I appreciate this comment, I really do...but its not quite that...
I want a big band, or any band for that matter (be it brass quintet, jazz combo, big band, or orchestra) to sound individual...like several disparate elements contributing toward a common good. A common musical good no matter what path it takes. I just feel that we've gotten to a point where most people treat the path most taken.
i am willing to acquiesce that there are several individual voices within a particular sonic timbre...but I feel that there has a been a great loss of the individual voice (in terms of timbre) in the name of the whole. In other words, the greater good has trumped the individual. And that's what I lament.
Whether that is human or not, I leave to the ear of the beholder...
But I personally celebrate the individual sound in the midst of the great mediocre timbrel palette.
The greatest Duke Ellington trombone section:Lawrence Brown
-subtle, a master of elision and understatement.Tricky Sam Nanton
-pure power.Juan Tizol
-a valve trombonist witha spectacularly beautiful sound. Playng third
parts because Duke liked the valve's ability to move around smoothly down there. On a trombone in the key of C.
All of the other sections...equally original and individual approaches to sound.
To this day there is not a large jazz ensemble that I would rather hear. Not even close. Of course, a great deal of the reason for that was Duke Ellington's genius as a composer/orchestrator, but part of that genius...and part of the collective
genius that produced the music in the first place and has sustained it over a century...has been its acceptance of "difference."
I think that this is rooted in the black experience here in the Americas. Individuality was about all that most African-Americans could count on owning through slavery times and well into the 20th century. To some degree the white musicians who took up the music were attracted to that single aspect of the music as much as anything else. They...we...were schooled in the value of the individual
by people who had little else on which they could rely from day to day.
And now that reliance on individuality..its glorification
, actually...is being threatened by easy technology and subsumed into an academic approach that neither values nor knows how to teach it. Jazz students are being taught to "play like" a pantheon of greats. Technology has made it very simple to access all of the work of all of the masters and it also makes it easy to transcribe them. There are books after books after books about how to understand the harmonic aspects of the music. Digital recording and ultra-compressed versions of earlier analog recordings absolutely, positively destroy much of the "sound" that came out of the best pre-digital recording. I will never forget my shock when I listened to a CD of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" album. I had heard 'Trane live many times and owned most of his recordings, but when I lstened to this CD he simply wasn't there anymore. Only his notes. His sound
wasn't there. Pre-recorded, play-along tracks have replaced much of the original way that one learned how to play the music, so now instead of learning how to have a musical conversation with a group of individuals many younger players only know how to play with a rhythm section that does not respond to the soloist's input. In the studio the live interactions between and among players...the sonic
interactions, the subtle blending of timbres...is sacrificed to "isolation." Even in small ensembles, everyone is wearing earphones...usually inadequate earphones, by the way (money money money)...and hearing some muddy mix where the sounds of the individual players are subsumed to the economic necessities of very expensive recording. The same thing happens in live performance after live performance. Sound is sacrificed to money.
And the ball just keeps on rolling.
Downhill, I am afraid.
I speak from experience here. 40 years in the NYC trenches...studios, jazz clubs, concerts, latin dance gigs by the thousands, more B'way appearances than I would have liked to have done...in all aspects of the business, pure sound
has been increasingly sacrificed to convenience. Convenience and profit.
The result of all of this? A whole generation...a very large one...of amazingly talented players most of whom do not really have a clue about what made the music great in the first place.
So it goes?
We shall see.
Not if I have anything to say about it, though.
Bet on it.