if you meet a music fan under the age of forty nowadays who does not really have an appreciation for jazz, you have to go easy on him or her. someone of that age bracket grew up after the point when jazz became cheapened. did this not happen for other kinds of musics? it did, but it seems to have happened most drastically with jazz. jazz went from being this extremely cool vibrant expressive rarified cherished thing to... becoming just about the polar opposite of all of those things. this happened over the course of a decade or two, beginning in the late seventies and... ceasing to be cool all the way up to now. how did this happen? jazz became elevator music. how did that happen? lots of people are responsible. certain guitarists are definitely to blame. i'm talking about john mclaughlin in particular. when he joined miles davis' group, to me this marked the death of the cool miles birthed. countless and sundry other people were to blame, no doubt, guitarists like bill frisell and composers like john zorn just made jazz that was, well, boring. things went down a path that spawned such abominations as medeski martin and wood, which took jazz to unfashionable extremes, making stuff that sounded closer to jam bands like phish and late era greatful dead than it sounded like... you know... jazz.
well, i'm here to tell you that jazz guitar is cool again. was it ever cool, you may ask? listen to any old julie london record and then tell me jazz guitar isn't cool.
guitarists at the vanguard of jazz right now include but are not limited to jakob bro (who's records for the ecm label are available elsewhere on this site), miles okazaki (who plays closely with the best american jazz drummer in the business, dan weiss) and mary halvorson. here, on 'away with you', halverson, on guitar, leads an octet of bass drums trombone alto and tenor sax trumpet and pedal steel. it's a unique combo and this group plays together quite intimately. the compositions are complex and catchy, dynamic and measured. this is a great record to sink your teeth into that rewards repeated listenings. so, when you're tired of playing the new meshuggah record on repeat, this is a good one to reach for.