Friday, September 08, 2006

....I missed the Dewey Redman train.....

This past week I deleted everything in my MacBook's iTunes library with the genre "Jazz."

Why would Dr. Jazz Ph.D do such a thing? Well, I could say it was a cleansing of sorts but I'd be lying. The reality was that my MacBook kept coming up with error messages saying "Startup Disk Almost Full" and it was freezing up programs left and right.

Here I was, back where I'd been all the past year and a half since living with only 40GB of space on my one broken iBook G4. This time around though, I'd transferred everything I had on the old iBook to this MacBook as well as the iMac I bought along with this new MacBook to celebrate my graduation from college (thanks Mom & Dad). The iMac and the MacBook were holding everything I had ripped and/or downloaded from the Pittsburgh years plus everything I'd ripped since I got into Philadelphia town.

Thus I had a redundant system. A couple albums that were on the MacBook weren't on the iMac and vice versa but I had a problem and it needed fixing, so I deleted the bulk of the drive (i.e. all my music tagged as jazz), and tried to start anew with the bootlegged stuff that I hadn't bothered tagging with a genre and the random assortment of other types of music I listen to.

I was left with a mess (my recent rotation).

Some Sufjan Stevens tracks I'd just legally downloaded from iTunes, a bunch of Aceyalone (with various projects), Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, an Ahmad Jamael track, a bit of Ella Fitzgerald I hadn't tagged "jazz" or was tagged something ridiculous like "alternative/punk," several albums and singles produced by RJD2, a shit ton of music by the avant-rock group The Residents and a smorgasboard of other stuff.


You're probably wondering at this point what the fuck this post has to do with Dewey Redman. Right?

Well, a couple days after I deleted all my music - Dewey Redman died. This week I must have read 15 tributes to Dewey Redman in addition to all the threads going on at AAJ, Organissimo, JazzCorner. I found out before many as I happened to be chatting with Margaret Davis (who is Henry Grimes' partner and manager). "We lost Dewey last night," was the way she broke it to me Sunday morning in the midst of bemoaning the dwindling number of original jazz masters alive today. Note: We were strategizing about bookings this November for Henry, Roy Campbell Jr. and Chad Taylor (three quarters of the Spiritual Unity band - apparently leader Marc Ribot will only be on the Philly and NY dates).

It was only when I went to my CD and LP collection that I realized not only did I not have anything with Dewey Redman as a leader, but I couldn't find a thing with him as a sideman either. I must have heard him or played him sometime on the radio in the jazz journey of my life, but I'll be darned if I could describe what he sounded like or pick out any of his tunes... Thus, somehow, some way i missed the Dewey Redman train. I was on his son's proverbial "train" from his debut on Warner Brothers. But I always knew Josh was his dad's foil - a much straighter player.

It really goes to show you how players and listeners of my generation can know so little about the music of the elders because of all of the media attention goes to the young kid (in this case Josh) whose technique in all registers wove circles around his dad Dewey. But do these acrobatics necessarily make him the better player?

Well certainly more exciting for a young sax player to listen to. I wouldn't have "gotten" Dewey based on Ethan's description as a young player.

My past insistence that Chris Potter is the funkiest mainstream sax player of all time is proof positive of the limitations in my listening experience. The fact is that while Potter may be one of the most exciting players with music readily available for me to listen to, he is one player within a very small time compartment jazz history.

I recently learned that Eddie Harris (an woefully unsung cat) did a lot of the same stuff that Potter has been doing, but I just hadn't gotten around to listening to Harris' stuff both because my peers weren't talking to me about it, and because I just hadn't been willing to sample some of the greater earlier post-Coltrane tenor playing.

There are tons of other cats out there. Old and young. Obscure and famous....that are playing music just as vibrant and relevant as Chris'. I really think that the lesson learned here is that it can't hurt to take a step back from what the magazines and our close friends tell us to dig on, and look back to earlier periods as well as the current scene for what it really is: a diverse mix of concepts and musical sensibilities.

Maybe by erasing all my "new modern jazz" from the computer, I am getting a fresh start and will be able to focus more on the predecessors to Chris Potter, Josh Redman, Mark Turner, and Seamus Blake, etc. This will make some critics of my listening tendencies very happy and I do actually think I'll benefit from a change in my listening regimen.

But the following bloggers straightened things out for me on Dewey. And there were so many recordings referenced that I've got my collecting work ahead of me for years to come.

Do The Math has a very lucid appreciation of the man, his music and his essence. Also, Marc Medwin (Bagatellen), Pat (visionsong), Aldon Lynn Nielsen (HeatStrings), David Ryshpan (Settled In Shipping), Mac (Portastic), Destination Out, DJ Matt Durutti (Los Amigos De Durutti), etnobofin, the NYT (Ratliff), the UPI, Washington Post and the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Now listening to: Brad Mehldau - Wave/Mother Nature's Son (Largo - Warner Bros 2005)
Brad Mehldau - Largo - Wave/Mother Nature's Son


etno said...

What a great honest post! Got me thinking that there is so much music out there (even within the field that we might call "jazz") that it's very easy to miss some great genius, or not have enough exposure to a particular player.

For example: in my fairly broad music collection I have not a single recording of Duke Ellington's band - this is neither a deliberate act of ignorance on my part, nor a reaction against Duke's canonisation by the Crouch-Marsalis pontificate. It's just due to the fact that I'm so busy listening to and buying other stuff that Duke has largely passed me by...

Dr. Jazz Ph.D. said...

Thanks for sharing etno. I hope others come out of the closet and tell us who they've missed; or who they might be guilty of listening to too much....

I feel like I have a fairly clean slate.