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October 09, 2011

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Ian Bradley

I can't really subscribe to your philosophy of economic Darwinism, Marc. It rings particularly hollow at the moment considering the meltdown we find ourselves in is, in large part, attributable to just such 'get-out-of-my-way', 'eat-my-dust' movers and shakers. If they were so good at what they do, how come the world is in this mess? . A cure for cancer or a solution to world hunger, well, their arrogance might be justified - but selling a load of 'stuff' to us we don't really need and could well live without- not quite sure why I should bend the knee to that philosophy. Does the end justify the means? If the end is an Amstrad computer or an Edsel, probably not.

I didn't read any of those criticisms made of Norman Granz into your pieces this week, though. I think his principal achievement was in extending and re-packaging the swing era. I dare say Verve under his tutelage was not the most cutting edge of labels - a slightly jazzier version of Capitol records, I'd say. Though I love much of the music he produced. he continued the 'swing era' well into the eighties with Ella, Basie, Oscar Peterson - but be bop and innovations beyond that, well, - his tastes I'd have said were largely like Stanley Dance's - in the main stream. And nothing wrong with that.

Michael Steinman

I never met Granz and didn't get to go to any of the JATP concerts. So I can only comment on the recorded evidence. Let's leave his personality -- offensive or efficient -- aside (although the musicians seemed to be very fond of him). Consider how much poorer our jazz experience would have been if not for Granz's recordings of Bird, Ben, Pres, Tatum, Teddy, Louis, Ella, Billie, Flip, Hawkins, Peterson, Joe Sullivan . . . and on and on. Imagining a world without Verve is nearly unthinkable, even if we do admit that not all the sessions worked perfectly. (But he gave us Ben with tatum, Ben with Strings, Pres and Teddy, and many more.) I also think that other labels scurried to record more jazz than they would have otherwise because they saw that his recordings sold. And as for the concerts -- the recordings of JATP often show the musicians in settings that are hackneyed (twenty minutes of Rhythm changes; ditto for the blues, then salvation in the form of a ballad medley), but Granz gave the musicians who wanted it steady lucrative employment and worldwide fame. Would Lester Young, for instance, have lived as long without a Granz to fall back on? I think not. It is always easy to criticize the achievements of the dead because we think we would have done things better, but critical hindsight is easier to acquire than actually doing. . .

Larry Kart

Based on a number of chapter-and-verse posts I've seen about Steve Jobs since his death, many people who worked with or under him did view Jobs as an extremely and unnecessarily unpleasant human being.

Bill Kirchner

It's scarcely a revelation that some great artists and innovators had less-than-admirable qualities. Wagner was an anti-Semite, Picasso a philanderer, Miles Davis a misogynist. Miles is one of my musical heroes, but that doesn't mean that he's a role model for me.

All of these people and Granz changed the world for the better, at least in the artistic sphere. That's not all that matters, but it's why we're remembering them.

Ian Carey

I'm reminded of one of my professors talking about Gesulado (the amazing Renaissance madrigalist and wife-and-child-murderer) and saying, "Gesualdo is one of my greatest heroes--MUSICAL heroes, I mean!"

As with Jobs, there's nothing wrong with evaluating a person's accomplishments separately from his or her personality, and there's nothing gained by candy-coating either. (I wish I'd understood that when reading Miles' autobiography as an impressionable youth.)

As for people who view the world as their canvases and don't let people get in the way of their visions, "Crime and Punishment" has some interesting commentary on that idea.

Rick M

Bill Kirchner forgot to mention Stan Kenton as child molester, if we are to believe his daughters recent tell-all book.

Without defending the truthfulness of any of the accusations, I refuse to accept that we cannot discuss the professional accomplishments of any of these giants unless we address their personal foibles.

Interesting, but irrelevant.

Jery Rowan

Marc, thanks so much for introducing me to my new favorite female singer. Carolyn Wonderland is Janice with staying power. As for her guitar chops, if she don't stop pickin' that thing it'll never heal!

Damn, she's fine.

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  • Marc Myers writes on music and the arts for The Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (Univ. of California Press). Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year" winner.
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