Jazz, Whining, Trump…

Dear Editor,

Ben Olson’s RLW column in the Reader’s Oct. 20, issue recommended Andrew Bird’s “Are You Serious” album. Went on YouTube and listened to the title song. Hardly original but it was OK. Olson mentioned that Bird was “classically-trained” but failed to recognize that there are more elements of jazz in Bird’s music than classical.

From what I heard I don’t find Bird’s music to be challenging. And for me that’s the problem with rock music in general, it is not musically challenging. Where’s Frank Zappa when you need him?

More and more young rock fans are coming to the same conclusion (and to their senses) and as a result are embracing jazz.

For these bored rockers a gateway group to jazz has been the Portland band the Blue Cranes. For a seasoned jazzer the Blue Cranes is not particularly challenging as there is very little improvisation. However their arrangements are interesting and at times exciting.

In the same issue Olson had a Trump-like whining article called “Down on the Neckbone Circuit” where he complained about not getting, as a musician, the respect he feels he deserves. Boohoo, boohoo. Welcome to the real world Olson. At least you haven’t been taken outside by a group of men, had your instrument smashed and your ass kicked as happened to Ornette Coleman.

Both Leonard Bernstein (director of the New York Philharmonic) and Gunther Schuller (former conductor of the Spokane Symphony) declared Ornette Coleman to be a genius.

Coleman received dozens of awards over the years for his work and playing (on saxophone, violin and trumpet) including a Pulitzer in 2007 for his album “Sound Grammar”, a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and in 2012 the Library of Congress added his 1959 Atlantic album, “The Shape of Jazz to Come”, to the National Recording Registry. In 2015 the album was then inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Of course Olson doesn’t even come close to that level of musicianship. What counts, Ben: Are you having a good time playing? If so, quit your whining.

Another musician who is bringing rockers into jazz is Kamasi Washington. His album “Epic” got a glowing review in the New York Times and can be found at our library.

Lee Santa


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