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Avant-garde jazz musicians: performing ''out there'' by David G. Such

By David G. Such

Makes a speciality of performers whose personal kinds, through definition, go beyond conventional barriers of jazz and so much Western varieties of track. The performers mentioned comprise John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Daniel Carter, Billy Bang, and Jemeel Moondoc.

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This is far from the case. Most jazz writers and critics currently consider trumpeter Wynton Marsalis to be the most influential exponent of jazz. Marsalis, who in 1984 won Grammy Awards for both a jazz recording and a classical recording, avoids playing out jazz. Instead, he performs mostly in the hard bop and bebop idioms, which predate out jazz. Thus these writers position out jazz on the periphery of developments in hard bop. The above labels for out jazz furthermore imply that the music has evolved in a unilinear fashion from immediately preceding jazz styles, such as hard bop, to its present complex form.

Whereas some out performers may incorporate non-Western instruments into their performances, some early New Orleans jazz performers played the kazoo and washboard. Sometimes they even performed on instruments constructed from household materials. Action or energy jazz also appeared in print to describe features of out jazz, such as dense textures, high degrees of interaction among performers engaged in collective improvisation, and rapidly played passages of notes. Released in 1972 by the Impulse recording label, Energy Essentials (ASD 9228) is a collection of performances by out musicians which were recorded between 1961 and 1971.

Coltrane and Dolphy seem intent on deliberately destroying this essence, this vital ingredient. They seem bent on pursuing an anarchistic course in their music that can but be termed anti-jazz. 11 Despite Tynan's claims to the contrary, Coltrane's group with Eric Dolphy often played compositions using swing feeling in the traditional sense. Dolphy counters, "[My music] swings so much I don't know what to do-it moves me so much. . '"12 Another criticism that plagued out musicians, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, was that some performers often took over twenty minutes to complete a solo improvisation.

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