Ivor Cutler, taking a break from his Scottish Sitting Room to read Lear’s Dong with the Luminous nose accompanied by a full jazz orchestra. The marvellous Norma Winstone performing a trio of poems by Yeats, Blake and Lewis Carroll set to lush jazz orchestral arrangements.
These are just two of the pleasures on Neil Ardley and the New Jazz Orchestra’s album, A Symphony of Amaranths from 1971. I’d never heard of the late, great Ardley before Colin wrote a review about the re-release of some of his albums earlier in the week. Read his review and give the albums a listen (on either Spotify or YouTube). Sumptuous, melodic and extremely British jazz.
Among the stellar assortment of musicians playing on these albums are Jack Bruce from Cream and Jon Hiseman of Coliseum, two musicians with a foot in the worlds of both jazz and rock. As pop and rock increased enormously in popularity in the 60s many jazzers realised that there was a good living to be made. Shaving off their goatee beards, discarding their berets and leaving behind the smoky midnight world of the jazz club, they jumped on the new bandwagon. When Miles Davis saw the enormous crowds that rock bands were attracting at the Filmore West, he wanted a slice of the cake too.
That got me thinking about the relationship between jazz and other styles of music: a constant, mutually beneficent interplay.
A few examples..
One of the brightest stars of jazz, the ambitious and exciting Kamasi Washington was musical director of Kendrick Lamarr’s To Pimp a butterfly. This was no gimmicky crossover. The two of them grew up in the same part of L.A. and had known each other since schooldays. And rap and hip hop have had a long and fruitful symbiosis. Digable Planets spring to mind.
On their debut album, Eden, Everything but the Girl used jazz musicians. That marvellous song, Each and every one, would be nothing without the horn section of Dick Pearce flugelhorn, Pete King, alto sax and Nigel Nash tenor sax. Tracey Thorn also appears on another favourite track of mine, Venceremos by Working Week, singing alongside Robert Wyatt and Claudia Figueroa and accompanied by some fine jazz horns. Wyatt’s Soft Machine started as a psychedelic pop band and finished up as a jazz combo and on his own albums he has created his own territory which is somewhere between the two.
The list goes on and on. Bowie recorded both with the Pat Metheny Group and more recently the avant-garde jazz composer Maria Schneider. What would Metallica’s albums have sounded like without the mellow clarinet noodlings of Acker Bilk? Radiohead drummer, Clive Deamer, who also plays with Portishead, is from jazz combo Get the Blessing.
When Early Music ensemble, the Hilliard Ensemble worked with Norwegian saxophonist, Jan Garbarek, they not only produced a magnificent album, Officium. To their bemusement they found themselves living a celebrity lifestyle: limousines, fine wines and top notch hotels. Garbarek has also worked with traditional Norwegian singers like Mari Boine and Agnes Buen Garnås. (their album Rosefole is something very special).
Jazz musicians have always gone to popular music to find tunes. Miles Davis: Cindi Lauper’s Time after time. John Coltrane: My favourite things.
Finally I must mention Harold McNair’s exquisite flute and sax playing with Donovan. An exquisite jazz icing on Mr Leitch’s kaftan cake.
Jazz and pop: it’s a marriage made in Harlem! Any favourite examples of this fruitful relationship?
And any thoughts about its nature?
A theory for you to shoot down in flames:
Jazz musicians go to pop and rock for top tunes and decent dosh. Pop, rock, folk artists come to jazz for fine musicianship, Gitanes and hipster haircuts?