Friday, July 20, 2007

Collective Mediocrity

The Live 2007 double-CD of the SFJazz Collective turned up yesterday. Consistent with the previous 3 offerings, this is another really polished performance from one of the tightest live acts I've seen.

But sadly, this year that's about the only compliment I can pay it.

One of the reasons this group was put together was to force a severely modern rethinking of jazz that we have become too comfortable with. However, with the exception of Miguel Zenón's two arrangements of Monk's Epistrophy and San Francisco Holiday/Worry Later, I was a trifle disappointed with the rest of the band's all-too-delicate handling of Monk's work. They sorely could've used Miles Davis' advice:
When you play music, don't play the idea that's there, play the next idea. Wait. Wait another beat, or maybe two, and then maybe you'll have something that's more fresh. Don't just play from the top of your head, but listen and try to play a little deeper.
Newcomer Dave Douglas saved my flagging attention on the second CD of original compositions with his three-movement San Francisco Suite which, along with Eric Harland's Union seemed to be the only pieces that really provided a platform for interesting musical discussion. Admittedly I've only listened to the album a couple of times since yesterday, and while it does take a couple of listens for me to grok a tune, with the rest of the pieces I had the feeling that I was simply embedded in a stream of somewhat incoherent background conversation. Nothing on the album had the sweeping vision of Collective Overture (on the Live 2006 album), or the joy of Development (on Live 2005).

Hopefully the injection of new blood this year with Joe Lovano replacing Joshua Redman, and Stefon Harris replacing Bobby Hutcherson will revitalize this group in the coming season.

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