The Jazz.com Blog
January 21, 2008 · 0 comments
Bob Blumenthal’s interview with Eddie Palmieri and Brian Lynch, which is published today on jazz.com, provides some fascinating insights into how Latin and jazz musical traditions have become closely intertwined in recent decades.
Social scientists use the term syncretism to describe cultural trends that, previously separate, have started to merge. In many ways, jazz is an art form built on syncretism. And though some think that this blending together of styles was a factor in the music’s past, and has now mostly played out, I tend to see it as an accelerating trend that will continue to shape the direction of the music for many decades to come.
At one point in the interview, Brian Lynch remarks
I didn’t find out about the earlier stuff from Cuba until later; but even then, hearing Eddie or the Fania All-Stars, I wasn’t having a “What is this?” kind of reaction, because I had heard a lot of Horace Silver and he has some of that same feeling in his music. Let’s face it – if you were listening to Horace, Lee Morgan and Art Blakey, you’d hear the rhythms in some of their stuff. The musics have always been locked together.
Eddie Palmieri, for his part, describes his personal musical development in terms that are, to some degree, the mirror image of those Lynch uses. He recalls to Blumenthal:
The jazz I first paid attention to was on my brother’s Duke Ellington and Count Basie records. But the first jazz album that I bought was by Richard Twardzik. I got that album in 1958 and was into his compositions like “A Crutch for the Crab” and “Yellow Tango.” Over time I started listening to more jazz artists. When I formed La Perfecta, I started trading records with Barry Rogers. I’d loan him a La Sonora Matancera album, and he’d loan me Thelonious Monk. That’s how I was introduced to Kind of Blue, Thelonious, Bill Evans, all of the pianists. All of that music, plus the small Latin group Cal Tjader formed with Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo, were my jazz foundations..
Here's the interesting twist: this same inter-mingling of traditions is now happening on a global scale. The syncretism today is just as likely to involve Asian or Eastern European or North African traditions, and not just the "Latin tinge" (as Jelly Roll Morton called it), which has been so prominent in jazz history. And much of the excitement of this world fusion is taking place outside of the United States -- and hence often outside the purview of the jazz media, which still relies too much on the (perhaps subconscious) assumption that jazz innovation flows outward from Manhattan.
One need look no further than the "Song of the Day" currently highlighted on jazz.com: the track "Youmala" featuring the trio of Joachim Kühn, Majid Bekkas and Ramon Lopez. Reviewer Thierry Quénum asks, with only a touch of humor, whether we want to view this music "from the German + Moroccan + Spaniard, or Jew + Moslem + Christian angle." But the bottom line is that this type of cross border musical diplomacy is shaking up the jazz idiom in a highly invigorating manner.
In the future, I hope to highlight more examples of this modern-day syncretism at work in the jazz world. The Latin jazz heritage stands, in many ways, as an example of the fireworks that can go off when two two (or more) musical traditions intersect in just the right way. Could this be happening right now in places and manners that are under our radar screen?
You can read the full text of Blumenthal’s interview here,
This blog entry was posted by Ted Gioia.