Side I – Intros

Column Updates/Additions

One of the many wonderful things about doing this column online for TJBS is editorial assumptions I have battled my entire professional career are no longer considerations.
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I don’t have to argue that there are readers out there who deeply care about jazz and blues, or be concerned I’m writing about too many Black musicians (I was once told that by a section editor), or that despite the fact that the subject matter is a MacArthur genius award winner they haven’t sold enough records to merit six column inches in the weekend section.
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 I have also never felt people who loved jazz and blues were or are incapable of listening to, enjoying and appreciating other types of music, in large part because they are no different than me. So as part of the updated column we’re adding a section called Jazz Plus Etc.. This will contain  reviews and interviews covering idioms that aren’t strictly jazz or blues, but do have a connection, whether it’s inspiration or creative feeling. From time to time Etc. will also include worthy DVDs, TV shows or concerts.
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 The review section is being expanded to include vinyl albums as well as current and reissued CDs. While I don’t necessarily think vinyl is making as much of a comeback as some do, it never went away for me. It was a critical part of what got me interested in music (the other part was radio), and I am glad to see younger people buying vinyl again. I’ll let the audiophiles battle over whether digital is superior to analog: I enjoy music in multiple ways, and will continue to do so.
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Some months the review section will also include concert reviews, though at my age I’m not out and about anywhere near as much as in the past. But there will be occasions when we catch something we feel merits additional attention and comment.
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Plus, we will highlight and feature classic items in our sections. There are many wonderful records and books that recent converts or new fans may have missed. Hopefully the opportunity to learn about them will prove beneficial to them, while those who were already familiar with them may get good memories from revisiting them. That’s certainly proving the case for me.
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We are always open to suggestions, ideas, response, comments. The democratization of the marketplace spawned by the Internet is the ultimate mixed blessing. But the best thing about it is folks can more readily and easily express their feelings about things (also the downside). Please continue to support the Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society. There are many cities that don’t have their equivalent, and the music in these areas suffers as a result.
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Blues Appreciation Month

John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker

The 50s and ’60s was a time when blues began its fadeout from prominence and popularity, particularly in the black community. As an avid late night listener of WLAC, it was predominantly soul songs that were the menu, with an occasional blues hit like Slim Harpo’s Scratch My Back or B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone breaking the pattern. Indeed, my interest in blues was sparked more by hearing British Invasion groups playing cover versions than hearing DJs say who did the originals (at least on black stations, not so much on Top 40). This isn’t exactly the kind of admission you like to make, but my introduction to John Lee Hooker as a teenager came through hearing the Animals’ version of Boom Boom. That impressed me enough to discover more about Hooker and subsequently get heavily into his music.

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The more blues I heard, the more I enjoyed. Once my adolescent piano playing evolved from poor to below average, the boogie-woogie and stride pianists became as much an obsession as bop and hard bop stylists. Later came immersion into the Delta, Piedmont, Texas and West Coast styles, and ultimately understanding how the blues has always been such a vital part of the American musical experience. While it’s an oversimplification to call country “white blues,” anyone who listens closely to Hank Williams Sr. or Jimmie Rodgers for more than a few minutes will clearly hear the blues influence. Likewise the links between blues and gospel, blues and soul, blues and jazz, yes, even blues and rap.   …….

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Indeed the connections are so evident to me that it is still puzzling why you have blues fans who don’t like jazz and vice versa. Now to some extent I can understand when you’re talking about free or avant-garde jazz, although Ornette Coleman’s about as blues as it gets if you truly understand his roots and conception. But more importantly, blues provides the foundation of so much that is wonderful in this nation’s culture and heritage, and the fact so many people view it as ancient, irrelevant, overly negative, you name it, is sad and disappointing, particularly those who somehow feel expressing these sentiments is a sign of militancy or consciousness.
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There are far more notable contemporary blues musicians around today than people think. The blues suffers from the identical media problems that plague jazz, with arts coverage rapidly vanishing from many newspapers and magazines, and the bulk of what’s there reserved for the select handful of artists and songs corporate radio deems “pop” music. Fortunately, there remain a network of dedicated small labels, noncommercial stations and advocates keeping the music alive, while the next generation of blues performers join forces with the handful of surviving founding fathers to ensure that the blues is always a part of the American music equation.
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NEXT PAGE: INTERVIEW W/ REV. KEITH A. GORDON

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