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Unfriending Facebook

the break-up

A couple of minutes ago, I deactivated my Facebook account. Because this is such a ubiquitous and easy method of communication, I want to say that you can still reach me. It’ll just be a bit more difficult now. And maybe that will make our interactions a bit more valuable. We’ll see.

My coordinates are:

P.O. Box 2074
Erie, PA 16512-2074
+1 814.882.9464 v
+1 708.850.9464 f

Twitter: @JohnChacona

AIM: drimedawa

Skype: john_chacona

FaceTime: johnchacona [at] gmail [dot] com

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R.I.P. George Russell

Jazz Workshop

The news of George Russell’s passing sent me to my LP stacks for my 1962 reissue (jazz reissues in 1962!) of The Jazz Workshop. The original was released in 1957, a year some regard as the apogee of the music. This record doesn’t have the cachet of Mingus’ tectonic Tijuana Moods, Miles Davis’ Miles Ahead or even Max Roach’s Jazz in 3/4 Time, all of which were released that year, but it was just as predictive of the music’s future direction.

Like Mingus, Russell loved polyphony and formal exploration, though the busily interwoven lines of Russell’s “Round Johnny Rondo,” owe more to West Coast cool and Bach than they do to Mingus’ roots in trad jazz and Ellington. Russell and Miles frequented Gil Evans basement, and Workshop employed players from Miles’ past (altoist Hal McKusick) and future (Bill Evans). And it’s worthwhile to remember that Russell was a drummer (he plays wooden drums on one cut of The Jazz Workshop) who was bumped from the chair in Benny Carter’s band by no less than Roach himself.

George Russell’s greatest contribution to jazz (to music, really; his influence is broader than that) is his Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization, a theory I couldn’t hope to explain even if I understood it (I don’t). Needless to say that Russell opened doors to harmony that giants would stride through giants named Davis, Coltrane and Evans. Russell spent many of his mature years in Scandinavia, far from the jazz spotlight, but he belongs in its glow, even though he’s no longer around to enjoy it.

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Bittersweet Return

Sweet Return

Thelonious Monk’s composition “Rhythm-A-Ning” begins innocently enough with a sing-songy melody that could have come from a schoolyard. But Monk is Monk, and he finishes it off with a bratty, chromatic phrase that ends on three repeated staccato notes phrased like a jab to the chest.

The trumpeter Freddie Hubbard opened his set with that tune when he played my hometown in 1984 and those three notes arrived with such force that my head snapped back and hit the wall behind me.

Hubbard, who passed yesterday at age 70, played the trumpet the way the Big Ten plays basketball, with as much muscle as finesse. There was always an animal force to Hubbard’s playing, and when he was in his prime, his virtuosity and fluency was almost defiant. And very joyous for just that reason.

Of course Miles Davis was a genius, and, sure, Dizzy Gillespie deserves as much credit for inventing the modern era in jazz as the more colorful, more cinematically doomed saxophonist Charlie Parker. But it’s a trumpet, dammit, and it came into jazz played high, loud and fast. So, that’s the way I like to hear it — the way Freddie Hubbard played in his prime.

Hubbard, for one of his many comebacks, recorded a album entitled “Sweet Return” a pretty good mainstream date that aimed to steal the fire that passed to the Marsalises, Blanchards and Hargroves of the world while Freddie was off making money in fusion music. I thought about that record as I sat to write this, my first post to this long-neglected blog in quite some time.

Comeback? Not exactly, but I’ve resolved this New Year’s Eve to pay a great deal more attention to “let’s call this” than I did when I was off not making money in various ways. Still, it’s a sweet return, even when the news is bring is bitter. Here’s that rainy day.

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