Thursday, 19 May 2016
Towson State University and Hank Levy in Jazz '77
I decided to get another by these guys on the strength of the last post, while the first record was interesting due to the unusual rhythms in the compositions by mostly Hank Levy. Such prime number rhythms have carried on throughout the series. What I liked about this release is that there seemed to be few standards or cover versions, which I usually detest. To me those standards are, along with overlong improvisations, plagues of the jazz style, though I'm told improvisation is the essence of jazz, it's not an essence I would encourage. I remember seeing a jazz record long ago in university in which an entire side was devoted to one song, Body and Soul, and it was longer than 25 minutes-- I thought, are you serious??? Somebody would buy this? Why not lie in bed and shove your face into your pillow instead? As for standards, songs like Take the A Train, and 'Round About Midnight, though maybe pleasant once-- can anybody really stand to hear them millions of times in their lifetime? Personally, when I see that last one on a record I know to put it down or instantly hit delete, as I know I can expect rote performance with little creativity. Jazz improv is a hard style to master, as I tried to do in my youth, but it almost seems like an automatic or mechanical thing when you listen to it-- perhaps here is an opportunity (again) for those brilliant robotics and AI software engineers to remove another human career as they have threatened to do already with nurses, teachers, doctors, grandmaster chess and GO players, servers, cooks and chefs, beauty contest judges, matchmakers, and AI software engineers?
Anyways, back to the music. It turned out I wasn't looking carefully or rather the compositional credits were not available on the database because, obviously, Time for Love, which is a beautiful composition by Johnny Mandel and Webster (I wouldn't include it in the stupid standards collection with I Got Rhythm), and the godawful (literally) Exodus soundtrack theme appear here on side b. Some of us who are older in their genealogy might recall that movie and the earlier novel (by Leon Uris) which was de rigueur for any serious reader, especially the more pretentious, of the age. Some 60 years later, the problem of peace in Palestine has become so intractable it's almost laughable. And we really have too many of those intractables to deal with now, like growing income inequality, water scarcity and climate change, the terrorist problem, the unfathomable popularity of Donald Trump, etc.
We can look back today at the seventies as a golden age when there was still true wilderness out there teeming with wild animals, fish and butterflies, but most importantly, there was hope for the future, optimism for a beautiful world, and music as inventive and brilliant as what I've tried to post here. Maybe it was just a kind of ignorance, but it sure was a beautiful kind.
I like the track misspelled (purposefully?) Quintescence: