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5 March 2018


Over the years, I have jotted down interesting and insightful remarks I have come across concerning traditional jazz. I would like to share some of them with you.

Ken Colyer (one of the most important English traditional jazz musicians of the second half of the Twentieth Century):
Take it easy. Keep it down. Give plenty of light and shade.

Ben Marshall (banjo-player) writing in The Ken Colyer Trust Newsletter, December 1992:
...the whole band acting like a rhythm section, concentration on ensemble work, seeking the inner rhythms, dynamics, swing, lift, energy, passion, all the things we talked of for hours on end.

From Ken Colyer: A Musician for All Seasons, by Malcolm Robinson, Spring 1990 (in Jazz Beat):

Through the months that followed, Ken learned and developed his playing, and achieved his still unmatched understanding of the subtle dynamics and harmonies of the beautiful New Orleans music: the easy tempos, the relaxation, the emphasis on ensemble with no one instrument ever dominating, the solos growing out of the ensemble, the rolling beat with the trumpet always riding the 4/4 bass figure, gently pushing then pulling back like a surfer; all to create the feeling of tension, relaxed heat and bounteous emotion that New Orleans jazz fans understand so well.

From a book about Preservation Hall:

....music in the African tradition - circumlocution rather than exact definition...

Narvin Kimball:
In those days, players had to learn to 'sleep fast'.

Kingsley Amis (in The Times, March 1991):
Rhythm was what made you tap your feet in time to the stuff, and you certainly did that if you were not actually dancing to it. If alone, or in the right company, you gave little yells of enjoyment and encouragement, as some of the listeners do to this day. With a four-man rhythm section, piano to drums, pounding out their four-to-the-bar in a contentedly unliberated fashion, and the wind instruments often avoiding the actual beat but never ignoring it, nobody who was not worse than deaf could fail to respond to the driving pulse. Of course, it was more a metrical pulse, and real rhythmic interest and diversity lay in what those other instruments, aptly called the melody instruments, were playing. And melody, which comes first and last in jazz, as in any self-respecting music, is in another sense the heart of this.
To reproduce the tune, the air, to do no more than embellish it, was likely to be thought inadequate except in slow ballads. Effectively the aim was an alternative tune, a counter-melody, or a disconnected series of them, sometimes in scraps rather than flowing, improvisatory in manner, delivered here in a solo passage, there divided among two or three, dry and harsh rather than limpid in tone, often distorted in pitch, its points of tension arranged across the steady underlying beat. When successful, the result was exciting and absorbing in a way otherwise unknown, intense but abstract, encouraging no mood or thought beyond itself, satisfying.

Benny Green:
It would seem that there is in the make-up of a jazz musician a strong instinct of defiance of authority and contempt of humbug which has always seemed to me one of the most attractive features in the jazz world. I have seen so many bubbles of pretension pricked by every grade of humour from epigram to obscenity that I am now convinced that the jazz musician is one of the most beautiful creatures on the planet.

An Irish fiddler speaking on BBC2 on 23 February 1991:
The great thing about traditional music is that it has no shelf life. There is no sell-by date.