P.J. O’Rourke and I were not friends other than online, but I was going back over my emails when it dawned on me that P.J. O’Rourke is the Father of Degage.
I am loving Bruce Boyer’s work on music, and the playlists are doing well. I did see a few comments about jazz in general, including one about there being legit arguments for jazz not qualifying as good music. A few notes. That was not on purpose.
As always, first we have to differentiate between what we don’t like and what isn’t good. My daughter doesn’t like sushi. Or James Taylor. Both are good. And legit. Liking something has nothing to do with whether or not it is good. In order to understand if it is good, let’s apply some criteria. First, is there musicianship involved? Yes, whales of it. Jazz guitar, for example, is perhaps the hardest genre to master (John Mayer has though). Some argue that jazz requires even more musicianship, because you kinda can’t rehearse it. There is too much improvisation. With enough repetition you can teach almost anyone to play a song on almost anything (I’ve done it). It’s memorization. Improvisation requires a greater technical capacity. Then there is the deep end of the pool. Does jazz integrate rhythm, harmony, melody, texture/timbre? Again, perhaps more because it is on the fly, a great deal of it. Second, does it create a response? Do you feel different, after having heard it? Did it get you from A to B? There are deeper weeds here too, but I think it is safe to say at minimum that jazz moves many.
I abhor that notion that if you just understood music you would appreciate jazz. Nonsense. Jazz is not for a lot of people. If you take a popular composition class you learn about patterns and predictability – jazz ain’t that. Plenty of people who are tremendous musicians get lost in jazz. It says nothing about you one way or the other if you like it or don’t. But. If you want to TRY it, those playlists are a great place to start. There will be no singing along, not much of it anyway, but there will be floating in a pool. It is the difference between enjoying the drive to the summer house where you know where you are going, and just driving. Which with the price of gas may not be as relatable a metaphor as I would have liked. I find jazz great to play underneath an activity (work, etc.) because it isn’t repetitive. There is no subconscious anticipating anything. So you can just tune in and tune out, and you don’t miss anything.
But yes, Virginia, jazz is good even if you don’t like it.
This is the J Crew catalog cover from Spring/Summer, 1989. Different people get their inspiration for their look from different places, for me, this shot was it. Now that I think about it, I wish I had shown this to P.J. Apparently neither one of us got there first. I posted this in the FB group a year or so ago and somebody told me that the guy to your left is a famous artist. I think I have that right. You’ll tell me. And I really should have emailed this. Ugh.
I am doing a deep dive into Teddy Roosevelt. I did not know, for example, that John Hay, TR’s Secretary of State, was also a Secretary to… Lincoln. Or that he skinny-dipped, while he was President, in the Potomac. He was Ivy League, Harvard. I mean, you can’t have everything. I am reading Theodore Rex, but if you know of good books or sites, tell me? Thanks.
Tomorrow, a feature from a new author, one of our very own, on the Scally Cap.
I would recommend:
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (Edmund Morris)
Mornings On Horseback (David McCullough)
Thank you! – JB
Completely unrelated…the Chris Rock slap. Ivy or not?
You have nailed it with this particular discussion of jazz. The primary reason I enjoy the form — Though NOT its Dixieland iteration. Too frenetic — is that unpredictable nature and fluidity. You can hear something new each time you listen. Not unlike multiple readings of great literature, and part of the reason why it is so rewarding to revisit well know jazz recordings (‘So, What?’ by Miles Davis anyone? Or, indeed, the entire Kind of Blue album.). Of course, intimate live performances, are really where the genre flourishes. Anyone remember the One Step Down club in Washington, D.C.? Pretty good food, and the musicians were almost in your lap. Appropriately smoky at the time too.
I’m still very much a jazz novice, but I think that it can DEFINITELY take you somewhere, both within a specific song, and then across the genre itself.
Part of what I like best is when a song gets really dissonant, and you lose the beat, etc., and then the musicians bring it back around and you’re like, “That’s where they were headed the whole time!”.
And then, like starting out with Vivaldi and moving on to Mozart and then Bach in classical music, jazz can take you from Vince Guaraldi and early Miles, to Charlie Parker and – if you’ve got the guts – *late* Miles.
The Chris Rock slap, totally not Ivy. Here’s what’s freaky. Will Smith had the composure to not punch, to keep his hand open and slap, but he didn’t have the composure to keep his seat? Who slaps? And then he sits down and leans back. He should have seen handcuffs. But Rock had the best line backstage: “I just got punched by Muhammad Ali and I don’t have a scratch.”
It’s good that you’ve delved, with experience, into the jazz discussion.
One must be fluent in the musical language in order to play jazz. If not, one would be just bluffing. Miles had something to say about this.
A rough analogy: One could, with enough teaching and repetition, memorize and recite the entire New Testament in koine Greek, but it would be another thing altogether to carry on even the simplest spontaneous conversation in that same koine Greek. And then, to converse with wit, and humor, and poetic symbolism, etc!
A good way to gain an appreciation for jazz would be to buy an inexpensive keyboard and a beginning jazz improvisation method book and spend an hour per day for a year practicing. This wouldn’t get one any gigs, but it would open one’s ears.
The music appreciation courses at the Universities, even the Ivies, are hardly sufficient.
One more. It was asked yesterday if Stan Kenton was Ivy. No, Stan Kenton is not Ivy.
It is difficult to draw direct correlations hence, I tend to associate Ivy style with Michel Legrand, Maurice Jarre, Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone, Dimitri Tiomkin, Lalo Schifrin, Jobim, Getz, Mantovani, Bert Kaempfert, Ray Conniff, etc.
If I could have any gig I want, it would be a steady gig playing obscure chamber music of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Where does one place the comma with “hence”?
I think people who make blanket statements about an entire genre of music as being “bad” are immature either in age or in mind. I used to make such proclamations in my inflexibly idealistic youth. Most of us grow out of that phase and develop the ability to hold two ideas in our heads at once: “I may not enjoy this genre of music, but I can recognize that the people making it are some of the most capable and expert musicians in the world. Just because I don’t dig it doesn’t mean it’s essentially bad.”
As for me, there are eras and flavors of jazz I deeply enjoy — either the dance-able kind or just the listen-able variety — just as there are styles that grate on my ears. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the world of expertise and talent that goes into making the varieties I do not enjoy.
I’ve noticed that J. Crew cover from 1989 has popped up on blogs from time to time. The Oxford shirts they’re wearing are just the right cut, but they feature J. Crew’s apparently rather longstanding practice of making shirts with itty-bity collars that can barely hang on to a tie. As for the pants, I do wish more makers would produce those stone color chinos. They go with almost anything — even more so than khaki. That summer dress she is wearing is fantastic: It would look just as good now as it did then. If only we could all look so stylishly at ease as the late Mr. O’Rourke or those folks breezily mugging on the cover.
I fell madly in love with Jazz when I was eight years old. That is when I first heard the Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” album on KBCA, the premiere jazz station of L.A. at that time.
Side note: Driving a Tesla really take the edge off of the gas price robbery problem as I make that drive to the summer house listening to one of my jazz playlists.
Jazz: some of it’s good. Some of it…is not. See how easily and well the qualification “some of” works? Worth a try.
T.R.: a mixed bag, for sure, And he’d probably be the first to say so. (uh, he definitely would be). Like sushi, P.J. and, well, jazz– some of T.R. is good; some, well, not so good. The same is true of other occasionally and/or somewhat “good” things and people. Like Churchill, steak, and New England.
In the case of jazz and T.R., not all. Definitely not all.
As for preppy/trad/ivy dégagé: before P.J., there was Pliimpton n, who’s mostly good
Politely disagree with “some of” as a qualifier. Some good some not applies to – pretty much everything, so its being nearly universal … disqualifies it from being a qualifier. See what I did there? Your statement was that there was purchase in no jazz being good. I am pleased to see you are off of that. As an aside, Bill Evans thing, playing chords with the left and melody with the right, was nearly singular at the time, and is imitated now by almost every pop song that has a piano in it. – JB
Speaking of F.D.R.’s mastery of dégagé–there are the pics of him wearing the fedora (or trilby?), the front of which is bent/folded backwards. Toward the crown, sans pinch. Accessorize with tweed suit and flippant smile. So spot on.
I referenced Evans’ Peace Piece as a high point. This jazz is good jazz:
On jazz, it is an acquired taste to be sure. There seems to be something magical that happens when you really listen to it during the “witching hour” however.
For a couple years I was a disc jockey at an NPR affiliate classical/jazz radio station; my first job was to work the midnight – 6 am shift. At the time I was more of a blues fan, but after months of having the solitude and time to really absorb the music, I was hooked. And I think it was indeed Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue that flipped the switch for me.
The Will Smith slap shows how far society has regressed.
I can’t imagine an actor like David Niven being personal about a mans wife or making fun of her appearance. Neither can I see Cary Grant jumping on stage to attack someone and then hurl expletives from his seat. It’s not just the golden age of Hollywood that has disappeared it’s the golden age of being a gentleman.
So what would I have done in this instance. Simple. I would of just escorted my wife out of the building.That act would of got as much coverage and said a whole lot more.
Your solution is pitch perfect sir. – JB
@AdMan67, I agree that it’s dismaying to see decorum fall apart like that. That said, I can totally imagine Richard Burton or Robert Mitchum getting up there and doing far worse than just a slap. The thing that was jarring for me was that Will Smith would be one of the last people I could imagine doing something like that. Sean Penn maybe, but Will Smith? Geez.
I still have my doubts about a lot of jazz that’s out there. Some of it’s good; some of it’s–not; some of it’s horrible. “Some of” works because everything in this diverse, complicated, complex, mixed-up world invites some degree of qualification. That a certain something applies to everything (like, say, “some” or “some of”) doesn’t disqualify it. It universalizes it, which, in a postmodern context, may be the highest of all praise.
All that said, a lot of jazz, especially modern, is bad. And some of the bad stuff is horrible.
Here’s some jazz. Is this some of the “some of” that’s … good?
Of course not all jazz is going to be everyone’s favorite.
Neither is all classical, all rock & roll, all and blues, all people, all food, all drink, all clothes and so on.
Things work for some of the people all the time,
all of the people some of the time,
but hardly ever all of the people all of the time.
I remember, when I was a young man, during a time when there was a difference of opinion about the Vietnam war, I attended the Academy Awards Presentation.
When David Niven, was on stage to introduce Elizabeth Taylor,suddenly a stark naked male “streaker” ran past him across the stage. Once the audience reaction settled down, David, without missing a beat, commented that was bound to happen and what a pity it was that the streaker’s only laughs would be for showing off his shortcomings. For which that line got a bigger laugh. Quite the save, I must say.
Once Elizabeth Taylor took the stage she did admit that was a hard act to follow.
Bill Evans sounds a lot like Satie, Milhaud, Poulenc. Good jazz.
Kenny G. not good. Kenny G. not jazz.
All shades, all hues, All blues. So what? Out of the blue.
If you find John Hay fascinating, he had his own biography published recently: All the Great Prizes, by John Taliaferro.
Gore Vidal’s Empire series, which uses historical fiction to tell the history of our country, relies on Hay as a central protagonist from Lincoln’s era through the very early twentieth century with McKinley & TR, too. Recommended.
But is Tammy Wynette Ivy?
I followed your link, even though I don’t like jazz. Now, Hardbopper tells we that it wasn’t jazz. Thanks, S.E.for the good music. Thanks, Hardbopper for confirming my belief that I don’t like jazz.
Asking if *insert jazz musician here* is Ivy is amusing, but misses the point entirely. How do you even decide that? More importantly, WHO decides this? Jazz is a wide and ambiguous genre, with much room for personal preference. Stan Kenton, specifically, played college dances and was pretty popular with the collegiate crowd as a result. Michel Legrand was a Frenchman who was on the periphery of jazz for the most part. How he is Ivy over Stan Kenton, I don’t know.
Let’s just say that jazz of all types was popular with college students during the heyday and leave it at that. No need to break it down any further.
“The Will Smith slap shows how far society has regressed.”
This reminds me of when Shelley Winters dumped a glass of water on Oliver Read as he was being interviewed on the Tonight Show by Johnny Carson.
Pardon me while I borrow my girlfriend’s pearls, so I have something to clutch while I pull up the Will Smith clip on YouTube.