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The End Of

John Weatherman
Contributing Writer
the.head.in[at]gmail.com

I wonder why jazz is so obsessed with its past. Perhaps it's because jazz's legends were complex figures, their music awe-inspiring but often, as with Charlie Parker, accompanied by distasteful personalities. Then what of Beethoven, Keith Richards or Chuck Berry, Biggie? Perhaps it's the genre's novelty - slightly more than a century (if Jelly Roll Morton is to be believed) isn't long for an art form to a stable footing, after all. Whoops, there's rock again. Even hip hop, whose first major single dropped in the late 1980s and is surely an American music through and through - an African-American one, too - is, although divided in sound, cockily surefooted in all its incarnations.

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Dues Paid

John Weatherman
Contributing Writer
the.head.in[at]gmail.com / @TheHeadIn

I started thinking about Ahmad Jamal the other day. Don't worry, this isn't going to be a rumination on Jamal's early reputation as a "cocktail pianist" and further thoughts on the definition of jazz and art and music and blah blah blah.

No, what I was thinking about was Jamal's career trajectory. We now live in a time when a "jazz apprenticeship" is no longer necessary. A pianist can go from obscurity to relative fame in a few albums' time, without ever putting in much time "paying dues" as a sideman. Take Robert Glasper as an example - though he played on a couple Terence Blanchard records and two with Robert Hurst, he remained largely unknown until his own discs started getting noticed; now he's a Grammy-award winning bandleader who's recorded with Mos Def and gigged with Kanye. Contrast that with Miles Davis, who came up with Bird, or Coltrane, who came up with Miles, or McCoy Tyner, who came up with Coltrane, or… The configurations are endless, from Jim Hall (with Chico Hamilton) to Ornette Coleman.

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Recalculating

John Weatherman
Contributing Writer
the.head.in[at]gmail.com / @TheHeadIn

I only spent a year in college, and, to be honest, most of my time was spent in the library, burning the college's jazz collection onto my laptop. The jazz faculty member at Hampshire College was Marty Ehrlich, a great saxophonist/clarinetist and teacher, and I think it was his watchful eye that compiled most of the jazz CDs on display. All in all, I picked up several gigabytes worth of music in that year.

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Don't Look Down

John Weatherman
Contributing Writer
the.head.in[at]gmail.com / @TheHeadIn

It's been a pretty Wayne Shorter-y time for me - first was the press flurry surrounding the release of the saxophonist's new album on Blue Note, Without A Net, then an essay on the classicSpeak No Evil at The Head In, and now Free For All, Shorter's third-to-last recording as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.

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Jazz Is Dead, Long Live Jazz?

John Weatherman
Contributing Writer
the.head.in[at]gmail.com / @TheHeadIn

No, this essay isn't going to be another essay about the death of jazz. Rather, my title is meant to show the conflict, seemingly unending, that goes on in the jazz community, year after year. Someone writes that jazz is over, and someone else writes that no, jazz is still going strong! The circle continues, and the whole thing gets repeated the next month.

There are flaws in both arguments, flaws that mean the circle will never end unless some refinement occurs in the conversation.