Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young

By Francis Davis | Go to book overview

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A given in much of the literature on jazz is that a player's sound on his instrument is an extension of his speaking voice—a clue to his personality. The pianist Paul Bley is an exception to this rule. In the 1960s, on albums like Footloose, with the bassist Steve Swallow and the drummer Pete LaRoca, and Closer, with Swallow and the drummer Barry Altschul, Bley trimmed the outsized emotions of that decade's jazz avant‐ garde to fit the more intimate setting of the piano trio—a major contribution to jazz, though one initially drowned out by the angry rant of many of Bley's saxophonist contemporaries. At the piano, Bley gives the impression of weighing each note before delivering it, even when phrasing at a rapid clip. He will often repeat a phrase, giving it greater emphasis the second time, like someone mulling over what he has just said and deciding it bears immediate repeating, with verbal italics to underscore its significance. Unafraid of silence, Bley makes it swing.

He is just the opposite in conversation: a non-stop anecdotalist with the booming voice and affable manner of a morning disc jockey and with an inveterate outsider's eye for comic detail. I first spoke with him at a Portuguese jazz festival in 1997; as the only American journalist at the festival, I was enlisted by my Portuguese colleagues to approach Bley on their behalf (they were hoping to interview him but hesitant to approach him themselves on account of their limited English). I called Bley in his hotel room, he came right down, he did the interview with me helping the Portuguese over a few linguistic rough spots, and four hours later we were still talking—and not just about music. He even passed along a few

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Jazz and Pop, Youth and Middle Age like Young
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Also by Francis Davis *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Advertisements for Myself xi
  • Part One - Voices *
  • Swin G and Sensibility 3
  • The Great Hoagy 19
  • Not Singing Too Much 27
  • Billie Holiday, Cover Artist 39
  • Betty Carter, for Example 49
  • Part Two - Change of the Century *
  • Bud's Bubble 57
  • The Sound of One Finger Snapping 66
  • Aftershocks 77
  • Taken: the True Story of an Alien Abduction - (A Conversation with Sun Ra) 83
  • Rashaan, Rashaan 94
  • Inward 99
  • A to Z 106
  • Charlie Haden, Bass 116
  • ornette 134
  • The 1970s, Religious and Circus 141
  • Like Young 156
  • In His Father's House 169
  • Leaving behind a Trail 176
  • Some Recordings 186
  • On Stage and Screen 200
  • Part Three - Here and There *
  • Tourist Point of View 219
  • Time Difference 223
  • Part Four - Undercover *
  • Man Lost. Songs Found 235
  • Country vs. Western 242
  • Elvis Presley's Double Consciousness 246
  • Beached 256
  • Everybody's Composer 263
  • The Best Years of Our Lives 281
  • Infamous 297
  • Victim Kitsch 304
  • The Moral of the Story from the Guy Who Knows 316
  • Index 339
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