Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Arthur Blythe, RIP

His album Lenox Avenue Breakdown is, simply put, one of the very best jazz albums ever produced. His music epitomized the immediate post-free-jazz avant-garde, when musicians like Blythe, Henry Threadgill, and David Murray sought to restore some of traditional jazz's compositional sophistication and swing while retaining the challenging sonic edginess of free jazz. It's not surprising that some of the best of this music was created in mid-sized bands that opened up options for richer rhythms and harmonies, not to mention unconventional instrumentation, such as electric guitar with tuba.

The NYT obit includes the following:
In 1982, the critic Francis Davis wrote that Mr. Blythe “may well prove to be the magic figure of reconciliation, the force for consensus, that modern jazz has been looking for in vain since the death of John Coltrane in 1967.”
That was not to be. Within a few years, a young crop of neo-traditional musicians had seized what spotlight remained for jazz. Mr. Blythe left New York at the end of the 1990s, and his playing career tapered off.
Well, yes and no. True, and sad, that great innovators like Blythe lost audience to the traditionalists. No diss to Wynton Marsalis, who is a musician of exceptional gifts, but his success represented a compromise and a retreat. On the other hand, "Black Arthur" will live on in the music of such fellow altoists as Rudresh Mahanthappa and Miguel Zenon. Each in his manner expresses Blythe's eclecticism and compositional complexity; each could take a lesson from Blythe and get up in the face of his audience just a little bit more.

No comments:

Post a Comment