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Saxophonist/blogger David Valdez recently posted the following interview with Bob Mover, in which Mover sounds off on the state of jazz education. I thought it worth re-posting here.

I was talking to Bob Mover the other evening about what was happening to Jazz education these days. Bob had just played a senior recital at the New School with one of his private students. He played 'I Remember You' with the student group. The pianist kept playing the wrong change over and over again, no matter how clear Bob was while blowing over it. "He just thought he knew the tune!", said Bob. Younger players may learn a tune from the Real Book and that's that, they don't listen to a bunch of different versions or learn the word anymore. Mover said that the rest of the recital nothing else was in 4/4, "That way you can disguise that fact that you can't swing", Bob quipped. Mover finally was driven out of the recital hall by all of the odd-time signatures. After the recital Bob went to dinner with some of the students, include a few tenor players. He asked them if they had ever listened to Johnny Griffen, they said they had only heard that one record he did with Monk (Live at the Five Spot). Bob said," What about the stuff with Lockjaw? What about the other 30 years of recordings?!". All these kids were listening to were young players like Josh Redman, Chris Potter, Mark Turner and Seamus Blake. Maybe they had also checked out a little Warne Marsh because Turner was so influenced by him (Bob said about Mark, "He plays so much altissimo, why doesn't he just buy an alto?"). You now have tons of these young players being turned out into the world, sounding like just a few young NYC players.

Who wants to hear a bunch of super technical saxophonists who sound like they're reading out of the Slonimski book and never learned to swing their 8th notes?!

Now let me say that I think Mark Turner is a fabulous player and a great cat. I don't think that Mark would even think it was a good idea that young players tried to sound just like him and never bothered to learn the 20th century body of Jazz recordings that the true masters created.

Hey, it's called swing, and it's what made American Jazz different than (and in my mind better) continental Jazz.

Bob told me that he had just proposed a course to the New School in NYC, since he is already on the private teaching roster. He was trying to sell a new course that dealt with Jazz standards to the head of the Jazz department. He was told that the New School isn't focusing on 20th century music anymore. Who needs to learn standards if all you play are odd-time signatured originals?! I was shocked," They're not even teaching Jazz anymore, they're just teaching the kids exactly what they're already into!".

Mover replied," That's right, the inmates are running the asylum!".
The permalink is http://davidvaldez.blogspot.com/2007/05/cookoos-nest-talks-with-bob-mover.html.
 

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Interesting. A lot of the guys here at Indiana are really into Mark Turner, however, I know that they listen to a lot of older stuff too.
 

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Sure, these days everyone sounds like Chris Potter. 50 years ago, I'll bet everyone sounded like Bird. History of course tends to forget the ridiculous amount of craptacular imitators that I'm sure existed at the time.

Jazz is give-and-take. The fact that he's outlining a chord, well, the pianist is too. The pianist may not meet him but he wasn't meeting the pianist, so really I don't see how he can be agitated about it.

Swing is definately important. But I don't think odd time signatures can disguise your lack of swing (unless they are a different feel) - listen to Chris Potter's stuff. He swings his *** off on some tunes that are in weird time signatures.

Let's face it, jazz is in a different realm to 50 years ago. I love bebop but it's not what I've been listening to at the moment - I've been listening to guys like Chris Potter and Rudresh. Having said that I did do a LOT of listening to bebop for a few years, but jazz isn't there any more.

I think the young kids are just trying to keep up with the times, push the music in new and exciting directions. Admittedly it's important to listen to the masters, but I don't listen to almost anything before the bebop era - very rarely will I listen to Basie, Duke, or Satchmo, and almost never for pure pleasure.

So whilst I think that there's a lot to be gained from studying our roots, including identifying ways to push the music forward, I think that too many jazz educators, and players, particularly older ones, have this thing that everyone has to know the complete real book backwards and inside out from memory, and other such time-wasting exercises. Memorizing tunes is good for a jam session, but let's face it, if you can play a major and minor II V I - you can play most "American Songbook" tunes, and I find memorizing them kind of pointless (unless they do something particularly interesting, in which case yeah, you should at least study them if not memorize them).

However I think the point is to study anything you're not comfortable with until you are - be it Stella, Giant Steps, Juju, Confirmation, or more "modern" tunes.

My rant's over now.

-Dan
 

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The real question is why are the kids today limiting their exposure to all the other artists that came before Potter and Turner. And for me of course I never have cared for Potter, not now or ten years ago when I first heard him.

If you take a player and have him transcribe a dozen solos of all the greats starting with Hawkins and working their way up the lineage you'd have a much different player after a few years. Are kids interested in doing this?

The argument that times have changed. Well, Potter's licks come right out of the omnibook. How much has really changed?
 

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I think your always going to start your journey as a student with what is out at the time. Hopefully from that point you start to realize and understand what came before and how things turned into what they are. You then appreciate and study that. I feel that is what a good teacher will do. Show, guide, but not force. When I was in college I knew I needed to respect Hawkins and Young, but I couldn't sit around and listen to it. Now I understand and want to transcribe Hawkins.

You do have a lot of institutions that teach the mechanics but not the heart. But on the same side of the coin jazz is not even close to being popular any more. Your going to have less people who have really done it much less people to really teach it who have been around the block.
 

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heath said:
The real question is why are the kids today limiting their exposure to all the other artists that came before Potter and Turner. And for me of course I never have cared for Potter, not now or ten years ago when I first heard him.

If you take a player and have him transcribe a dozen solos of all the greats starting with Hawkins and working their way up the lineage you'd have a much different player after a few years. Are kids interested in doing this?

The argument that times have changed. Well, Potter's licks come right out of the omnibook. How much has really changed?
Good one Heath.
The question I'd like to ask is, "How deep do you wanna be?" Are you going to skim the surface or are you going to study the music, which necessarily includes the history? Taking issue with the methods of jazz education is one thing----we can argue the relative merits of the Real Books and learning standards in every key forever, (I believe there are posts on SOTW that do!) -----but the study of the history of jazz stands on it's own. It's completely necssary.
 

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I'm teaching a whole quarter to my high school kids based on one solo by Wardell Gray. We spend the first 15 mins of class every day on it. It's all done by ear too. I think the tradition is important but I also think Sun Ra and Albert Ayler and the Art Ensemble are part of that tradition as well as what has gone on in Europe.
 

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Mmmmm... nolstalgia isn't what it used to be. No?
 

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If you look at that masterclass by Dave Liebman he mentions how nothing is in 4 anymore, but he seems to think it is a good thing, or at least not a bad thing.
 

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mlscnr said:
What's even more telling is that David Valdez can't even spell Johnny Griffin's name!
...nor Nicolas Slonimsky's....:)
 

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I disagree with Bob Mover's negative assesment of Jazz Education. I believe that the music is in a great place partially due to talented younger players. Furthermore, the whole idea that you "should" or "shouldn't" listen to certain players is ridiculous. The most important thing is to listen to who you like...listening to jazz should never be an assignment. I got the sense that Bob Mover thought it was bad that younger players dig Chris Potter, Seamus Blake, and Mark Turner. These guys are all moving the music forward AND can swing their asses off. You can hear it directly in their playing. We always talk about listening to the "masters" but that term is subjective itself. Everyone had a predecessor! Maybe I've got it all wrong, but the whole "thing's aint what they used to be" attitude fails to hold water.
 

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SaxJazz12 the problem is if you don't take the time to bother yourself going back and studying each of the greats from the beginning on up you'll never realize for one second that your current guys (potter and turner) aren't playing anything at all, not one single solitary note that is original, new or innovative. It continues the illusion and blinds you into thinking their on the forefront. If I time warped Coleman Hawkins(from his prime) back to this time he would kick all these young guys a---s.

It's not all about style. The styles that came before have come and gone, but the actual musicianship is very much the same. You have to get past the idea that the old music isn't hip anymore and just concentrate on what the soloist is actually doing. There's PhD level work in a Hawkins solo trust me. I'm sure Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, David Murray, and even Chris Potter would agree with that.
 

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heath said:
SaxJazz12 the problem is if you don't take the time to bother yourself going back and studying each of the greats from the beginning on up you'll never realize for one second that your current guys (potter and turner) aren't playing anything at all, not one single solitary note that is original, new or innovative. It continues the illusion and blinds you into thinking their on the forefront. If I time warped Coleman Hawkins(from his prime) back to this time he would kick all these young guys a---s.

It's not all about style. The styles that came before have come and gone, but the actual musicianship is very much the same. You have to get past the idea that the old music isn't hip anymore and just concentrate on what the soloist is actually doing. There's PhD level work in a Hawkins solo trust me. I'm sure Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, David Murray, and even Chris Potter would agree with that.

I certainly agree that we need to study the masters of the past, Heath, but honestly, you're overstating your case by saying that Potter and Turner "aren't playing anything at all, not one single solitary note that is original, new or innovative." Good grief, that's silly; of course these players are innovative! And young people are going to connect with players that are hip, it's just the way of things. The better ones seek out the older players that influenced their current faves and connect that way; I know I did.

"It continues the illusion and blinds you into thinking their on the forefront."
They are on the forefront of what's happening now! I think Coleman Hawkins would like these guys. To his credit, Coleman never rested on his laurels. Are you familiar with C Hawkins work with Trane and Monk towards the end of his career? He always looked forward.

But, to your credit, the next paragraph is brilliant, IMO:
"It's not all about style. The styles that came before have come and gone, but the actual musicianship is very much the same. You have to get past the idea that the old music isn't hip anymore and just concentrate on what the soloist is actually doing. There's PhD level work in a Hawkins solo trust me. I'm sure Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, David Murray, and even Chris Potter would agree with that."
Yeah man!....Daryl
 

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wersax said:
I certainly agree that we need to study the masters of the past, Heath, but honestly, you're overstating your case by saying that Potter and Turner "aren't playing anything at all, not one single solitary note that is original, new or innovative." Good grief, that's silly; of course these players are innovative! And young people are going to connect with players that are hip, it's just the way of things. The better ones seek out the older players that influenced their current faves and connect that way; I know I did.

"It continues the illusion and blinds you into thinking their on the forefront."
They are on the forefront of what's happening now! I think Coleman Hawkins would like these guys. To his credit, Coleman never rested on his laurels. Are you familiar with C Hawkins work with Trane and Monk towards the end of his career? He always looked forward.
Seriously you think Chris Potter is more modern than say David Murray. I mean Murray is still alive and doing brilliant work overseas. Could someone enlighten me to Potters contributions of pushing this art to a whole other level because when I listen to someone like say John Gilmore, Potter's work comes off as nothin but blowin the dust off of old ideas.
 

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The players are important all,speaking a language we recognize,i do not have to like what i hear,different schools,when i was coming up,colleges,were not very involved with young jazz students,today they are,the colleges seemed to have absorbed a lot of the players i played with in the 70s,fine players. now they became profs,a lot of them do a good job. i like to listen to the product of this effort,yes a lot of what i hear is new jazz,i listened to potter and turner,lnteresting.i hear them,not my school,so what,this is how they speak.They tell it that way,i am sure theres fusion out there,hard bop and so on,great the music lives......i figure that in order to study horn for fifty years we all need a body of work to draw from,i must include every artist i can in my scope of listening,whatever they are saying in whatever way is important for me.i cannot judge to harshly for that would be to my disadvantage,as a life long student of jazzzzzzzzzzzz
 

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heath said:
Seriously you think Chris Potter is more modern than say David Murray. I mean Murray is still alive and doing brilliant work overseas. Could someone enlighten me to Potters contributions of pushing this art to a whole other level because when I listen to someone like say John Gilmore, Potter's work comes off as nothin but blowin the dust off of old ideas.
In the 80's, the Village Voice writer, Gary Giddins, was always trying to shove David Murray down our throats when Steve Grossman couldn't buy a gig in New York. Thank God he's playing overseas and I won't have to hear him. I saw him play at Sweet Basil's once and he couldn't even play a blues. It is just sad what passes for jazz, even in NYC. I might not be the biggest Potter fan, but at least it is somewhat interesting to hear him play. I always thought he should have stuck with the alto because his sound is a little "tubby"on tenor.
 

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heath said:
SaxJazz12 the problem is if you don't take the time to bother yourself going back and studying each of the greats from the beginning on up you'll never realize for one second that your current guys (potter and turner) aren't playing anything at all, not one single solitary note that is original, new or innovative. It continues the illusion and blinds you into thinking their on the forefront. If I time warped Coleman Hawkins(from his prime) back to this time he would kick all these young guys a---s.

It's not all about style. The styles that came before have come and gone, but the actual musicianship is very much the same. You have to get past the idea that the old music isn't hip anymore and just concentrate on what the soloist is actually doing. There's PhD level work in a Hawkins solo trust me. I'm sure Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, David Murray, and even Chris Potter would agree with that.

I agree somewhat with the first paragraph, but if Potter and Turner, and others played exactly like Paker, or Coltrane, or what have you, they would be just a bunch of Bird clones, etc. If you listen to one of them and then listen to they guys they listened to, you can hear differences. Not huge ones, but subtle differences. It is not what they are playing, it is how they play it.

I agree with the second statement completely. Guys with PhDs study Hawkins.:)
 

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whaler said:
In the 80's, the Village Voice writer, Gary Giddins, was always trying to shove David Murray down our throats when Steve Grossman couldn't buy a gig in New York. Thank God he's playing overseas and I won't have to hear him. I saw him play at Sweet Basil's once and he couldn't even play a blues. It is just sad what passes for jazz, even in NYC.
I respectfully disagree, I think Murray is one of the best players around right now.
 

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Murray has changed over time. Many question his playing. Not unlike they questioned his influences, Dolphy and Albert Ayler. Murray keeps mixing the extreme and not so extreme and many people ain't a big fan of that.

Still he's come up with more original material and has had the opportunity to record some killer albums that most jazz musicians can't fathom having the budget to record. I don't know how Murray does it, maybe the musicians donate their time for free.
 
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