by Mavis Manus
To read JAZZ
SPOKEN HERE, a collection of twenty-two interviews with major jazz musicians,
is to realize anew just how rich and diverse jazz is, and how complex
and creative are those who play it.
Wayne Enstice and Paul Rubin, call JAZZ SPOKEN HERE "a book written
for jazz fans by jazz fans." It came out of their work on the NPR
program, "Just Jazz," broadcast on KUAT-FM, Tucson. Enstice
(an art professor) and Rubin (a journalist) produced the show and were
responsible for conducting the interviews, which were aired over a seven-year
period. "Our involvement with each musician inevitably extended beyond
the formal session of the recorded conversation," they state. "In
almost every case, our informal meeting with the musicians was enriched
by some spontaneous personal episode."
When they interviewed Lee Konitz at a Tucson jazz club, for example, he
dedicated "I'll Remember April" to them and later waved goodbye
from the bandstand as they exited the club. Clark Terry invited them to
an NAACP dinner party held in his honor. Ray Bryant allowed them to request
all the tunes he played during one of his Phoenix gigs.
Obviously, the authors love jazz musicians and are loved by them in turn.
The mutual affection has resulted in interviews that are warm, revealing
and compelling. Personalities and values come through and balance the
theoretical talk about the "right" way to play jazz.
Here is Ruby Braff on the status of jazz today: "There's no college
on the planet that's teaching what I'd like to have students know about,
have them learn to fall in love with melody. Which they're not doing.
They're just falling in love with their instruments and making a lot of
noise and playing a lot of crap!"
spelled out his creed: "I believe in beauty, and there's got to be
nothing but beauty in this world. And if you're not playing beautiful
music that takes people to another planet, to a delicious place they can't
ordinarily go to in their own lives every day and show them beauty...what
do I want to hear ugly sounds for? We hear all kinds of ugly sounds in
the street. Why do I have to hear that from someone on the stage? I want
delicious sounds and beautiful horns and beautiful music put together
so it'll take me away on a dream. Dream! That's what it's all about--dreams!"
You get a different take from Bob Brookmeyer. Not that the trombonist
believes in ugly; he's just far less dogmatic where jazz is concerned--and
on his relationship to the older generation of jazz musicians, the guys
he played with in Duke Ellington's band. "They could have hated the
way I played, but they acknowledged me to be in their business, just as
John Coltrane and I, without saying anything, acknowledged that we were
in each other's business. We didn't have to love each other's playing
but we were in the same area. There was no 'he can't play,' 'he should
play it this way' or 'he can't play at all.' We were in the same business
and the guys in Duke's band taught me that, and Count Basie's as well."
With the likes of Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie,
Mercer Ellington, Sonny Stitt, Gil Evans and Dave Brubeck talking about
themselves and their beloved music, it's no mystery why JAZZ SPOKEN HERE
is such a rewarding read. Their views on subjects such as swing and mainstream,
fusion and free-jazz--and on the pros and cons of being a jazz musician--are
fascinating and revealing. It's a pity that no female musicians are represented
in the book, if only because it would have made for a more complete and
relevant portrait of the jazz world today.