The Unpopularity of Jazz: On the 90s Shift

Incredible interview by Rachel Olding with Branford Marsalis. The conclusion:

The more jazz has changed, the more Marsalis has gravitated towards classical music. It’s the reason he moved his young family to Durham, an artistic city in North Carolina, 10 years ago; the New York scene wasn’t inspiring anymore. (He’d also had enough of “New York living”, of five-year-olds calling adults by their first name).

Today’s jazz musicians are too mathematical and wonkish, he says. Jazz clubs are half empty, only frequented by other musicians who appreciate each other’s showmanship. Listeners need music degrees to understand what they’re playing. The music has become rigid. Improvisation is mostly over-rehearsed regurgitation.

“[I’m often asked] the question, ‘Jazz is so unpopular, why do you think that is?’ And the answer is simple: the musicians suck,” he says with typical subtlety.

He says the shift started in the ’90s and I can’t help but think the Marsalis family was not immune. While they still wield incredible clout, nothing can compare to the two decades in which Wynton and his siblings seemed to rule the jazz universe. In 2003, the music critic David Hajdu stumbled upon Wynton playing as a sideman with a band in a near-empty jazz club in New York, and wrote a piece in the Atlantic (tartly titled “Wynton’s Blues”) hypothesising that Wynton’s stifling orthodoxy and nostalgia was partly to blame for both his and jazz’s dwindling relevance.

It’s nevertheless hard to see that Branford Marsalis is slowing down in any way. Not in the flood of opinions he wants to impart. Nor in his commitment to improving music or lifting standards. Not in the pace and scope of his work, nor with that bottle of red wine. And especially not with the tempo of Thelonius Monk.

Help us, O prog rock, you’re our only hope… 

Rush: The Animated Series

kmjz8lctraatpxzawyy5dr-970-80Take a look at the sample pages available: This Rush comic looks great.

It makes me think of a great idea, which Progarchy freely offers here: why doesn’t somebody make an animated cartoon about the adventures of the Rush trio?

What I have in mind is something with the great retro animation vibe of the Star Trek animated series. That would be the look and feel.

As for audio, every episode would end with a snippet of a Rush song playing as part of the concluding soundtrack, just like shows such as The Goldbergs or Schooled do in their own televised exercises in nostalgia.

The high concept for Rush: The Animated Series is that, one night, while recording tracks for the album A Farewell to Kings, a dimensional portal opens up as the harmonic frequency of one of their jam sessions bends space and time by resonating with the black hole in Cygnus X-1.

On the other side of the portal, the Rush dudes get to hop in a spaceship and go exploring different worlds in the multiverse. They get to do this in each episode, whenever one of their songs hits just the right note and unexpectedly opens the portal. Not only that, they can also use their spaceship to visit any time and place on Earth, so the story possibilities are endless.

The trick is: the spaceship is powered by Rush harmonic convergence music energy. So, whenever they are low and about to run out of fuel, they have to return to the studio and record another song. The process of songwriting and recording fuels up the spaceship again and the portal reopens.

The running joke could be: they write longer songs on purpose, because that makes the fuel tank fill up more. Also, replaying old songs works fine to open the portal and power the ship, but extra energy and wider travel is unleashed whenever a new track is created.

Rush should definitely get behind this idea. If you were retired rock stars, wouldn’t it be on your to-do list to star in your own sci-fi comedy Saturday morning cartoon? In any event, it is always possible for a motivated fan to create their own series. Prog on!

A Genesis Extravaganza: The Musical Box in Vancouver (April 9, 2019)


The best part of the show was Act III. Acts I and II felt much less energetic than the actual Genesis originals, most of which I have heard the real Genesis play live. Out of that lot, “Lilywhite Lilith” came across the best.

Not until Act III did the band progressively pour it on, with more and more energy with each song, making the concert a consistent crescendo into the encore finale. My favorites were everything from “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” to the end.

Also, “Cinema Show” was so good that as result “Aisle of Plenty” felt especially emotionally moving as I pondered the magnificent artistic legacy of Genesis.

The band likes to sit down a lot, and has pretty given up on costumes, other than a leather jacket for Rael, and the fox head and red dress for the very end of “The Musical Box.” I was underwhelmed in Acts I and II but then Act III redeemed the evening for me, as they poured on the jets.

In the end, I am reminded just how great Genesis is and how unrepeatable they are, despite those who would try to imitate as best they can. It’s sincere flattery, but perhaps Andy Tillison summed it up best on the last track of The Tangent’s Proxy: all the other bands are skint.

Act I: The Wind’s Tail
In That Quiet Earth / Robbery, Assault, and Battery / Wot Gorilla?
Blood on the Rooftops
Dance on a Volcano
Entangled (Ending Part)
Los Endos

Act II: Broadway Melodies
Fly on a Windshield
Broadway Melody of 1974
In the Cage
Back in N.Y.C.
Hairless Heart
Counting Out Time
The Carpet Crawlers
Lilywhite Lilith
The Waiting Room (Ending Part)

Act III: Before The Ordeal
A Place to Call My Own
Time Table
Seven Stones
Can-Utility and the Coastliners
Looking for Someone
Firth of Fifth
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty

The Musical Box

The Artist Strikes Back: T Bone takes on Big Tech

This is a great talk by multiple Grammy and Oscar winner Joseph Henry “T Bone” Burnett about the threats posed by digital technology. You can read the talk in full text, but don’t miss the video version below, because after the talk ends at around 35 minutes, the Q&A section is excellent, and he has lots of great comments about music today (for example, listen in at the 45-minute mark, if you need convincing). Highly recommended.

Video: Delain — “Nothing Left” (Live) @delainmusic

Check out this video of a fantastic live performance by Delain which is also found on their new album:

Charlotte Wessels of DELAIN on the new video: ‘2019 marks 10 years since we first released “Nothing Left” on April Rain. Nowadays it’s a rare treat to see the track performed at one of our live shows, but it hasn’t lost any of its power in the decade that has passed. Performing “Nothing Left” together with Marco Hietala was one of the highlights of the night in Tivoli, and in fact, the entire show felt like a highlight; it was one of my favourite shows of our career so far. You can relive the night through our new EP/Blu-Ray Hunter’s Moon. As it was the first time we did an entire tour with Marco as a guest, all songs featuring him, including Queen cover “Scandal” are included, and the video for “Nothing Left” is now available on Youtube. We hope you enjoy it!’

Napalm Records comments: ‘Without a doubt: Delain belong to the golden spear head of Symphonic Metal! After last year’s release of their very first live album the Netherlanders present another live masterpiece – including four brand new studio tracks! Hunter’s Moon consists of this fresh material, a live album and a live Blue-Ray disc. The catchy title track “Hunter’s Moon” and the larger than life orchestral “Masters of Destiny” offer a haunting preview of what Delain is working on for their next studio album, due 2019. The band’s guitarists step to the forefront in composing two tracks exclusive to this release in “This Silence Is Mine” (Timo Somers) and “Art Kills” (Merel Bechtold). The live portion of the release will take you on a cinematic journey to the Danse Macabre Tour in Utrecht’s Tivoli Vredenburg. The majority of the live album features the deep tones of Nightwish’s Marco Hietala and includes heart rendering hits like “Nothing Left,” “Your Body Is A Battleground,” and “Control The Storm”.’