Here is how I see it
The festival is only five days away and the park is getting ready, the volunteers and musicians are getting ready and so are the journalists. If you've seen the big article in the Ottawa Citizen this morning, you'll know that Peter Hum and Lynn Saxberg duel it out discussing the age-old "is it jazz or not" issue in an article called Dis-Chord: The Great Jazz Debate. It's a good old fashioned argument in good humor and it brings up a lot of good points.
So here is how I see it:
The Dis-Chord Is The Harmony! because...
Jazz is alive and well!
It's roots are strong, growing stronger everyday and they are branching out. What we know as "jazz" now is not a one sentence answer as it once may have been. When I think of the "roots of jazz" I think of african rhythms, harmony, melody, the blues, call and response, the oral tradition that sooner or later leads to improvisation, revolution, collaboration, a folk tradition, a high-art, exploration of new ideas, organic, communicating with the audience, dance, listening, being challenged, virtuosity, individual voice, character, charisma and personality.
Sorry for the long-winded sentence but those are all the things we love about jazz, and I probably missed a few. These are characteristics that I keep in mind while playing music and they are things I look for when listening to good jazz... good music. I have many musicians that I am extremely excited about and I have to say that probably none of them have all of the above... it is simply impossible.
No one has it all - but everybody has something:
I love the introspective nature of Brad Mehldau, that his ideas and phrases are so clear and develop so beautifully even though I sometimes cannot keep up with his level of sophistication; I love that Joshua Redman might counter Mehldau's rhythmic explorations and the duo might sound a little more traditional. I love that Kenny Wheeler's sound is like glass, it is so clear and each note tells a story. I love that Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green are absolutely virtuosic and I am reminded of Charlie Parker and how people just could not believe how he could play with so much conviction while playing so fast. Tigran Hamaysyan has the same effect on me. I love how Ari Hoenig has a frantic way about him and he feeds off of spontaneity while hanging on by a thread to the core of the tradition. I love that Christian McBride will be straight up and amazing; I love that James Cotton mastered the art of making chicken and train sounds on the harmonica when he was a kid because that was his connection to music and improvising - and you can still hear that today! I love that Bela Fleck saw the sophistication and improvising that links both bluegrass and jazz... took his love of the banjo and simply threw everything in one bag. I love that Darcy-James Argue plays with layers and I can hear the roots of indie-rock in his big band; I love that Daniel Lanois, the producer of U2, teams up with Brian Blade, the celebrated drummer for Wayne Shorter, and they play music that draws on everything from trad jazz, to rock, soul and pop. I love that Shad is so good at rhyming - that he can phrase in a way that makes me want to dance; I love that I will most definitely dance when Lee Fields and The Expressions play; I love that Mats Gustafsson is all about pure energy and just going for it!!!! I love that Hugh Masekela's music has a message and I love that Robert Plant teamed up with Allison Krauss and is dipping into the pool of jazz musicians like Marc Ribot to play guitar on his records - which don't sound anything like what he did twenty years ago. As a jazz fan and artist I am genuinely excited about all of this.
One of our favorite pass-times as jazz fans and artists is to find out the history of an artist... where did she come from? What does he listen to? What are their influences? Well the influences are alway wide-ranging, interesting and almost always of high quality. It is because of these unique combinations of styles, genres and circumstances that the music continues to grow, and this is where our best new artists come from and I believe always will.
No one artist has it all, but we can put together a festival that does have all that we love about jazz. We have, with your input and a lot of teamwork, put together a program that will challenge you, is packed with quality, pairs up the artist with the best possible listening environment we could provide, and maybe... in the smallest, slightest way, will compliment and contribute to the direction of jazz today.