A history of Jazz Music

by Piero Scaruffi
See also the The History of Rock Music and the The History of Pop Music
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(These are excerpts from my book "A History of Jazz Music")

White jazz between free jazz and fusion


Despite having contributed to the decline of bebop on Paul Bley's Solemn Meditation (1957) and to the birth of free jazz with his performances on Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959) and John Coltrane's The Avant-Garde (1960), Los Angeles-based white bassist Charlie Haden was rarely faithful to his roots in the rest of his career. Raised in the Midwest to country music, Haden brought to jazz the typical sensitivity of provincial America, of simple things for simple people, a populist viewpoint that his political beliefs turned into a Woody Guthrie-like weapon. The Noam Chomsky of jazz music, he always seemed more interested in the message than in the music Surprisingly for such an outspoken critic of mainstream USA culture, Haden's music has tended to gravitate around relatively conservative musical paradigms, emphasizing melody, graceful counterpoint and mellow atmospheres. Thus Haden has actually been one of the jazz musicians who crossed over into pop and folk music in the most deliberate manner.
In 1967 Haden joined Keith Jarrett's trio with Paul Motian, one of the most distinctive acts of fusion jazz. While he worked with Jarrett (and Ornette Coleman, whom he never abandoned), Haden made only one recording as a leader, but it was a sensational one. He formed the Liberation Music Orchestra with a huge cast of improvisers: Don Cherry on cornet and flutes, Dewey Redman on alto and tenor saxophones, Gato Barbieri on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Michael Mantler on trumpet, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Perry Robinson on clarinet, Bob Northern on French horn, Howard Johnson on tuba, Sam Brown on guitar, Carla Bley on piano, Charlie Haden on bass. Paul Motian on percussion. Their Song for Che (april 1969), that sold well to the rock audience, focused on protest songs arranged by Carla Bley, but the real standout was Haden's Song For Che.
The second Liberation Music Orchestra album, The Ballad Of The Fallen (november 1982), a collaboration with arranger Carla Bley, was devoted to communist-inspired folk tunes from all over the world. The terrific players (Don Cherry on trumpet, Michael Mantler on trumpet, Gary Valente on trombone, Sharon Freeman on French horn, Jack Jeffers on tuba, Steve Slagle on saxophones, clarinet and flute, Jim Pepper on saxophones and flute, Dewey Redman on tenor saxophone, Mick Goodrick on guitar, Charlie Haden on bass, Carla Bley on piano, Paul Motian on drums) were wasted on poor material (La Pasionaria was the only major contribution by Haden).
Haden was mostly active as a sessionman for other leaders (Ornette Coleman till 1987, Alice Coltrane in 1971-75, Art Pepper 1975-82, Pat Metheny 1980-85, Geri Allen 1987-90, Paul Motian 1988-91, John Scofield 1988-91, Gonzalo Rubalcaba 1989-92, Abbey Lincoln 1990-94), but in 1987 he formed his own quartet (with tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist Alan Broadbent and drummer Larance Marble), that recorded old-fashioned bebop album, mostly devoted to covers, starting with Quartet West (december 1986) and In Angel City (june 1988), with his celebrated First Song. In the 1990s the Quartet West became a postmodernist project of deconstruction of Hollywood soundtracks of the black and white era ("noir jazz"). Haunted Heart (october 1991), Always Say Goodbye (august 1993), Now Is The Hour (july 1995) and The Art Of The Song (february 1999) were stylish, translucent, largely devoid of substance and added samples of old recordings to the mix. This commercially successful venture was emblematic of the ideological and aesthetic surrender of the avantgarde.
The third Liberation Music Orchestra album, Dream Keeper (april 1990), was highlighted by Carla Bley's 17-minute Dreamkeeper Suite. The fourth political sermon by the Liberation Music Orchestra, Not In Our Name (august 2004), was highlighted by a 17-minute thematic collage, America the Beautiful, again arranged by Carla Bley. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


White Oakland-born pianist Carla Bley married Paul Bley in 1957 and moved with him to Los Angeles. After composing Bent Eagle for George Russell's Stratusphunk (1960) and Ictus for Jimmy Giuffre's Thesis (1961), she became her husband's main composer, penning: Floater and King Korn on Footloose (1963), Ida Lupino and Syndrome on Turning Point (1964), the entire Barrage (1964), most of Closer (1965), Start on Touching (1965). She left Paul Bley for trumpeter Michael Mantler in 1965.
Mantler and Bley formed a large star-studded jazz orchestra, the Jazz Composers' Orchestra, that debuted with Communication (april 1965) and Jazz Composers' Orchestra (june 1968), obtaining immense critical success. In between those albums, Mike Mantler on trumpet, Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone, Carla Bley on piano and two bassists recorded Jazz Realities (january 1966), including Bley's Oni Puladi (the habanera Ida Lupino played in reverse).
Those collaborations would have been enough to establish her as a major figure of the decade, but she also composed the whole of Gary Burton's A Genuine Tong Funeral (1967) and most of Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra (1969), two milestones of jazz. By the end of the decade, she could vie for the title of greatest living jazz composer with Mingus and Ellington.
Her public image was quite schizophrenic, on one hand a living advertisement for the bohemian lifestyle of the hippie generation, on the other hand an austere and uncompromising modernist. Her compositional ambitions clearly collided with the aesthetic of free-jazz, although she displayed an ideological affinity with free jazz. Perhaps these contradictions were precisely what made her music so unique and powerful.
Bley topped everything she had done so far with the colossal three-LP jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill (1971), the result of three years of recordings, one of the greatest albums in the history of jazz music. The large orchestra was actually structured in four orchestras. The Orchestra proper (and Hotel Lobby Band) was a 19-piece unit with Carla Bley (piano), Jimmy Lyons (alto saxophone), Gato Barbieri (tenor saxophone), Chris Woods (baritone saxophone), Michael Mantler and Enrico Rava (trumpets), Roswell Rudd, Sam Burtis and Jimmy Knepper (trombones), Jack Jeffers (bass trombone), Bob Carlisle and Sharon Freeman (French horns), John Buckingham (tuba), Nancy Newton (viola), Karl Berger (vibraphone), Charlie Haden (bass), Paul Motian (drums), Roger Dawson (congas), Bill Morimando (bells, celeste). The Desert Band featured Bley (organ), Don Cherry (trumpet), Souren Baronia (clarinet), Leroy Jenkins (violin), Calo Scott (cello), Sam Brown (guitar), Ron McClure (bass) and Motian (percussion). The Original Hotel Amateur Band comprised Bley (piano), Mantler (valve trombone), Motian (drums), Michael Snow (trumpet), Howard Johnson (tuba), Perry Robinson and Peggy Imig (clarinets), Nancy Newton (viola), Richard Youngstein (bass). Jack's Traveling Band consisted of Carla Bley on organ and the power-trio of John McLaughlin (guitar), Jack Bruce (bass) and Paul Motian (drums). Finally, the "silent music" was performed by Michael Mantler on prepared piano, Don Preston on synthesizer and Carla Bley on organ, celeste and calliope. The singers ranged from country star Linda Ronstadt to avantgarde vocalist Jeanne Lee. Bley's score, spanning jazz, electronic, rock and Indian music, was of Wagner-ian proportions and ambitions, combining pathos and epos in a way that had not been tried before in jazz music. Most of the pieces were brief, like a lattice of morphing ideas, except for Hotel Overture, Rawalpindi Blues and the closing And It's Again. Her intricate dissonant unstable multi-stylistic structures amounted to a refounding of jazz music.
By comparison, Tropic Appetites (february 1974) was a mini-opera for vocalists (Julie Driscoll, Karen Mantler) and jazz septet (Gato Barbieri on tenor, Michael Mantler on trumpet and trombone, Howard Johnson on clarinets, saxophones and tuba, Toni Marcus on violin and viola, Dave Holland on bass and cello, Carla Bley on piano and organ, Paul Motian on percussion), but the stylistic excursion was no less breathtaking, from the What Will Be Left Between Us and the Moon Tonight? to Indonesian Dock Sucking Supreme to Song of the Jungle Stream. The humbler setting shifted the emphasis from creative chaos and abandon to impressionistic timbral and textural exploration.
Bley proved that she could also excel in neoclassical music with the lyrical 3/4 for piano and orchestra, on Michael Mantler - Carla Bley (august 1975).
Dinner Music (september 1976) was Bley's version of slick muzak (Sing Me Softly of the Blues, A New Hymn and Song Sung Long), featuring herself, Mantler, Richard Tee (piano), Carlos Ward (alto and tenor saxophones and flute), Roswell Rudd (trombone), Bob Stewart (tuba), and a funky rhythm section of two guitars, bass and drums.
Her mood seemed to have relaxed considerably, and Musique Mecanique (november 1978) was the ultimate proof, almost a divertissment for tentet. The 23-minute three-movement Musique Mecanique and Jesus Maria and Other Spanish Strains were bizarre but not too cerebral (and frequently humorous) compositions, highlighted by the solos of tenor saxophonist Gary Windo and trombonist Roswell Rudd. The other players (besides Bley and Mantler) included Alan Braufman on reeds, John Clark on french horn, Bob Stewart on tuba, Terry Adams on piano, Steve Swallow and Charlie Haden on basses, and Eugene Chadbourne on guitar. Like all of her best works, this was both jazz, rock and classical music, while being blasphemous to them all.
Social Studies (december 1980) was highlighted by a postmodernist Reactionary Tango scored for a surreal nonet (Bley, Mantler, Ward, Valente, Swallow, tenor saxophone, euphonium, tuba, drums).
The ambient/melodic side of her art returned to the fore with the adventurous tentet music of Heavy Heart (october 1983), that relied on Bley's synthesizer and Valente's trombone, more than on the other horns (Mantler's trumpet, tuba, flute, saxophones), and on the delicate rhythm section (Kenny Kirkland's piano, Hiram Bullock's guitar, Steve Swallow's bass and two percussionists), to sculpt the relaxed atmospheres of Heavy Heart and Light or Dark. The Bley-Swallow mellow-fusion sound was formalized by the Sextet (december 1986) with guitarist Hiram Bullock, pianist Larry Willis and two percussionists, in particular by The Girl Who Cried Champagne and Healing Power.
The 18-piece Very Big Carla Bley Band (october 1990), featuring four soloists (Valente, trumpeter Lew Soloff, saxophonists Wolfgang Puschnig and Andy Sheppard), failed to resurrect the original Carla Bley spirit, despite the 15-minute United States and especially All Fall Down. But the 17-minute Dreamkeeper Suite for Charlie Haden's third Liberation Music album, Dreamkeeper (april 1990), fared a bit better. Bley's 18-piece orchestra (same four soloists, main addition the violinist Alex Balanescu) fared even better in the 20-minute suite Birds of Paradise on Big Band Theory (july 1993). Also notable for big band was the 24-minute Setting Calvin's Waltz on the live Goes To Church (july 1996).
Her truly serious compositions (the 19-minute Tigers in Training, the nine-minute End of Vienna, the 14-minute Wolfgang Tango) finally appeared on Fancy Chamber Music (december 1997), featuring Bley on piano, a string section (violin, viola, cello, bass), flute, clarinet and percussion.
The return to form continued with 4x4 (july 1999), for a double quartet of sort (Bley on piano, Larry Goldings on organ, Steve Swallow on bass, Victor Lewis on drums, Lew Soloff on trumpet, Wolfgang Puschnig on alto, Andy Sheppard on tenor, Gary Valente on trombone), that contained Blues in Twelve Bars and the three-movement Les Trois Lagons.
Looking For America (october 2002), a work for big band with the same four horn soloists, was political satire with a high degree of musical sophistication, as demonstrated by the 22-minute postmodernist audio-collage National Anthem.
Bley debuted a quartet with Sheppard, Swallow and drummer Billy Drummond on The Lost Chords (october 2003). It was mostly taken up by two suites: 3 Blind Mice, that displayed her knowledge of blues and jazz tradition, and Lost Chords, that showed Bley the melodic poet in her most romantic mood.
The centerpiece of Appearing Nightly (august 2006) was a four-movement fantasia for small orchestra inspired by lounge and dancehall jazz of the 1950s. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


White Austrian-born trumpeter Michael Mantler relocated to New York in 1964 and formed the Jazz Composer's Orchestra Association (JCOA) to promote compositions for jazz orchestra. Mantler and pianist Carla Bley formed a large star-studded jazz orchestra, the Jazz Composer's Orchestra, that debuted with Communication (april 1965) and Jazz Composer's Orchestra (june 1968), obtaining immense critical success. The former featured Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone, Jimmy Lyons on alto saxophone, Robin Kenyatta on alto saxophone, Ken McIntyre on alto saxophone, Bob Carducci on tenor saxophone, Fred Pirtle on baritone saxophone, Mike Mantler on trumpet, Ray Codrington on trumpet, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Paul Bley on piano, Steve Swallow on bass, Kent Carter on bass and Barry Altschul on drums, and included Mantler's Day - Communications No 4 and Communications No 5. The latter featured six soloists (Don Cherry on cornet, Gato Barbieri on tenor saxophone, Larry Coryell on guitar, Roswell Rudd on trombone, Pharoah Sanders on tenor saxophone, Cecil Taylor on piano), piano (Carla Bley), seven saxophones (including Steve Lacy, Jimmy Lyons, Lew Tabackin), seven brass instruments, five basses (Steve Swallow, Charlie Haden, Reggie Workman, Eddie Gomez, Ron Carter), and two drummers (Andrew Cyrille and Beaver Harris), and included Mantler's Communications No.8, Communications No.9, Communications No.10, Preview - Communications No.11.
In between those albums, Mike Mantler on trumpet, Steve Lacy on soprano saxophone, Carla Bley on piano and two bassists recorded Jazz Realities (january 1966), including Mantler's Communication No 7. Mantler featured on all subsequent Carla Bley recordings until 1983.
But Mantler's soul was European to the core. Michael Mantler - Carla Bley (august 1975) contained his 13 for Piano and Two Orchestras, a terrifying expressionist work. He fully realized his ambitions in the sphere of highbrow progressive chamber jazz with No Answer (february 1973), a cycle of lieder on Samuel Beckett texts sung by rock vocalist Jack Bruce, accompanied by an organ-trumpet-bass trio (Carla Bley, Don Cherry, Jack Bruce), although the cerebral, disjointed music sounded closer in spirit to the Canterbury school of progressive rock. The proximity to that school increased on The Hapless Child (july 1975), with words by Edward Gorey, featuring rock vocalist Robert Wyatt, Carla Bley on piano and synthesizer, Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Jack DeJohnette. This time the brooding lieder were even more in the hands of the vocalist, one of the greatest of all times, with the musicians following his cues and filling the gaps. The rock element further increased on the next cycle, Silence (february 1976), based on the Harold Pinter play and scored for a trio of piano/organ (Bley), guitar (Chris Spedding) and bass (Ron McClure) fronted by Kevin Coyne and Wyatt (and Bley herself). These albums of erudite, ponderous chamber jazz songs set the standard for the rest of his career.
Mantler abandoned the human voice and finally played in person on the eight-movement suite Movies (march 1977) in a quintet with Bley (on both acoustic and electronic keyboards), guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Tony Williams. The line-up shifted the emphasis of the sound towards orthodox fusion jazz. More Movies (march 1980) replaced Coryell with Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine and added tenor saxophonist Gary Windo.
Something There (june 1982) returned to his classical obsession, scoring another suite for jazz-rock quintet (guitarist Mike Stern, Bley on piano, Swallow and Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason) and a string orchestra. The duets with Don Preston on synthesizer, Alien (july 1985), were de facto another orchestral album, a sort of concerto for trumpet and (electronic) orchestra, because Mantler used the synthesizer to add color to the solo instrument's meditations.
Mantler returned to the song cycle with Many Have No Speech (december 1987), for rock vocalists such as Jack Bruce, Robert Wyatt and Marianne Faithfull backed by a symphony orchestra, but he fragmented too much the material. Having relocated to Denmark, Mantler greatly reduced his frequency of recordings, preferring to focus on the format of classical music. Even more ambitious was the 29-minute suite Folly Seeing All This on Folly Seeing All This (july 1992), scored for the Balanescu String Quartet and a jazz quintet (trumpet, guitar, alto flute, piano, vibraphone). Another cycle of lieder, Cerco Un Paese Innocente (january 1994), featured vocalist Mona Larsen backed by a chamber ensemble (trumpet, guitar, piano and a string quartet) and a big band with synthesizer. The opera The School of Languages (august 1996) featured eight vocalists (including rock vocalists Robert Wyatt, Jack Bruce, John Greaves and Mantler's daughter Karen) backed by a ten-piece ensemble and a string orchestra. One Symphony on Songs And One Symphony (november 1998) was his largest orchestral composition yet. Wyatt dominated again the song cycle Hide And Seek (september 2000) for an eleven-piece ensemble. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


White drummer Paul Motian, who had cut his teeth with the likes of Thelonious Monk and Lennie Tristano, had an intense career, first pioneering a more proactive role for the drums with Bill Evans (1959-61), and then abstracting the drums to match the soundscape with Paul Bley (1963-64) and drumming in an almost "melodic" way with Keith Jarrett (1967-76). All his "bosses" were pianists, a fact that had an impact on his musical mindset.
The revelation of his debut album, Conception Vessel (november 1972), was, in fact, Motian as a composer: Georgian Bay and Rebica for a trio of Motian, bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Sam Brown, Conception Vessel, a duet with Keith Jarrett, and Inspiration from a Vietnamese Lullaby for a quartet with Haden, violinist Leroy Jenkins and flutist Becky Friend, were exceptional open post-bop structures that radiated ideas in all directions. Sod House, on Tribute (may 1974), added another format: a quintet with two guitars, bass (Haden) and alto sax (Charles Ward).
After he finished his tenure with Jarrett, Motian unleashed his compositional skills in the realm of sophisticated chamber jazz. This phase was begun by two trio albums with saxophonist Charles Brackeen and a bassist: Dance (september 1977), that contained the relatively short and lively Waltz Song, Asia and Lullaby, and Le Voyage (march 1979), that contained the longer and more pensive Folk Song For Rosie and Le Voyage.
A breakthrough for Motian's research on sound was represented by Psalm (december 1981), performed by a piano-less quintet featuring saxophonists Joe Lovano and Billy Drewes, bassist Ed Schuller and guitarist Bill Frisell that Motian conducted through graceful and soulful excursions such as Second Hand, Fantasm and Yahllah. Part of the success was due to the exuberant talents of Frisell and Lovano. The two youngsters were, again, the main feature of The Story Of Maryam (july 1983), with Jim Pepper replacing Drewes, an album with even more baroque pieces such as 9 X 9 and The Owl of Cranston, and of Jack Of Clubs (march 1984), with Cathedral Song. This pianoless quintet broke up after Misterioso (july 1986), ostensibly a Monk tribute but also including Motian's lyrical Dance.
Motian's melodic flair was now irrepressible, and it erupted with the trio albums that followed, both because Motian was more fully in control of his music and because limiting the group to the interplay between Frisell's guitar (the ebullient persona) and Lovano's saxophone (the subtle persona) actually optimized the pathos of his glossy chamber jazz. Fiasco and India, on the trio's debut album, It Should've Happened A Long Time Ago (july 1984), were emblematic of the style that exerted a huge influence on fusion jazz of the era. TM, ®, Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.


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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi. All rights reserved.