturally large, that of trumpeter/composer Wynton Marsalis.

I speculated this undeniably talented, articulate and media-savvy musician would either be hailed as the one who saved jazz from disappearing into arthouse obscurity or derided as a man who marginalised otherwise important styles of jazz just because he didn't especially like them.

This 200-page paperback by respected American jazz writer Howard Mandel has already proved me depressingly accurate.

A 1984 Marsalis interview with Mandel for Down Beat magazine - when Marsalis was 22 - is given alarming prominence. It takes precedence at the start; halfway through, another section of it is dropped in, and at the end is yet another segment. It is as if opinions about this music must be bounced off the Marsalis sounding board.

To be fair it's an interesting enough interview (although inevitably Marsalis has changed some of his views in the 16 years since) but it skews what is an otherwise intelligent if minor addition to any music library.

Working from the premise that the Sixties were pivotal for jazz - it looked both back and forward in a way it hadn't done previously - Mandel offers a potted history of jazz since. He interpolates the story with distilled biographies of important innovators.

He draws on his own interviews with musicians of the Sixties avant-garde (Don Pullen, members of the Art Ensemble of Chicago) and chronologically follows the development of jazz through its fusion with rock (guitarists John McLaughlin and George Benson profiled) and also addresses often overlooked but significant figures such as pianist composer Anthony Davis and flautist James Newton. He also turns attention on the hip New York downtown scene of the Eighties and Nineties. All good stuff.

Mandel also looks at how jazz has been marketed by including comments from record-company shapeshifters Dr George Butler (of Columbia, who signed Marsalis), Richard Sedel (Verve and GRP) and Bruce Lundvall (who has moved through CBS, Elektra Musician and Blue Note labels).

The subtext of their comments is that concepts such as the Young Lions (the imprimatur given to a group of younger musicians in the early Eighties, which included Marsalis) gives the media something to latch on to, and in it find its own heroes. Like whom, we might wonder.

Maybe Mandel didn't get the irony - but the media-savvy Marsalis casts too large a shadow over a slim book.

There is plenty more on jazz at Elsewhere here.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Writing articles index

LOWSIDE OF THE ROAD: A LIFE OF TOM WAITS by BARNEY HOSKYNS

LOWSIDE OF THE ROAD: A LIFE OF TOM WAITS by BARNEY HOSKYNS

One of Tom Waits’ most eerie yet surprisingly popular songs is the speculative What’s He Building? from his 1999 album Mule Variations. In it neighbours wonder about the odd... > Read more

ACCORDING TO THE ROLLING STONES edited by DORA LOEWENSTEIN AND PHILIP DODD (2003): Voices off . . .

ACCORDING TO THE ROLLING STONES edited by DORA LOEWENSTEIN AND PHILIP DODD (2003): Voices off . . .

The Rolling Stones have had quite a marketing profile in their 40th-anniversary year: the reissue of all their early albums through to the mid 70s; the 40 Licks double-disc hit-stacked compilation;... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Scotty's salmon'n'scallop filo gateau with a capsicum dill buerre blanc

Scotty's salmon'n'scallop filo gateau with a capsicum dill buerre blanc

This superb and astonishingly easy recipe comes courtesy of Scotty Newcombe, chef at Lake Brunner Lodge in the South Island of New Zealand. Lake Brunner Lodge is one of those ideal retreats... > Read more

Keith's Christmas Tequila Cookies

Keith's Christmas Tequila Cookies

Keith offers this marvellous recipe which I can unequivocally recommend. His injunction that you should use only the best tequila is very important however -- as you will see if you read on.... > Read more