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Sound Ideas #42 - Trying Something New
Welcome to an hour of exploration, i.e. trying something new. We'll hear musicians explore the edges and just a little beyond in an hour of creativity. Sit down, relax, and open your mind to a musical journey with a challenge.
Artist Track Album
Dick Johnson Lee-Antics Most Likely
Max Roach Blues Waltz Jazz in 3/4 Time
Herbie Hancock Mimosa Inventions and Dimensions
Derek Hodge Gritty Folk Live Today
US3 Different Rhythms for Different People Hand on the Torch
US3 It's Like That Hand on the Torch
Eric Dolphy Gazzelloni Out to Lunch
Miles Davis Fall Nefertiti
Elvin Jones Lycra Too? Midnight Walk

Our first set begins with a 1957 date from Dick Johnson, who is probably best known as an alto player in Artie Shaw's big band and later the leader of that revival namesake band. But Dick's outing is hardly a straight ahead swing affair. Yes, this track swings hard, but it plays hard on the edges as well with a not too subtle tip of the hat to fellow alto saxophonist Lee Konitz. Both Dick and Lee were pioneering an edge searching sound all the while staying true to the classic west coast sound of the mid 1950s.

Our second set features other new ideas, such as a jazz waltz, a freer look at bossa nova, and ultimately a new sound of the electric six string bass and a seemingly endless shift of the tonal center. While these recordings span five plus decades, note how the search for the creative edge or something new rings true through each of these cuts. Blues Waltz is from 1957, Mimosa from 1964, and Gritty Folk from 2013. It's fascinating how seamlessly we pass through three vary different stylistic eras without a musical bump in the road.

The third set explores an even greater musical expanse. US3 gives an interpretation of an mid-1950's Art Blakey riff and 1960's Sonny Rollins fused with late 1990s hip-hop/acid jazz. From that we transition to the early 1960s with a classic date from Eric Dolphy, the master of never staying inside, and ultimately meet up with Miles' mid-1960s quintet that was renown of its ability to play very straight and inside at one moment and yet fragment moments later into a rubato state with only a loosely connected flow of melody, harmony, and rhythm. 

Closing out the hour Elvin Jones swings it hard with an early electric edge that is packed with all the fire of the hard bop era with the drive of soul jazz all the while painting an ever moving musical canvas.

At first blush this hour may seem disjointed, summarily jumping across the jazz eras. Yet upon a disciplined listening and reflection, you can hear the continuity of exploration that each of these performances share. The book of jazz is a historical yet living and growing document, that combines styles and the collective life experiences of each of its players. Although each of these performances is contemporary within the context of its time, the musical roots are deep in the creative search that epitomizes so much of jazz. With this commonality of purpose, it is possible to move between the eras without out so much of as a musical speed bump. On paper this may seem impossible, but this unique art form does so on so many different levels through a unifying common thread. This is what enables the search for the new while embracing tradition and the masters that came before. What's even more remarkable is that this music sounds as fresh today as when it was recorded, and will continue to do so decades in the future. Like any great art, we learn more from it each with passing year.