The latest West Coast jazz scene

April 29th, 2015

Annie Tritt for The New York Times

kamasi

Kamasi Washington

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In Sunday’s New York Times, music critic Ben Ratliff’s feature entitled “Los Angeles Jazz With Kamasi Washington and Others” addresses a snapshot of the current West Coast scene, with an emphasis on Washington’s group and its triple-disc recording titled “The Epic.”

In the piece, Ratliff reminds us of the aesthetic divide that has long existed between New York (“the center of the jazz-performance business”) and Los Angeles – specifically the “temper of life” there, where there is a “possibility for working in a less-pressured and lifelong artistic community, the artist’s sense of security against New York hustle.” From this comes a sense of artistic freedom perhaps not found in the corridors of New York — the sort of freedom, according to Washington, that allows an artist to “do what you want.  No one’s going to put a label on you.”  This attitude toward the opportunities posed by the Los Angeles “freedom”  lifestyle are similar to that of Zoot Sims, who in the 1950’s said of the sound derived from the West Coast experience; “When you hear West Coast jazz, you’re hearing the happiness we were feeling.” 

Ratliff has been a gifted Times observer for years now, and this piece is a great read. Click here to check it out.

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A 2014 film of Kamasi Washington playing “Miss Understanding”

Read my interview with Ben Ratliff on his book, Coltrane: The Story of a Sound

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In This Issue

This issue features a roundtable discussion about how the world of religion may have impacted the creative lives of Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison. Also, previous winners of the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest reflect on their winning story; three new podcasts from Bob Hecht; new collection of poetry; recommendations of recently released jazz recordings, and lots more.

Short Fiction

"The Wailing Wall" -- a short story by Justin Short

Interviews

Three prominent religious scholars -- Wallace Best, Tracy Fessenden and M. Cooper Harriss -- join us in a conversation about how the world of religion during the life and times of Langston Hughes (pictured), Billie Holiday and Ralph Ellison helps us better comprehend the meaning of their work.

Poetry

Nine poets contribute ten poems celebrating jazz in poems as unique as the music itself

Short Fiction

In celebration of our upcoming 50th Short Fiction Contest, previous contest winners (dating to 2002) reflect on their own winning story, and how their lives have since unfolded.

The Joys of Jazz

In this edition, award winning radio producer Bob Hecht tells three stories; 1) on Charlie Christian, the first superstar of jazz guitar; 2) the poet Langston Hughes’ love of jazz music, and 3) a profile of the song “Strange Fruit”

On the Turntable

25 recently released jazz tunes that are worth listening to…including Bobo Stenson; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Muriel Grossman and Rudy Royston

Features

Chick Corea, Rickie Lee Jones, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Randy Brecker and Tom Piazza are among those responding to our question, "What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940's?"

Poetry

"Billie Holiday" -- a poem (with collage) by Steve Dalachinsky

Coming Soon

Thomas Brothers, Duke University professor of music and author of two essential biographies of Louis Armstrong, is interviewed about his new book, HELP! The Beatles, Duke Ellington, and the Magic of Collaboration; also, Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell, author of An American Odyssey: The Life and Work of Romare Bearden, in a conversation about the brilliant 20th Century artist

In the previous issue

This issue features an interview with Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins; a collection of poetry devoted to the World War II era; and a new edition of “Reminiscing in Tempo,” in which the question “What are 3 or 4 of your favorite jazz recordings of the 1940’s” is posed to Rickie Lee Jones, Chick Corea, Tom Piazza and others.

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