This has been bugging me for quite some time, and apparently, I’m not the only one: Francis Graham Dixon, former side man of John Stevens, asks in his brilliantly written blog post, why such exquisite bands like Fourplay, who manage to deliver a top notch concert after having been on tour for more than a year, seem to be passed over by the general Jazz press. In particular, he complains – and rightly so, if I might add: “Those lucky enough to witness their performance at The Grand, Clapham at the end of a European tour were treated to a spellbinding night of music combining emotional power and intensity with peerless virtuoso brilliance; hardly a surprise when you consider that this group of musicians comprise some of the very best instrumentalists and songwriters of any era, and all at the top of their game. Yet I have seen no other review of this brilliant gig in the jazz press. Why is this kind of music generally so ill-served by the specialists?”
I don’t know the answer to that, but I had to find from personal experience then (25 years ago) and more recently that there seems to be an understanding among some traditional, straight-ahead or Modern Jazzers that makes anything along the lines of melodic Jazz – for lack of a better word – somehow unworthy of them, sort of “below” them. When I say “them”, I refer to a roster of pro musicians, whose phone never stands still with calls for gigs, recordings and/or co-writing sessions. All that strictly in the realm of what I refer to as Modern Jazz, as in: Hard to play/master, almost impossible to read, even harder to follow in a live setting, often oblivious to considerations of sound, stage appearance and other aspects of the entire stage act.
Of course, this is the type of “grey zone” that you will never get a straight answer to, with a mild chance of getting a little closer to the truth when pushing the topic late at a post-gig party, with everyone reasonably intoxicated and less in control of the ongoing self-monitoring most of us will employ to a greater or lesser degree. Could it be there is no “good” reason? Could it boil down to nothing but “marking one’s territory”? Or would I have to – God forbid! – use the “E” word? As in envy? Because less eclectic/academic, but by no measure less virtuoso performances like the one we saw in London or Munich or probably everywhere else on Fourplay’s tour was met with openly articulated appreciation as in enthusiastic applause instead of the very reserved clapping at your typical Jazz club setting, because audiences would hush during softer passages instead of neglecting the artists on stage by continuing their (loud) chatter? Because some might have even taken it as far as – Oh Lawdee! – dance to the songs? In other words: Have fun! instead of pretending this was late class at music college?
I don’t know the answer to my hypothetical questions and maybe my questions are nothing else but polemics. Maybe I resorted to a bit of un-PC writing in a desperate attempt to see bridges instead of ditches, the common denominator instead of the dividing quotient, the unifying LOVE we share … for music. Or was I way off base altogether? You tell me…