THE LONG VIEW IS APTLY NAMED. With this album, multireedman and composer Marty Ehrlich shoulders a series of challenges that go to the heart of what jazz composition is, or might be. His musical dialogues with the paintings of a St. Louis compatriot, Oliver Jackson, yield a strikingly original and thoughtful musical work that doubles as a recapitulation of the manifold ways earlier key jazz composers from Duke Ellington to Charles Mingus to Andrew Hill have responded to similar offbeat but stimulating situations.
Ehrlich is a rarity: he crisscrosses the often self-segregating scenes that proliferate within the jazz milieu as they do across America. Partly this is because Ehrlich, once an aspiring poet and married to an established poet, has a rather philosophical and historical bent. And his music, from his “outside” excursions to his through-composed pieces, reflects his sense of continuity with the past (as he, like any artist, defines the past, which is to say in his image) alongside discontinuity. To put it another way, his art is subtle enough to speak to Darwin and Foucault.
An adept student of jazz history, Ehrlich grabs fewer fanzine headlines than more outrageous or outspoken or controversial sorts. He is not a post-modernist seeking to epater les bourgeoisie, replicate the shock of the new that animated the avant-gardes of zoth century European modernism. To underline the contrast, witness the two-decade long and provocative history of John Zorn. Zorn has built several groups and musical formats, an independent record label and a “family” of contributors (including Ehrlich) who both perform with his bands and record for his company, and several versions of the “downtown” New York scene in various venues. Zorn's musical and career trajectory has been fascinating, as he's moved from using game theory to create diverse improvisational and compositional structures to recomposing spaghettiwestern soundtracks to Naked City, his blistering punk-jazz pomo amalgam.
Then there's Masada, his brilliant reconception of Eastern European Jewish music and Omette Colemanish free jazz. Here Zorn made an