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Thread: Straight Ahead Jazz

  1. #1
    Hep Cat jaz_zak's Avatar
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    Straight Ahead Jazz

    What qualifies as “Straight Ahead Jazz”? I’ve been listening to jazz since I was 14, nearly 40 years and it’s like porn: “I know what it is when I hear it just can’t quite describe it.”

    I would define it as "jazz" after about 1947, bebop and forward, excluding Fusion, Free Jazz and Retro-Swing/ Ska. Here is a link from allmusic listing all the subsets of jazz: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p...C40&sql=73:196
    "Being a jazz fan never got me a date in high school. But I did take a few dates to Shelley's Manne Hole."
    --Zak Klemmer

  2. #2
    Have a Little Faith Tritone Sub's Avatar
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    I've always thought of it as one of those labels that's easier to define by what it isn't than what it is. Like you say it's not free, it's not fusion, it's not etc...

    Would this work as a definition: jazz (mostly standards) played by a small acoustic ensemble mostly in the bop and hard bop styles? Well, ok, not always acoustic, you could add an organ or electric guitar but you get the idea.

  3. #3
    Can't think of a witty title Shade of Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tritone Sub
    Would this work as a definition: jazz (mostly standards) played by a small acoustic ensemble mostly in the bop and hard bop styles? Well, ok, not always acoustic, you could add an organ or electric guitar but you get the idea.
    Well....I wouldn't say mostly standards, but I agree in that I guess it's mostly bebop, hard bop, or other closely related subgenres.
    Maybe cool jazz and/or big bands/swing could be included.
    Anything "in the pocket", I suppose.

  4. #4
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    Why isn't pre-1947 jazz "straight ahead"? The Hot Five and Hot Seven, for instance? or the Ellington Ork?

  5. #5
    Can't think of a witty title Shade of Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom K
    Why isn't pre-1947 jazz "straight ahead"? The Hot Five and Hot Seven, for instance? or the Ellington Ork?
    Yeah..I suppose it is.

    But didn't it get a bit dixielandish at times?

    I dono if dixieland counts.


  6. #6
    Have a Little Faith Tritone Sub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom K
    Why isn't pre-1947 jazz "straight ahead"? The Hot Five and Hot Seven, for instance? or the Ellington Ork?
    I've never heard anyone refer to dixieland or big band as straight ahead. But then again maybe I've just been hanging around the wrong cats, you dig? Or something like that...

    Didn't the term "straight-ahead" get coined during the bop/hard bop revival in the 80's to distinguish it from fusion and free? That's why I specified small ensembles in my proposed definition above.

  7. #7
    Woodhugger
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    straight ahead jazz. doesn't the word describe itself?
    It's that kind of music that developed on a straight line out of bop, but it did develop; it just went forward and did not explore new grounds. Thats my definition.

  8. #8
    AAJ's Birdologist clifton's Avatar
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    I think the primacy of 4/4 swing and (mostly) acoustic instrumentation are the keys to straight ahead jazz. 3/4 or 6/8 swing are permissible, but other time signatures are probably not "straight ahead".

  9. #9
    Hep Cat jaz_zak's Avatar
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    Davis, Coltrane, Adderley, Sims, Woods, etc. since they were not primarilly accoustic wouldn't be "straight ahead"?

    Or is it only about timing 4/4, 3/4, 6/8 etc,?

    OR Style: Bop, Hard Bop, Cool, CALIF Cool, etc.?

    Just want to get some valuable [to me] information.

    Thanks,

    Zak
    "Being a jazz fan never got me a date in high school. But I did take a few dates to Shelley's Manne Hole."
    --Zak Klemmer

  10. #10
    Registered User Rump Roller's Avatar
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    Well, it certainly is not that Smooth Jazz garbage.

  11. #11
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    I just always though of it as farmiliar bop sounding jazz, so no reall free or avantguarde, fusion jazz or anything.

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    An imprecise, though useful, approach is not to define a category but rather to suggest what it is by listing some typical members. Something is more likely to be a member of a category if it is like typical members of the category.

    The system stated below is one that I've devised for myself. It's just a rough start, needs a lot of work, and other people will have other ways of dividing jazz styles, as well as other typical musicians to list. But, at the very least, with the system below I can make myself more clear about what I mean when I use these terms.

    Note: Eventually, I combine cool and hard bop in one style, for reasons that require another post to justify.



    'Early jazz' refers primarily to New Orleans, Chicago and Midwest, New York, and Southwest styles typified by the recordings in the 1920s and early 1930s of musicians such as King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and James P. Johnson.

    'Swing' refers to jazz and popular music typified by the recordings of such bands as Count Basie, Chick Webb, and Benny Goodman and by individual musicians such as Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, Ben Webster, and Ella Fitzgerald.

    'Bebop' (or 'Bop') refers to jazz typified by the recordings in the 1940s of such musicians as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Howard McGhee, and Bud Powell.

    'Cool' refers to jazz typified by the recordings in the 1950s of such musicians such as Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Tony Fuscella, and Chico Hamilton.

    'Hard bop' refers to jazz typified by the recordings in the 1950s of such musicians as Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, and Lee Morgan.

    'Avant-garde' refers to jazz typified by the recordings of such musicians as George Russell, Ornette Coleman, Grachan Moncour III, and Roscoe Mitchell.

    'Modal' refers to jazz with composition and improvisation that are much more scalar based than chordal based, as typified by many of the recordings of musicians such as John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, and Billy Harper.

    'Post-bop' refers to music typified by the Miles Davis albums E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, and Nefertiti and to successor music typified by much of the work of musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Steve Nelson, and Greg Osby.

    'Modern jazz' refers to bop of the 1940s and its extensions in cool, hard bop, modal, avant-garde, and post-bop.

    'Mainstream' refers to swing as it continued into the 1950s and beyond and as it was somewhat modified, though not predominately transformed, by bebop. Basie, Eldridge, Carter, Webster, and Fitzgerald are therefore also typical mainstream musicians of the 1950s and later.

    'Straight ahead' refers to jazz that is either mainstream or modern jazz, but not including avant-garde.

    'Fusion' refers to jazz-rock as typified by Miles Davis's On The Corner album and the recordings of Weather Report.

    'Post-jazz' refers to fusion and more recent world-jazz and improvised music eclectica.



    /

    "[straight ahead] just went forward and did not explore new grounds." [Karl]

    But no matter how you define 'straight ahead', at least it includes hard bop, so there is a lot of exploration in straight ahead.

    "I think the primacy of 4/4 swing and (mostly) acoustic instrumentation are the keys to straight ahead jazz. 3/4 or 6/8 swing are permissible, but other time signatures are probably not "straight ahead"." [clifton]

    Time signatures other than 2/4, 4/4, 3/4, 6/4, 6/8, and 12/8 are not common in straight ahead, but I don't think they are necessarily excluded. I think "Take Five" is straight ahead. It blends into a program of straight ahead. I don't think listeners would hear it as sounding out of place, since most listeners would not even notice that it's not in 4/4.

  13. #13
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    This post will not be stimulating for those familiar with the points I discuss in it. For those who are interested in defining 'straight ahead', this post will seem to be preaching to the choir. But many of these points are often overlooked by people averse to categorizing music, therefore, in particular, averse to defining 'straight ahead'. So this post is to set up a rebuttal to the popular notion that one cannot or should not categorize music.

    There is a strong current of feeling in many music discussions that categorizing music is at best silly and at worst cultural chauvinism. Some categorizations are too facile, and, I suppose, some are made for the purpose of discrediting certain music. However, these are flaws of particular categorizations, not necessarily of any categorization that might be made. To categorize is basic to human reason. We distinguish among our experiences in all kinds of ways, from the most objective and scientific to the most subjective and personal, as we even give names to many of the emotions that we experience. Music need not be excluded from the basic mental function of categorizing.

    One criticism of categorizing is that categories are not exact, that there are always exceptions and gray areas. But this is only a valid criticism of a categorization that does not include the necessary qualifications as to its own limitations of exactitude. Our categorizations are not too vulnerable to criticism as long as we're up front that, for example, there are recordings that are somewhere in a continuum between straight ahead and avant garde, just as there are pieces of furniture that are somewhere in a continuum between table and cabinet, just as there are emotions that are somewhere in a continuum between sad and happy.

    Also, we should recognize that phenomena can be categorized in different ways. One system of categorization is not necessarily better than another except to serve different purposes. Automobiles can be categorized by engine type, if mechanics is your interest, or by manufacturer, if the automotive business is your interest.

    But why would one want to categorize music anyway? One may listen to music without respect to category - just music as enjoyable sound. This is probably the most common way to listen to music, and my own listening is mostly of this kind too. However, at other times, when one is in a more analytical mood, one might want to comment on similarities and differences among different musical pieces. And after having made observations about particular pieces, one may want to make generalizations. To do this is to begin the process of categorization. This has intellectual and communicative content as it summarizes our listening so that we needn't describe every single moment of our listening in order to make a point about it.

    Then there are even more practical reasons for categorization. It is not silly nor chauvinism that libraries, archives, museums, catalogs, and stores divide music by styles. Those who truly believe that music should not be categorized must answer the challenge: Do you think people should have to shop for albums with all albums mixed together regardless of style? There should be no radio stations that play just classical or jazz or bluegrass? There should not even be any radio programs that play only one category of music? There should be no magazines devoted to rap or electronica or folk? If the anti-categoricist demurs, then he's admitted that categories are not meaningless and do have benefits.

    The term 'straight ahead' has problems. Like most terms in jazz, there is much disagreement over what it refers to. For that reason I'm not happy with the term. But I still use the term, because even though it is flawed, it's better than no term at all.

    So why does it matter whether we call a particular jazz recording straight ahead? Most basically, it matters because there are enough people who prefer to listen to the music that falls under the rubric of straight ahead. Suppose I advertise a "jazz" festival, but it's all music that most of my likely attendees wouldn't even recognize as jazz. Then I'd have a lot of people asking for refunds on their tickets. But, if I'm up front by advertising, say, an "improvised new and avante music" festival (I'm using an ad hoc category just for purposes of example), then I'm more likely to get fans of this jazz offshoot and fewer disgruntled beboppers. My point is not about the business of music festivals, but rather to illustrate that categories and terms for them are not just meaningful but useful. To drive the point home, consider this example: Suppose you have a radio program that's about the continuum of music from 1940s Coleman Hawkins through Charlie Parker through Miles Davis with Wayne Shorter through, say, the kind of music that's on Greg Osby's Inner Circle album. Record companies send you CDs for airplay. But you don't want the record companies to waste their promotional copies by sending you stuff you'll never play. In this case, you need to be able to quickly describe to the record promoter that you have a straight ahead jazz show, not fusion, avant-garde, nor other improvised post-jazz forms. Meanwhile, the avant-garde guy needs to be able to say, "Don't send straight ahead jazz, because my show is all post-Coltrane styles."

    But, if categories are too rigid and applied without discretion, then their use can have unfortunate consequences. So we should heed warnings from anti-categoricists, but we need not adopt their categorical eschewal of categorization.

  14. #14
    Hep Cat jaz_zak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Gato
    An imprecise, though useful, approach is not to define a category but rather to suggest what it is by listing some typical members. Something is more likely to be a member of a category if it is like typical members of the category.

    The system stated below is one that I've devised for myself. It's just a rough start, needs a lot of work, and other people will have other ways of dividing jazz styles, as well as other typical musicians to list. But, at the very least, with the system below I can make myself more clear about what I mean when I use these terms.

    Note: Eventually, I combine cool and hard bop in one style, for reasons that require another post to justify.



    'Early jazz' refers primarily to New Orleans, Chicago and Midwest, New York, and Southwest styles typified by the recordings in the 1920s and early 1930s of musicians such as King Oliver, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and James P. Johnson.

    'Swing' refers to jazz and popular music typified by the recordings of such bands as Count Basie, Chick Webb, and Benny Goodman and by individual musicians such as Roy Eldridge, Benny Carter, Ben Webster, and Ella Fitzgerald.

    'Bebop' (or 'Bop') refers to jazz typified by the recordings in the 1940s of such musicians as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Howard McGhee, and Bud Powell.

    'Cool' refers to jazz typified by the recordings in the 1950s of such musicians such as Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Tony Fuscella, and Chico Hamilton.

    'Hard bop' refers to jazz typified by the recordings in the 1950s of such musicians as Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Sonny Clark, and Lee Morgan.

    'Avant-garde' refers to jazz typified by the recordings of such musicians as George Russell, Ornette Coleman, Grachan Moncour III, and Roscoe Mitchell.

    'Modal' refers to jazz with composition and improvisation that are much more scalar based than chordal based, as typified by many of the recordings of musicians such as John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Woody Shaw, and Billy Harper.

    'Post-bop' refers to music typified by the Miles Davis albums E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, and Nefertiti and to successor music typified by much of the work of musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Steve Nelson, and Greg Osby.

    'Modern jazz' refers to bop of the 1940s and its extensions in cool, hard bop, modal, avant-garde, and post-bop.

    'Mainstream' refers to swing as it continued into the 1950s and beyond and as it was somewhat modified, though not predominately transformed, by bebop. Basie, Eldridge, Carter, Webster, and Fitzgerald are therefore also typical mainstream musicians of the 1950s and later.

    'Straight ahead' refers to jazz that is either mainstream or modern jazz, but not including avant-garde.

    'Fusion' refers to jazz-rock as typified by Miles Davis's On The Corner album and the recordings of Weather Report.

    'Post-jazz' refers to fusion and more recent world-jazz and improvised music eclectica.



    /

    "[straight ahead] just went forward and did not explore new grounds." [Karl]

    But no matter how you define 'straight ahead', at least it includes hard bop, so there is a lot of exploration in straight ahead.

    "I think the primacy of 4/4 swing and (mostly) acoustic instrumentation are the keys to straight ahead jazz. 3/4 or 6/8 swing are permissible, but other time signatures are probably not "straight ahead"." [clifton]

    Time signatures other than 2/4, 4/4, 3/4, 6/4, 6/8, and 12/8 are not common in straight ahead, but I don't think they are necessarily excluded. I think "Take Five" is straight ahead. It blends into a program of straight ahead. I don't think listeners would hear it as sounding out of place, since most listeners would not even notice that it's not in 4/4.'Straight ahead' refers to jazz that is either mainstream or modern jazz, but not including avant-garde.


    That's what I understood by listening to the jazz DJ's on KBCA/ KKGO and KKJZ- But since I haven't found it written down I thought I'd start a discussion.

    Best,

    Zak
    "Being a jazz fan never got me a date in high school. But I did take a few dates to Shelley's Manne Hole."
    --Zak Klemmer

  15. #15
    Vibes Forever Vibeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaz_zak
    That's what I understood by listening to the jazz DJ's on KBCA/ KKGO and KKJZ- ...

    Zak
    Hey Man, if you remember KBCA, you'e been here quite awhile and have heard a lot of jazz. Do you remember when Vern Stevens was The Man??Kudos


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