This song (or something like it) was a part my dream last night. My dreams rarely have a soundtrack, but when I do hear music I try to wake up and write it down before it fades from memory. Last night I wrested myself from the arms of Morpheus to put this melody on paper. By the light of day, my slumberous scrawl turned out to be Wayne Shorter’s “Indian Song”.
This comes from Joshua Redman’s Elastic. I remember that album turning a lot of heads when it dropped in 2002.
The first time I heard this tune I was a young man just discovering that “jazz” is a devisive term. I remember hanging out with musicians I respected and hearing wildly different opinions about what was and wasn’t jazz, often from the same mouth. Artists like Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau (who had just released Largo) and Cuong Vu made waves among my circle of friends by introducing samples, electronic effects and rock music to their repertoire.
I never understood the controversy. Jazz seems to me a paragon of syncretism – always absorbing new music, reevaluating and recomposing it to accommodate improvisation and individuality. There’s no point in ignoring the musical and cultural archetypes of the last 50 years; to deny them is to wish them undone. The best “jazz” musicians of the 21st century will be to future generations what Louis Armstrong, Charles Mingus and Cecil Taylor were to theirs: thoroughly modern musicians, standing on the shoulders of giants.
I’ve been booking gigs recently with just two horns and bass. The absence of drums and piano (or guitar) brings a certain freedom; we can improvise new harmonies and even new forms on old standards. Here’s a Steve Lacy tune I’ve wanted to play in that format for a while, and next week I’ll get my chance. It comes from Monk’s Dream, an album Steve recorded with Roswell Rudd about 15 years ago.