The other day my name came in the paper. I wrote against a review which was very unfavourable against the Jonas Hellborg concert. The paper published my letter and a steamed up response. Here it is.
I’ve been increasingly frustrated with your jazz concert reviews. Jazzebel seems to only enjoy a particular sub-genre of jazz. His trashing of the Jonas Hellborg trio is the latest in a series of concerts which didn’t suit his taste. He didn’t even research Hellborg’s astonishing career which includes playing with John Mclaughlin. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the beauteous Lokuah Kanza, or the avant-garde Der Rote Bereicht, he obviously doesn’t consider these to be quite `jazz’. He doesn’t seem to understand the evolving nature of jazz, nor be open to more contemporary forms of music.
I don’t see the point of MetroPlus carrying reviews of shows which are unfairly shown in a poor light. Either Jazzebel needs to expand his horizon or you need an additional writer or, please, don’t print the articles at all. They are becoming slanderous.
© Copyright 2000 – 2005 The Hindu
I don’t know whether Mr. Chandy expects a writer on jazz to be “objective” like a news reporter should be, but to me it is evident that when writing about jazz I can’t possibly be uninfluenced by my personal taste. Any writer on music would be less than honest in pretending to keep personal taste out of his reaction to a performance and the review that follows. What one can do, and I always try to do, is assess how accomplished the musicians are and how well they perform, regardless of whether I like their sound or not.
Thus, I found the Jonas Hellborg trio did what they did — and at no point did I say that I didn’t consider it jazz — very well, although it had the loud drumming and electronic sound effects that I most dislike in jazz-rock. They came up with astonishing solos and had incorporated influences such as Romanian folk and Carnatic into their music. (My “personal taste” accommodates influences from around the world in jazz, from Latin America through Azerbaijan and South Africa to India.)
The main reason for my dissatisfaction with their concert was the conditions in which it was held, and the unfortunately intensified effect of the loudness of the music in those conditions.
I find Mr. Chandy’s suggestion that I should have “bothered to research” Hellborg and his work with John McLaughlin quite strange. Is a writer supposed to spend all his time reading up whatever has been written about someone instead of trusting his ears and what he generally knows about the kind of music he’s writing about? I usually completely ignore what the handouts say about someone (other than factual details) and if there’d been a handout about Hellborg at the concert, I would have singularly failed to be overawed by the connection to McLaughlin. In fact, it so happened that a musician told me about that connection before the concert started.
In the case of Lokuah Kanza, whom I join Mr. Chandy in considering “beauteous”, I gave him a glowing review — as African (folk) music, not jazz, for the simple reason that jazz, by practically any modern definition, has improvisation (usually solo) in it. I found Kanza’s music didn’t have any to speak of and was much closer to what is labelled “world music” from Africa than African jazz.
I did consider the music of Der Rote Bereich (DRB), on the other hand, to be jazz. And although I think avant-garde jazz can be irritating, I was pleasantly surprised to find DRB were not as outrageous as their handout threatened they would be. I found them to be good musicians and said so, and I only had a couple of complaints, including their failure to develop their solo improvisations well. A complaint I could, and often do, make about purveyors of the kind of jazz that meets my personal taste.
Need I reiterate that all the positive statements I’ve made above appeared in the three reviews cited by Mr. Chandy?
© Copyright 2000 – 2005 The Hindu
All in all quite funny I thought. Imagine a review which shouldn’t have any research done for it. The assertion that jazz ‘has improvisation (usually solo)’ is true, but then so does almost every type of music in the world including Western Classical the most notated of all music. Most pop songs have an improvised solo by an instrument in them.The statement ‘ their failure to develop their solo improvisations well’ is essentially a prescriptive statement as to what the music should do, which in itself is an anti-thesis to the nature of jazz itself.
One thing that was really missed out in the review is the fact the crowd really had a good time. The ironical thing here is that I myself wasn’t that kicked by Jonas Hellborg, but I had a very enjoyable evening. The energy and the humour of the evening made up for everything else. But someone didn’t think so.