Israeli Jazz Mixes Tradition and Chutzpah

Saxophonist, composer, and band leader Wayne Shorter once said, “Jazz means: do you have the guts to do it?”

What is “it”? Maybe the chutzpah not to be confined, constrained by conventions, or maybe to innovate in the guise of convention. Or maybe again, to have the good taste to play with style, but to have the even better taste to play beyond or against formal “good style.”

Certainly it is to find the “swing” without which, as the song by the same name says, “it don’t mean a thing.” Though, it must be admitted, even this may not be sufficient to “have the guts to do it.” In which instance, at least the “swing” is there.

Whatever “it” is, it must integrally involve and exemplify what U.S. poet and essayist, Hayden Carruth, called in a poem by the same name, “the joy and agony of improvisation.”

The 7th Annual Israeli JazzPhest, sponsored and coordinated by the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region in concert with several other organizations, will provide four different opportunities to watch this joy and agony, between November 7 and November 16:

“World music,” a charming conceit in these “musically-correct” times, need not only be an unimaginative, ill–digested mélange of various music styles and traditions. Contrary to convention and cliché, the so-called “confusion” of languages at Babel, according to the tale in the Hebrew Bible, is a blessing.

So may be the “confusion” of musical styles and traditions. When a musical style or tradition, on its own, becomes too uniform and concerned about preserving its uniformity, mixture and “confusion” may find ways to revitalize the music.

Usually, when music becomes mainstream, it has of necessity lost whatever “guts” it may have had if in fact it had any to begin with. But the aforementioned jazz ensembles purport to have both mainstream appeal and the “guts” of jazz, and even partial success in such an achievement is eminently worth the listen.

In his poem, Carruth wrote that the power and privilege that certain music has to evoke “the circle of consciousness with its far rim always hidden, there were suffering and joy meet and combine, the inexpressible.”

In “the joy and agony of improvisation,” we may hear “how the song is striving and how beautifully failing — the measure of beauty, beyond plenitude, never but always enough.”

So shall the jazz and world music performed during the 7th Annual Israeli Jazzphest strive and beautifully fail.



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