February 1, 2009

Tempus Fugit

Two news items and a recent personal experience made me think about how time is fleeting but great art stands its ground. The first item I noted was that Motown Records is 50 years old. Indeed, Motown was formed as a record company in 1959. It’s hard to imagine that some of those classic pop songs are 50 years old. I think they’ve aged remarkably well.

Also 50 years old is one of the largest selling jazz albums of all-time, Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.” It’s now being celebrated with a 50th Anniversary remastered CD release and a book devoted to the recording, describing it in great detail. I defy anybody to suggest that this music has not aged well, in fact it only seems to be more celebrated with every successive generation. With a cast of characters that included Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane and Bill Evans, it’s perfectly understandable.

Lastly, this weekend at Hamilton College we hosted bassist/violinist Henry Grimes and percussionist Rashied Ali, two forward thinking and adventurous musicians whose duo concert consisted of music conceived and executed spontaneously. These men played with a depth of experience based on two long careers that included paying dues in both Rhythm & Blues and Hard Bop; it was an ear-opening event. Both were young men in the 1960’s when Free Jazz, the avante garde, was percolating in New York City and they played an important role in its development. I had to stop and check my sources to confirm that, like Motown and “Kind of Blue,” Free Jazz is some 50 years old. Ornette Coleman recorded the LP “The Shape of Jazz to Come” in May 1959, soon to be followed by the groundbreaking “Free Jazz.” It’s hard to believe that the music I heard these artists play last night was based on a movement that started a half century ago. It’s also worth noting that both musicians seem to still be on a never-ending quest, even into their seventh decade, for musical freedom as they perceive it. I’m not sure it was everybody’s cup of tea, but clearly some people in the audience were moved by their musicianship and their musical quest.

If Mozart’s music can last some 200 years, it’s uplifting to think that Motown tunes, “Kind of Blue” and many other musical forms will be with us for a long time. It’s hard to imagine how music will be delivered to us in another 50 years, perhaps we’ll be able to hard-wire it into our brains and call it up on demand. If so, I’m fairly sure that selections from “Kind of Blue” and choice number one Motown hits will be included in our personal catalogues.

No comments:

Post a Comment