Ted Gioia (written) Interview & John Scofield (audio) Interview (Part 1 of 2) [Listen 15:00] Listening And Trying To Figure It Out With John Scofield S04 Ep09
Special Guest: John Scofield (Part 1 of 2) is one of the most influential Jazz guitarist to come out of the 1970’s. His style of playing combines a distinctive rock oriented jazz sound mixed with elements of fusion, soul, and post-bop creating a sound and tone that is truly unique. If I had to describe the John Scofield sound I would use words like funky, upbeat, fluid, and adventurous. And like with all the greats, the command and facility Scofield (or “Sco” as he is often affectionately called) has with his instrument allows him the ability to make music seem smooth, unforced, and with a heavy dose of some intangible quality that makes it just downright cool.
This week I’m interviewing guitar great John Scofield about his fantastic new album Uberjam Deux; he breaks down some of the tracks for us as well as discusses the inception of his amazing guitar tone and technique.
Ted Gioia Interview
Special Guest: Ted Gioia (Part 1 of 1) is a musician, author, jazz critic, and a leading expert on American music. His books include: “The History of Jazz,” “Delta Blues,” “The Jazz Standards,” “West Coast Jazz,” “The Imperfect Art,” “Work Songs,” “Healing Songs,” and “The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.” He is held in high regard by The Washington Post (twenty best books of the year), The New York Times (notable Book of the Year) and The Economist (picked as one of the best books of the year). He is one of the best music writers and historians on the shelf, and we are excited to have a written interview with Ted Gioia.
GTV - Jazz and jazz records are rare for a reason; the earliest jazz records came out before most people could afford records or record players. Even at the height of Bebop, most households would only have a handful of records if they were lucky. How important are records when telling the story of Jazz?
TG - Without recordings, jazz could never have evolved as an art form. The first generation of jazz musicians in New Orleans had little influence beyond the small group of people who saw them perform in person. But with the rise of the record industry, jazz could now be disseminated, studied, and imitated all over the world. After 1923, the history of jazz is well preserved on record and we can follow the milestones in the music’s evolution long after the artists who made that music have passed away.
GTV - One of the fascinating things when reading your book “The History of Jazz” was learning the connection between New Orleans and Chicago. Would you explain for our readers why New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz people like King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Bechet felt the need to go to Chicago?
TG - There are many peculiarities in the history of jazz, but the geography of the music is especially confusing. People are puzzled when I say that many of the most important events in New Orleans jazz took place in Chicago, just as decisive developments in Chicago jazz took place in New York. But the explanation is fairly simple: musicians follow the money. They can’t live on music alone, and need to be in the places where they can earn a living. For this reason, most major musicians in the US gravitated to a few key cities during the course of the 20th century—New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and a few others. So New Orleans may have created jazz, but it was unable to keep it.
GTV -Your books are filled with stories about the interesting lives of culturally important figures – their struggles, accomplishments, short-comings, and what kind of people they really were. Some of my favorite parts was the side stories of people like Mutt Carey, Buddy Petit and Emmett Hardy. Musicians who were said to have been on par with the greats (or better) than some of the people we have come to know like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver. Is the story of history forgetting musicians a common story one and were there any side stories left out of the book that you would like to talk about here?
TG - There are many gaps in our understanding of early jazz. The biggest mystery is Buddy Bolden, the cornetist who is reportedly the “inventor” of jazz, but left behind no recordings. After the early 1920s, almost every musician of note left behind recordings. Yet even here we encounter intriguing jazz players who left behind a very small body of work, either because they died young or other circumstance intervened. Here are a few of these almost-forgotten artists who, under slightly different circumstances, might be far better known today: Dupree Bolton, Tony Fruscella, Fats Navarro, Richard Twardzik, Booker Little, Scott LaFaro, Chick Webb, Kenny Kirkland and Emily Remler.
By the way, we just added another name to this list—the amazing young jazz pianist Austin Peralta, who died last year at the age of 22. I believe that he could have been a major jazz star, but now we will never know what he might have achieved.
GTV - Jazz and blues music have very similar histories in that both originated and developed just after the turn of the 20th Century in poor southern African-American communities. In your opinion, what are some important conditions in the development of a musical or cultural movement?
TG - Jazz and blues spring from very different social circumstances. Jazz arose from the fervor and interplay of a large city—New Orleans—as do most innovative artistic movements. Blues follows a different pattern of dissemination, and arose in more isolated rural areas, especially in Mississippi and Texas. In other words, the blues does not look like an innovation, but more like a preservation of an older cultural tradition, probably African in origin. Most historians of American music take these geographical discrepancies for granted, but I believe it is very revealing that the blues arose in the parts of the United States that were more the most insulated from outside influence. Mississippi, during the period when its first great blues singers emerged, had the lowest per capita penetration of radio, telephone and automobiles of any of the states. Is this coincidence? Definitely not. The kind of urban hustle and bustle that spurred on jazz was not conducive to the blues. As a continuation of a very old tradition it needed to be protected from big city influences.
GTV - I've never collected 78's but many of the historical jazz and blues records of the past are of that speed. Do you mostly collect 78's?
TG - I am not really a record collector, and I have adapted my own listening habits as technology has changed. I listened to albums, when albums were easy to get. When they were replaced by compact disks, I moved on to CDs. Nowadays I listen to most of my music in digital format. As for 78s, I’ve never taken much interest in them—especially since almost all of the important music on 78 rpm records was later released in other formats.
GTV - Which of those formats do you believe was best?
TG - When digital music arrived, I thought it was a great advance. But more recently I have changed my mind. I now believe that analog music sounds better than digital music. I continue to listen to digital music, because it is easier to access. But if the music industry ever shifted back to analog, I would applaud the move.
GTV - Rock ’n’ Roll as an art form came from a combination of Gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Little Richard), Blues (Arthur Crudup), Country (Gene Vincent), and Jazz (Louis Jordan); Do you have an opinion on what, specifically, was the first Rock and Roll record?
TG - When I was younger, I was told that “Rock Around the Clock” was the first rock song, but clearly there were earlier blues, jazz and R&B albums that anticipated rock-and-roll. Check out, for example, “Rocket 88,” a 1951 track from Ike Turner and Jackie Brenston, or Lloyd Price’s “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” from 1952. But I have a candidate for ‘first rock record’ that almost nobody knows about: Big Joe Williams’s “She Left Me a Mule” recorded for the Trumpet label back in 1951. This track, which clearly sounds like a rock song, deserves to be far better known.
Interview Date: August 24, 2011 @7pm EDT
Special Guest: Jimmy Scott (a.k.a. "Little" Jimmy Scott). This week I talk to one of my favourite jazz legends of all time, the great Jimmy Scott. Mr.Scott is famous for among other things, singing the most beautiful ballads in the most hauntingly high unwavering alto voice and for his unique relaxed behind the beat delivery. He is known in jazz circles as having both a tragic and inspirational life and career. In this podcast we talk to Jimmy Scott about Herman Lubinsky, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, going into the studio with Ray Charles and even a funny story with Quincy Jones. Once again, I’d like to apologize about the quality of the recording.
Women in Jazz
Jazz is an art form of seminal and innovative concepts. But, like Jimmy Scott, not everybody, or every innovation was able, or sometimes even welcomed