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Thread: Complex Jazz?

  1. #1
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    Complex Jazz?

    Can anybody recommend complex or either wise technical Jazz? I don't necessarily mean avant-garde, just something that is relatively challenging for the mind.

  2. #2
    The Third Theodore theodor3's Avatar
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    Andrew Hill? I like how his albums seem to be almost free jazz, but not quite. Somewhere in between avant-garde and post-bop...

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    Jazz Illustrator edwardcheverton's Avatar
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    first thing that comes to mind is Chick Corea's Now He Sings Now He Sobs album, in terms of compositional technicality.
    R.I.P Freddie Hubbard, 7 April 1938 Ė 29 December 2008

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    Spirits Rejoice Masada's Avatar
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    You absolutely need to get Anthony Braxton's Mosaic set. Some of the most complex american music ever written.

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    For me Sun ra and albert ayler are very challenging (Atlantis, Witches and devils for example), but i think you're searching for "prog-jazz", or something like that, right?

    First two titles that comes to mind

    Tim Berne - Fractured Fairy Tales
    Muhal Richard Abrams - Blu blu blu

    and some classic:

    Charles Mingus - Black Saint and the sinner lady
    Eight bold souls - Eight bold souls
    Miles Davis - Bitches brew (and the second quintet period)
    Booker Little - Out front
    Stan Getz - Change of scenes
    Abbey Lincoln - straight ahead
    Eric Dolphy - Out to lunch
    Gil Evans - Out of the cool
    Andrew Hill - Andrew (and many others)

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    Compose /Arranger / Jazz Prod. Phil Kelly's Avatar
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    Jim McNeelys "Up from the Skies" ( w/ Vanguard band ) and "Group Therapy "
    Swing ..or I'll kill you ( Bill Potts )
    RIP

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    Naked City

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    Sax, Clarinet, Flute
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    Sonny Rollins - Our Man In Jazz - RCA Records

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    Spirits Rejoice Masada's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jookyle View Post
    Naked City
    Nothing like the song Speedfreaks. Or American Psycho (on Radio).

  10. #10
    Registered User Alypius's Avatar
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    This is a really intriguing question. How complex is jazz? It often sounds complex, even chaotic, to newcomers. But all of us here, after listening to it for years, probably donít feel that its complexity is really in the apparently complex surface of its sound. The question for me is: In what way is jazz complex? In pure compositional terms, it probably is not near as complex as certain forms of classical music, at least in a sustained way. But in terms of actual execution, particularly given the perilous intricacies of its spontaneitities, it probably rivals and, at times, surpasses the performance complexities of much classical music. Even then, judging the brilliance of performance differs markedly between classical and jazz. A great classical pianist would never think something was a great performance if he flubbed a note. A jazz artist, on the other hand, might flubb a note, or wander off into some strange, discordant phrasing, and then brilliantly turn it all around and make the flubb or the meander into a new harmonic or rhythmic opportunity. Miles Davis spent his life doing that. Miles never had the sheer technical dexterity of a Dizzy Gillespie, but he could hear possibilities of phrasing in the spontaneous flow of lines in ways that were unbelievable. His revolution of modal jazz was really a vast simplification, a move away from the harmonic complexities of bebop. But in that simplification, he opened vast possibilities of performance complexity. Kind of Blue is brilliant because itís both wonderfully simple and at the same time unbelievably complex. Complexity in jazz, I think, comes from hearing in the heat of the moment utterly unexpected possibilities, whether in rhythm or harmony, articulation or interchange. Classical artists are in awe of jazz artistsí complex spontaneities. Read what the classical virtuoso cellist YoYo Ma said about his experience of trying to do improvisation on the bluegrass album Appalachian Waltz, where he worked with Mark OíConnor and Edgar Meyer, musicians who moved with equal comfort in the structured world of classical and the spontaneous improvisational world of bluegrass (which, in its improvisational traditions, has some kinship to aspects of jazz). For all his technical brilliance, Ma found that improvisation was really hard, that its intricacies were very different from the performance and expressive intricacies he was used to.

    I donít have the scores or charts at hand, but to my ear, compositionally the most complex jazz composers have been Andrew Hill, Wayne Shorter, Dave Douglas, and Dave Holland. (I donít know Duke Ellingtonís work well enough to comment, but my guess is that thereís lot of complexity in his compositional style). Let me focus here on Hill whose work I really admire. I read somewhere that Hill studied with Paul Hindemith, who happened to be both a superb classical composer and one of the great musical pedagogues of the 20th century. The complexity of Hillís classic Points of Departure (Blue Note, 1964) is pretty obvious, but I have read that perhaps his most complex work was the recently recovered (and amazing) album, Passing Ships, recorded in 1969, but only made public in 2004, thanks to the discoveries of Michael Cuscuna and Hill himself. Hillís late work, notably Dusk (2000) and his final work, Time Lines (2006), are marvels of complexity.

    As for Dave Douglas, try out the complexities of his Witness (2000) or his early In Our Lifetime (1995). As for Dave Holland, try out his big band What Goes Around (2001) or his quintet works, especially Prime Directive (1999). What grabs me with Hollandís music is the way he creates within his compositions these spaces for Chris Potter and Robin Eubanks to do their amazingly intricate dialogues that stand perilously close to this strange frontier that straddles both utterly free jazz and carefully crafted composition. To my ear, Douglasí complexities are more structural and harmonic whereas Hollandís complexities are more in rhythmic conception and unexpected convergences.

    Iíd love to hear what others think on this, whether other artists or other perspectives. We might have to have this discussion moved to ďMusic Theory and Analysis.Ē Sorry to wander on so long, but the question intrigues me.

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    Here's another vote for Jim McNeely's outstanding 'Group Therapy'!

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    complex jazz

    Hmmmm,


    good question...

    it would help to define complex jazz...

    not to be snarky or anything...

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    I had a great surprise about two years ago, when, at a concert of the Ellery Eskelin Trio (w/ Andrea Parkins and Jim Black) - a trio whose music would probably appear as pretty complex to most people (myself included) - I asked Ellery to show me a lead sheet the group had just used. And on paper, this music looked extremely simple! So it seems that the complexity is something that happens in the execution and is not (cannot be?) written down.

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    The complexity of Hillís classic Points of Departure (Blue Note, 1964) is pretty obvious, but I have read that perhaps his most complex work was the recently recovered (and amazing) album, Passing Ships, recorded in 1969, but only made public in 2004
    I have this album and I highly reccomend it! I consider it to be one of Hill's best works. I also think it is very listenable to those who are not necessarily partial to "free" music. I was astounded to read how the album went unreleased for so many years.
    It was a large group recording with the following musicians: Andrew Hill (piano); Joe Farrell (soprano & tenor saxophone, alto flute, bass clarinet, English horn); Woody Shaw, Dizzy Reece (trumpet); Bob Northern (French horn); Julian Priester (trombone); Howard Johnson (tuba, bass clarinet); Ron Carter (bass); Lenny White (drums).

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