Wither Jazz

The 2014 Jazz Journalists Association Awards have been announced, and forgive my slight cynicism, but no surprises. My votes probably evaporated somewhere near the bottom of the mix. The rich get richer, big names are rewarded even if their actual music making has turned mediocre, or laid fallow:

  • No quibbles about Herbie Hancock’s Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Miles Davis in Europe 1969 is an easy way out: not as good as the first bootleg volume and far less interesting and important than the Woody Shaw and Clifford Jordan sets from Mosaic
  • Wayne Shorter’s Without a Net is a mediocre record, the music rests on old laurels and the long form composition is poor
  • Cecile McLorin Salvant has been a fashionable choice this past year, but I’m waiting for her to do something distinctive
  • ECM and Maria Schneider are utterly predictable, completely safe choices, they keep doing their thing without surprises and without expanding the music
  • I love Lee Konitz as much as the next guy, but he hasn’t made a new record since 2012 (in no small part because of age and failing health); there must be dozens of alto players who had more musically meaningful years

Moods and views come and go, but after several recent events that put me deep within the daring, dangerous ideas of experimental music, I’m acutely sensitive to how conventional mainstream jazz has become. The story of how that happened is depressing and discouraging.

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