Friday, June 10, 2005

Steve Turre - no plunger mutes here

I came across this article about jazz trombonist Steve Turre, where he talks about the current state of the jazz scene. (I've asked this question in interviews enough to know not to ask it in the first place.) Steve did have some interesting things to say though. Here's a chunk of the article from

Much about the music business today dismays the 56-year-old musician, a veteran of bands led by Roland Kirk, Ray Charles, Woody Shaw, Slide Hampton and Art Blakey, among others. But he's optimistic about the state of jazz trombone: "It's better in general than it was 10 years ago, though a lot of the younger players need to listen to J.J."

J.J., of course, means J.J. Johnson, the Indianapolis native and pioneer of the bebop trombone who died four years ago last February.

Turre, who was among the national jazz stars who attended Johnson's funeral here, believes along with many others that Johnson established the viability of the trombone as a jazz instrument for the modern era.

And he disapproves of younger colleagues who seem to want to revive the style of the Duke Ellington trombone section of the 1930s. "You have to take what J.J. did and be in the moment."

I agree with the part about players needing to listen to J.J. But I don't see how listening to J.J. automatically puts you "in the moment". J.J. developed his style back in the late 40's and early 50's. It's brilliant, and may still be "cutting edge" as bebop remains the lingua francaof modern jazz, but I don't see the logic in telling someone they need to cut back on their influences from 60 years ago, and concentrate on more contemporary sounds, from 50 years ago! I will say, if you're a jazz trombone player and haven't studied J.J.'s music, you should probably find a different instrument, but the way the writer places Turre's quote (which could be out of context, many newspaper writers don't know much about jazz, and they wind up getting things confused) it really puzzles me. And the funny thing is, I've heard Steve play in that "pre-J.J." style very well! I wouldn't expect a player of Steve's level to say such a thing, or at least in the way the article indicates he said it. People like Wycliffe Gordon have proven that you can take that "earlier" style, and make it your own, and take it new places, if you ask me.


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