Jazz Spectrum


Saturdays 8 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Hosted by Fritz Byers, Jazz Spectrum is designed as an anthology, a loose and flowing tour through the history of the music, showcasing the wondrous diversity of jazz and the virtuosity of the musicians who play it.

Playlist: August 6, 2022


Set 1
Buddy Collette, Nice Day with Buddy Collette, “There Will Never Be Another You”
Same, “A Nice Day”
Buddy Collette Quintet with Irene Kral, “The Meaning of the Blues”
Buddy Collette, Jazz Loves Paris, “The Last Time I Saw Paris”
Dorothy Ashby, Hip Harp, “Moonlight in Vermont”
Dorothy Ashby, Dorothy Ashby, “You Stepped Out of a Dream”
Abbey Lincoln, Abbey is Blue, “Afro Blue”
Same, “Softy as in a Morning Sunrise”
Set 2
Ravi Coltrane, Spirit Fiction, “Klepto”
Ravi Coltrane, In Flux, “For Alice”
Ralph Alessi, Imaginary Friends, “Melee”
Ravi Coltrane, Blending Times, “Before with After”
Set 3
Charlie Haden Quartet West, Always Say Goodbye, “Relaxin’ at Camarillo”
Liberation Music Orchestra, Ballad of the Fallen, “Silence”
Ornette Coleman and Charlie Haden, Soapsuds Soapsuds, “Soapsuds”
Charlie Haden & Paul Motian, featuring Geri Allen, Etudes, “Lonely Woman”
Set 4
Charlie Haden, Silence, “Conception”
Charlie Haden with Michael Brecker, American Dreams, “Ron’s Place”
Charlie Haden with Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell, The Montreal Tapes,“The Blessing”
Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau, Long Ago and Far Away, “Everything Happens to Me”
Set 5
Louis Armstrong, Complete Decca Sessions, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Coleman Hawkins, Vol. 1 (1929-34), “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra, 1937-38, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Lester Young with Count Basie, Classic Columbia, Okeh and Vocalion Recordings, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Set 6
Billie Holiday, Commodore Master Takes, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Art Tatum, Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Vol. 8, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Nat King Cole, Complete Capitol Recordings, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Paul Quinichette, On the Sunny Side, “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
Set 7
Vic Dickenson, The Essential Vic Dickenson, “Jeepers Creepers”
Vic Dickenson, Gentleman of the Trombone, “Nice and Easy Blues”
Vic Dickenson, Trombone Cholly, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”
Vic Dickenson & Joe Thomas, Mainstream, “The Lamp is Low”
Set 8
Abbey Lincoln, Devil’s Got Your Tongue, “A Child is Born”
Abbey Lincoln, Abbey Sings Billie Vol. 2, “Don’t Explain”
Abbey Lincoln, Abbey Sings Abbey, “Bird Alone”
Abbey Lincoln, When There is Love, “I Should Care”
Set 9
Charlie Haden, The Montreal Tapes: A Tribute to Joe Henderson, “’Round Midnight”
Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, Steal Away, “It’s Me, O Lord”
Charlie Haden & Jim Hall, Live from Montreal International Jazz Festival, “Skylark”
Charlie Haden & Kenny Baron, Night and the City, “Body and Soul”.

Past Playlists

The Best of 2021 -- Kimbrough, and so much more

It’s Winter, and, as I write, the wind chill is sub-zero here in the curtilage of Lake Erie, a great lake that’s doing its best to overcome what we’ve done to it.  It could use a little help. 

The last two years have shown – sometimes as bracing instruction, sometimes as gentle reminder – that we can all use a little help.  Art offers us that help in the most humane and democratic way imaginable: never forcing us to act against our will; never lying to us; never carnival-barking to our weaknesses and lowest instincts; never . . . well, you know.
It was, to the extent I am able to comfortably assess, a good year for fiction, another art form that is morphing to find a niche in an ever-frantic consumerist world.  But the Year in Jazz? For an interested but amateur listener like myself, it’s been a soothing soundtrack, a source of comfort and hope, as ever.  As I said, it’s deep Winter, but the mood here is Autumnal.  Perhaps that explains, at least in part, why the monumental multi-artist tribute to Frank Kimbrough, the pianist who died in December 2020, rose singularly above dozens of other great releases and seems to me to be the album of the year.  Issued by the folks at Newvelle, Kimbrough presents sixty-one of Frank’s tunes, performed by some of the best musicians in the world in shifting combinations of instruments and shimmering diversities of tempo, tonality, and mood. 
Frank was a friend.  He was gracious, gentle, humorous (with a beguiling wry half-smile), and endlessly committed to the music, and to his muse, which took him on journeys: from the quietest recordings of lullabies; to revelatory pairings with Joe Locke and various dynamic trios; to his anchoring the rhythm section as the foundation of the great Maria Schneider’s arching orchestral imaginations; to the intricacies of the Herbie Nichols Project, which he co-led with the bassist Ben Allison, unearthing and reviving Nichols’s incomparable compositions, preserving their mysteries and presenting them for another generation to explore; and so much more.  Seeing Frank live was a treat, particularly watching him in a trio setting with a familiar bassist and drummer.  You could see the interplay as the musicians’ eyes met; and you could feel the musical empathies, layered, comforting, and occasionally surprising, even to Frank.
Our last in-depth conversation was about his project to record all of the compositions of Thelonious Monk, which was released in 2018 as the six-disc Monk’s Dreams.  In the company of the bassist Rufus Reid, the drummer Billy Drummond, and the multi-reedist Scott Robinson, Frank assayed Monk’s work -- seventy tracks in all – with deep respect, exquisite sensitivity, and peerless virtuosity.  Until and unless you heard it, the task would seem an unimaginable summiting.  Frank knew both parts of that idea – how high was the climb, and how worthwhile the getting there.  Monk’s Dreams was the best thing I heard in 2018, and it hasn’t been bettered. 
Kimbrough is something different. But it stands alongside Monk’s Dreams as permanent pillars to Frank’s musical legacy.  I miss Frank, and at the risk of committing a sentimental fallacy I think Kimbrough makes clear that the musicians on the date do too.  Sixty-seven musicians performing sixty-one tunes – shifting groups of musicians who had never played together before, performing tunes of Frank’s that they’d not played before.  The tunes are at once disciplined and open-ended; the musicians are respectful and creative.  The result is a monument.  Don’t miss it.
Or any of the things on the list below.  Fifty recordings.  Every one pulled me in, sometimes to my surprise, always to my joy.  * denotes a special favorite.
Greg Abate Magic Dance - The Songs of Kenny Barron
Alchemy Sound Project, Afrika Love,
Franco Ambrosetti Band, Lost Within You
Tim Berne - Broken Shadows
Dan Blake, Da Fe, "Fish in Puddles"
* Johnathan Blake - Homeward Bound
Lena Bloch & Feathery, Rose of Lifta
Borderlands Trio - Wandersphere
Anthony Braxton - Quartet (Standards) 2020
Patricia Brennan, Maquishti
Bill Charlap - Street of Dreams
Marc Copland, John
* East Axis - Cool With That
Orrin Evans - The Magic of Now
Floating Points Pharoah Sanders - Promises
* Kenny Garrett - Sounds from the Ancestors
Jon Gordon, Stranger Than Fiction
Maria Grand - Reciprocity
Noah Haidu, Slowly: For Keith Jarrett
Roy Hargrove and Mulgrew Miller - In Harmony
Dave Holland - Another Land
* Vijy Iyer - Uneasy
Marc Johnson - Overpass
Julian Lage - Squint
* James Brandon Lewis - Jesup Wagon
James Brandon Lewis, Code of Being
Charles Lloyd & the Marvels - Tone Poem
* Dave Douglas & Joe Lovano Sound Prints - Other Worlds
Joe Lovano Trio Tapestry - Garden of Expression
Pat Metheny - Side-Eye NYC
Charles Mingus - Mingus at Carnegie Hall
Yoko Miwa, Songs of Joy
Hafez Modirzadeh, Facets
Jason Moran, The Sound Will Tell You

Natural Information Society with Evan Parker - descension
Adam O'Farrill - Visions of Your Other
Rich Pellegrin, Solitude
Ivo Perelman, Brass and Ivory Tales
John Pizzarelli- Better Days Ahead (Solo Guitar Takes on Pat Metheny)
Chris Potter - Sunrise Reprise
* David Sanford - A Prayer from Lester Bowie
* Archie Shepp and Jason Moran - Let My People Go
Matthew Shipp, Codebreaker
Wadada Leo Smith, A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday
Aki Takase, Auge
* Henry Threadgill Zooid - Poof
* Various Artists - Kimbrough
Anna Webber - Idiom
Miguel Zenon - The Law Years
Miguel Zenon and Luis Perdomo, El Arte del Bolero

Best of 2020

 Best of 2020

For the entirety of its 100-plus years, jazz has represented a dialectic between commentary on the real world and the arching aspirations of the imagination.  In giving expression to this fraught and fertile counterpoint, of course, jazz is not alone among the arts.  Indeed, this soul-drenched conversation is perhaps the heart of all Art.  But there is something unique about music; about its hold on the spirit; about its power to agitate and soothe, to challenge and comfort, to hold us tight and to help us soar.  From the earliest days of its rising, jazz has consistently displayed a capacity for mordant commentary about the full range of our downbeat worldly experiences, from laughable society foibles through rampant hypocrisies to pervasive injustice.  At the same time, the music has expressed our most ethereal aspirations.  Which form of the music is which is itself an imponderable: I may hear Louis Armstrong’s clarion trumpet as the musical counterpart to his verbal laceration of President Eisenhower for his dithering on civil rights, and you may hear the same solo as some sort of overture to a romance. 
If music did not have these mysteries around it, I wonder if it would be able to captivate us as it does.  I don’t know.  But I do know I am not alone in having found in jazz this year not just an antidote to global gloom or an escape from pervasive anxieties, but an affirmation of the permanence of so much we value and cling to.  I should say “I,” not “we,” because one of the many sobering things to take from this vexed and vexing year is how little “we” have in common, at least in our civic selves.
Still, I return to this truth: jazz, despite its grounding in social realms of oppression, disdain, poverty, and legalized violence, is a music of boundless joy, warmth, spontaneity, openness, virtuosity, individual vision and collective sympathy, hope, possibility, and transcendence.  And it has been all of that this year, from the late-career starbursts of a life-long traditionalist (Jimmy Heath in his 90s) and a life-long innovator (Carla Bley, mid 80s) to the innovations of the latest new wave from London (Nubya Garcia, to name one among many).   For personal reasons, I found myself drawn this year to the music’s quieter side.  But that is not to say museum pieces or staid melodies.  One of the year’s surprises was the graceful, haunting collaboration between two of the music’s most restless inventors: the pianist Kris Davis and the saxophonist Ingrid Laubrick on their stunning work, Blood Moon.
You doubtless found your own way through the year with jazz of your own choosing.  Kim Kleinman, whose piece is right beneath this one, responded to other music, and I commend to you his typically insightful year-end summing up.  If I’ve a point to make, it’s this: for the 50 years I’ve listened to jazz, it has been the sound track of the world I wanted to live in, sometimes by reflecting the world as it is, other times by limning an invisible world I longed for.  So, it’s no surprise, in this year unlike any other, that jazz in 2020 did its customary work, more proficiently than ever.
Here are 38 releases from the year (35 new and 3 recovered), recordings that time and again helped me stay in this world and another, here, there, and everywhere.
          (* denotes a special favorite)
Rez Abbassi, Django-shift
Ambrose Akinmusire, On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment
* Susan Alcorn Quintet, Pedernal
JD Allen - Toys/Die Dreaming
Artemis, Artemis
Callum Au & Claire Martin, Songs and Stories
John Beaseley, MONK'estra Plays John Beasley
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Just Coolin'
* Carla Bley, Life Goes On
Alan Braufman, The Fire Still Burns
Chick Corea, Plays
Aaron Diehl, The Vagabond
* Bill Frisell, Valentine
Elliot Galvin, Live in Paris
Nubya Garcia, Source
Jimmy Greene, While Looking Up
Jimmy Heath, Love Letter
* Fred Hersch, Songs from Home
* Brian Landrus, For Now
* Ingrid Laubrock & Kris Davis, Blood Moon
Charles Lloyd, 8: Kindred Spirits
* Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio
Gregoire Maret, Roman Collin, Bill Frisell, Americana
Brad Mehldau, Suite: April 2020
* Ron Miles, Rainbow Sign
Thelonious Monk, Palo Alto
Aaron Parks, Little Big II: Dreams of a Mechanical Man
Enrico Pieranunzi, Common View
Joshua Redman, RoundAgain
Sonny Rollins, Rollins in Holland
* Maria Schneider, Data Lords
John Scofield, Swallow Tales
Walter Smith III, In Common 2
Kevin Sun, The Sustain of Memory
Tani Tabbal Trio, Now Then
* Marcin Wasilewski Trio with Joe Lovano, Arctic Riff
Webber/Morris Big Band, Both are Tru
Immanuel Wilkins, Omega



By Kim Kleinman, Contributing Writer

Comes December and once again I have the chance to wrap up the year with reflections on what I heard.  Even after another year of happy immersion in the music, I don’t have sufficient awareness of what specifically has come out in 2020 to make a list of essential exciting music.  There's no list to check twice.  I’m better connected to the scene—and even have a couple of favorites—but my historian genes kick in and I listen for trends and antecedents rather than being focused solely on this moment.  
So, herewith my reflections on two albums whose release I anticipated affectionately, but also the impact of streaming during the pandemic and a paean to the alto saxophone.
I looked forward and absorbed the Artemis album.  There are some nifty tunes—Allison Miller’s “Goddess of the Hunt,” Anat Cohen’s “Nocturno,” Renee Rosnes’s “Big Top,” and her arrangement of Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder” serving as a reference point to show what the band’s capable of.   I recognize that all-star ensembles mesh in varying ways and Artemis is nicely cohesive and collaborative but unevenness is inevitable, maybe making it not quite an album-of-the-year candidate.  But these are mighty players whose work I’ve enjoyed in person and on record.  Miller is an exemplar of the drummers whose every strike is carefully calculated for both rhythmic and sonic impact.  I can think of no one more joyous in her playing than Cohen.  Melissa Aldana has a grasp of her horn’s history and has an innovative approach to the tenor/bass/drums trio.  Ingrid Jensen’s tribute to Kenny Wheeler with Steve Tressler opened my ears to that giant of the music.  Rosnes has the veteran’s insider/outsider savvy to lead this entourage.  They’ve made a great start that will grow as they have more experience together.
Fred Hersch’s “Songs from Home” also stands out for me.   I followed closely his Facebook Live “Tune of the Day” series in April and May and therefore I feel like I got to see the album in development.  It had to have been a daunting task for him to have something daily for 6 or 7 weeks, but it was the two-way gift of music.  He got to play and we got to listen; together we tried to figure out how to maintain audience when we couldn’t/shouldn’t breathe the same air, literally.  Songs from Home is a very homemade project—literally from his living room, probably from a smart phone/tablet as the images were as in a mirror.  The relatively low-tech makes it heartfelt and intimate, including articulate explanations of why those tunes stood out.  We (Hersch, Fritz, and I) are of an age, so what he does with the radio songs of our youth is homey and comforting —“When I’m Sixty-Four” (there but new), “All I Want” (getting inside Joni Mitchell’s poignancy), and “Wichita Lineman” (no kitsch and full recognition of just what Jimmy Webb could do).  His choices from the canon (a Kenny Wheeler composition, show tunes (“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” emerges from its components with close listening, and  one of his own) are fresh and revealing.
That Hersch’s album arose from a streaming “Tune of the Day” and then was showcased on a streaming show from the Village Vanguard in November highlights what I think is the most exciting development in jazz—that through streaming platforms the music is getting out to the world in ways it never has.  A welcome swallow of lemonade from the bushels and bushels that have come our way.  Put simply, from St. Louis, I can be the footloose jazz fan I have dreamed of being since beginning to read the front section of the New Yorker or the New York Times Arts and Leisure section nearly fifty years ago.  I’m seeing three or more sets a week and having to choose among options.  I am seeing players who I could only hope would make it to Jazz St Louis or the Sheldon Concert Hall (Omer Avital, Jon Irabagon, Dave Holland, Mark Turner) or discovering people whose music I should know better (Kenny Werner, Chris Potter, Miguel Zenon) or new artists I feel like I’m getting in on the ground floor with (Miki Yamanaka).  There are folks whom I know I wouldn’t see without this opportunity (Trio 3, George Coleman) and others who I check up regularly on just because I can (Cyrus Chestnut, Melissa Aldana).  And Fritz and I can see shows “together” in real time, share our reactions, and enrich our nearly fifty-year shared exploration of the music.
There is a welcome de-romanticization too.  The rooms, though large in legend, are cozy (the Vanguard seats 120, Mezzrow’s—evocative of Bradley’s where we saw Jimmy Rowles in the late 1970s—30.  Jazz St. Louis with 200 is big; the Blue Note is now 250 and is a part of a chain and has a Times Square web presence but still good, adventurous music).  The musicians are craftsmen in both senses—highly skilled members of the guild, but also jobbers.  When they make it to St. Louis, it is special and planned; in New York it can be “hey, can you make a gig?”  As a budding regular, I too am often enough just at a favorite haunt catching whatever is offered because I trust the curation of the club.
Each club has its niche.  The Vanguard is The Vanguard, a pinnacle and, now, technically easy with its streams.  Small’s is for up and comers, but it has a deep archive, for one can see big names when they were coming up or just looking for a little gig to try things out.  The Blue Note is top drawer but slightly garish compared to the staid Vanguard.  Smoke is less adventurous but reliably swinging, familiar like a cheeseburger.  The Jazz Gallery has a nice edge while serving the community with jams and showcases.  I participated in a conversation between Miguel Zenon and Melissa Aldana and got to be a fan with a chat stream exchange with Aldana wherein I got to ask her about playing in sax/bass/drum trios.
When we come out the other end, I suspect and hope that shows will stream even when the punters are back in the room.  I miss live music, but this is almost as good and much more accessible through these streams. 
2020 was centenary of Charlie Parker's birth and the year that Lee Konitz died.  Both events warranted attention and reflection, but they also forced me to confront a prejudice I have against the alto saxophone.  Sure, Johnny Hodges, Eric Dolphy, and Arthur Blythe are longstanding parts of my musical vocabulary.  But I’ve also been in agreement with young Melissa Aldana who got her parents to replace the starter alto with a real horn, a tenor.    
That was oh so wrong of me.  We spent several Jazz Spectrum shows looking forward and back from Parker to see what he did to the alto and the music in general.  Lee Konitz rose mightily in my estimation (“Motion,” the gigantic “The Song is You” on “Lone-lee”) as endlessly inventive in a way that didn’t require bebop, a contrafactual of the highest order.
Here’s an alternate history to consider—Charlie Parker doesn’t happen and jazz becomes modern with Lee Konitz as the beacon.  Miles Davis who wanted Konitz on Birth of the Cool comes to New York from East St. Louis to play with Konitz.  How does that play out?
Still I could have come out of 2020 without recognizing the alto as a wonderful vehicle for making jazz.  It has a full middle range that doesn’t need to growl and can go high without a tenor’s falsetto.  Together those qualities open up a fluid middle that makes for nimble dances.
Streaming too has made it possible to find and appreciate those who are doing the work.  
Miguel Zenon is at the top of the list.  I saw him with Fred Hersch from the Vanguard and a Facebook stream shot at the Jazz Gallery playing Puerto Rican boleros with Luis Perdomo.  The boleros are endlessly varied, mid-     tempo dances (do not think Ravel, though there’s a connection) with a meditative mournfulness. I bet when Miles Davis heard Spanish music for the first time, he appreciated similar possibilities that he—and not I—could act on and synthesize.  Zenon, particularly there, has a wonderful tone and unrushed fluidity.
I saw Jaleel Shaw in his own band and later with Dave Holland and he too is a favorite for reasons similar to Zenon.  Vincent Herring is a Smoke type whom I saw in a Cannonball tribute with Louis Hayes and then with his own swinging band, again showing the advantages of the nimbleness.  Immanuel Wilkins is young and promising; I saw him with Kenny Barron in mid-December.  He’s not yet polished and elegant enough, but Barron’s influence will pay off and Barron's tutelage is warranted. I am combing the Small’s archive for these players and others.  
Another bit of provincialism falls away and I have bigger ears.  If I am a member of the New York club scene in this streaming way, then maybe I’ll be enough ahead of the curve to have some 2021 albums to recommend.  I don’t have Fritz’s weekly challenge of putting together shows, but I’m glad to help and continue to see where the music takes us.

Best of 2019

When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Often (mis)attributed to Winston Churchill
Whether plumbing the inexhaustible depths of Monk’s compositions like Frank Kimbrough and Miles Okazaki, bringing the accumulated insights of sixty years of composing brilliance to a lush orchestral setting like Wayne Shorter, displaying a striking freshness in an improvisational form he invented nearly fifty years ago like Keith Jarrett, demonstrating the wavery nature of the lines between composition and improvisation, standards and originals like Thumbscrew or importing an alt-country vocal sensibility into a fluid, uncategorizable musical virtuosity like Charles Lloyd; the artists who made the 58 recordings below helped all of us to keep going by being inventive, respectful, rebellious, jarring, earnest, playful, collaborative, fractious, incandescent  -  in short, by being faithful to all we love in jazz.
* denotes a special favorite
Ambrose Akinmusire, Origami Harvest
JD Allen, Love Stone
The Bad Plus, Never Stop II 
Jonas Cambien Trio, We Must Mustn't We
Steve Coleman, Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1
John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once
Sylvie Courvoisier, D'Agala, 
Andrew Cyrille, Wadada Leo Smith, Bill Frisell, Lebroba*
Miles Davis and John Coltrane, The Final Tour, 
Dave Douglas, Brazen Heart Live at the Jazz Standard
Maria Faust, Machina
Errol Garner, Nightconcert
Camilla George, The People Could Fly, 
Devin Gray, Dirigo Rataplan
Charlie Haden & Brad Mehldau, Long Ago and Far Away*
Stefon Harris & Blackout, Sonic Creed
Eddie Henderson, Be Cool
Fred Hersch Trio, Live in Europe*
Fred Hersch Trio, 97@ The Village Vanguard
Fred Hersch & Anat Cohen, Live in Healdsburg
Marquis Hill, Modern Flows
Jon Irabagon Quartet, Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics
Keith Jarrett, La Fenice
Frank Kimbrough, Monk's Dreams*
Lee Konitz & Dan Tepfer, Decade, 
Azar Lawrence, Elementals
James Brandon Lewis & Chad Taylor, Radiant Imprints
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams, Vanished Gardens
Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints, Scandal*
Makaya McCraven, Universal Beings, 
Mark Masters, Our Metier*
Brad Mehldau, Seymour Reads the Constitution, 
Myra Melford's Snowy Egret, The Other Side of Air*
Allison Miller & Carmen Staaf, Science Fair
Francois Moutin & Kavita Shah Duo, Interplay
Wolfgang Muthspiel, Where the River Goes
Miles Okazaki, Work
Hanna Paulsberg Concept, Daughter of the Sun
Mikkel Ploug & Mark Turner, Faroe
Noah Preminger, Genuinity
Noah Preminger & Frank Carlberg, Whispers and Cries, 
Joshua Redman, Still Dreaming
Cecile McLorin Salvant, The Window
John Scofield, Combo 66
Trygve Seim, Helsinki Songs
Wayne Shorter, Emanon*
Martial Solal, My One and Only Love
Gunther Baby Sommer, Baby's Party, 
Luciana Souza, The Book of Longing
Bobo Stenson Trio, Contra la Indecision
Kevin Sun, Trio
Henry Threadgill, Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus*
Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra, Dirt . . . and More Dirt
Thumbscrew, Ours
Thumbscrew, Theirs*
Mark Turner & Ethan Iverson, Temporary Kings
Cuong Vu 4Tet, Change in the Air
Denny Zeitlin, Wishing on the Moon

Fritz's remarks on 30 years of Jazz Spectrum

On May 8, we celebrated 30 years of Jazz Spectrum. Marlon Kiser, the President and CEO of WGTE Public Media, marked the anniversary and thanked Fritz for his years of dedicated service.  Fritz then spoke.
Thank you, Marlon, for those immensely touching words.  It’s been a privilege to be associated with you over the long years of our friendship.  As is true of so many of our cultural and civic institutions, our public-broadcasting station in northwest Ohio is among the best in the country, and we all owe Marlon a thank you for his leadership.
I’m also thankful for all of the people at WGTE who have worked so well for so long to make Jazz Spectrum what it is.  Thanks in particular to Chris Peiffer, the engineer, who week after week makes the show sound so great, taking raw grist and turning it into a show worthy of broadcast.  I also want to acknowledge my friend Bruce McLaughlin, who is not here tonight.  He was the engineer on Jazz Spectrum for 25 years.  He was a calm and whimsical presence, and a good friend.  And the world’s most unlikely Charles Mingus fan.
Thirty years - as W.H. Auden would say, a nice round number.  In the effort to speak about music, I think of the words of Martin Mull: “talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”  Or as John Coltrane said, eschewing the practice of liner notes: If the music doesn’t say it, there’s not much to say about it.  That’s been my rule over the years, and the reason that on air I say so little about the music other than identifying the musicians who make it.
But every five years or so, I allow myself the indulgence to say a few things about jazz and what it means to me.  I think of Kurt Vonnegut’s wise sermon, delivered at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church on Palm Sunday nearly forty years ago.  He spoke, as a self-described Christ-worshiping agnostic, about the Sermon on the Mount.  He said that mercy is the only good idea we’ve had.  He mused about the transporting effect music has on us, and said that maybe music is the sound of the next good idea being born.
We’ve nearly all been, in one way or another, lifted by music, and it matters less what music we prefer than that we allow it to have its way with us.  I care not at all for the debate about what genre of music is superior, or the highest form.  I yield to Duke Ellington’s point: there are only two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.
My friend Scott Potter has talked to me about playing trumpet and the way that certain tunes just seem to fall comfortably on the horn.  For me, jazz seems to fall comfortably on my spirit, and it has for nearly my entire life.  
The question of meaning in music is vexed and vexing.  For one, a piece of music may speak of the enduring human condition; for another, the same piece may speak of heartache, or the tenderness of first love.  So I’d prefer to speak not about the meaning of music, but, rather, about what the form shows us.
Jazz, in its early second century, is aging better than the country where it was born.  So perhaps we can take from it certain lessons that will serve us well, precepts we would do well to honor.
Jazz is characterized by open-mindedness, and its near cousin, mindfulness: a close attention to the present, a sensitivity to what is happening, and an authenticity in responding to it.  Improvising musicians accomplish this intricate ballet at an exceptional level of proficiency, poignancy, and purpose.
Jazz also reflects the collective’s tolerance for individuality, for the unique style, sensitivity, and synthesis that each of us brings to our lives and our concourse with others.
And the act of creating jazz reflects each artist’s sincere interest in the worthiness of the visions of others, honoring their expression without preconception or orthodoxy, and evaluating its value without a priori categories of worth.
I believe the art of jazz has exhilarating philosophical implications.  Five years ago, if memory serves, I was intrigued by what jazz can teach us about the relationship between the individual and the group, and the way each enhances the other.
This year, I am thinking about what the music tells us about the crucial balance between respect for tradition and the thrill of innovation.  For that is what the improvising jazz musician balances in virtually every moment of music-making - honoring the tradition of the song itself - its rhythmic and harmonic structure - as well as the entire history of jazz, while at the same time finding something new to add, a new filigree on the melody of the song, a new way thinking about new directions in jazz.  This seems to me to be distilled in the phrase of Lester Bowie, the brilliant co-founder of the Art Ensemble of Chicago - Ancient to the Future.  That is the path of jazz; it always has been, and it will be.  
As for what’s to come, I’ll quote Lester Bowie again: Asked, “Is jazz as we know it dead,” he said, wickedly, “It depends on what you know.”
What I know is that the first thirty years of Jazz Spectrum have been an apprenticeship.  Now comes the fun.
Thanks to all of you who made time to be here tonight and who have given me the privilege of spending this time, and the occasional Saturday evening, with you.