Top 50 JAzz Blog

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Pothole of Periocity (Donald Byrd)

Here's what I mean: I played some 1950's Prestige tracks for a friend who knows a lot about jazz. He listened and said "I never knew Donald Byrd played like that." 

Another victim of the dreaded Pothole of Periocity. He knew the later stuff, didn't like it and never worked backward. The ease and access of music on the internet has eased the syndrome less than you might think.

Coltrane and Miles are probably the two most well-known examples of musicians who shed audience as they move through different periods. Some only go with Trane through his Prestige period, some through Atlantic, some through early Impulse and a few all the way through to the end.

How often do people who hook into Trane at Meditations go back to Blue Trane? Or, who pick up Miles at Tutu and go back to Embraceable You?

Donald Byrd (b.12/9/32) is another who made extreme enough changes that he exchanged much of his old audience for a new one. In this case, a larger one-and here the bugaboo of "selling out" rears its endless head (No comment). 

Interestingly, Byrd's music became more "pop" and "soul" oriented while he pursued advanced academic degrees: Masters in Music from Manhattan, Law degree from Columbia, Phd from Columbia University Teachers College in 1982. Here are examples of the change:

Straight ahead, 1958:



Gotta say, it's early Byrd for me.

Who have you shed all along the way? Or picked up?


Anonymous said...

I absolutely love Steve Coleman from roughly 2000 onward, can't stand his 90's stuff, haven't explored his 80's stuff except for the Dave Holland sideman gigs which i quite like... another angle on the 'Pothole of Periocity' thing is that thing where even if the stuff produced outside of the pothole is pretty damn awesome, the pothole is enough to taint an artist's entire career for an individual listener... not sure if that came out right, but an example of that might be Chick Corea, who IMO has produced some amazing work, but many people seem to joyfully write him off all together due to his (admittedly many) potholes. Cheers, Chris.

Steve Provizer said...

Thanks for the feedback, Chris. I agree with you that the pothole can be a lot like a black hole, sucking in all the attention that anyone might otherwise use for further exploration.

Chick can be a ferocious player, but I'd say his electronic gizmo use killed off some of my enthusiasm.

dlwilson26 said...

Your article got me thinking about Coleman Hawkins and John Coltrane.

I heard an interview with Coleman Hawkins from NPR's archives to mark his 100th birthday. This got me thinking about how musicians innovate and spread new ideas.
Hawkins' career spanned the 1920s through 1969. He played with Mamie Smith, Fletcher Henderson, Louis Armstrong, and later in life, with whatever "young lion" he could catch. In the interview he talked about touring all over the country in the 20's and 30's and how he heard musical innovations from the local scenes he visited. When he played the new riffs or concepts to other musicians, they attributed them to him. He was just trying to expand his own vocabulary. Throughout his career he would keep doing this by seeking out the most advanced young musicians.

I remembered recordings I have of Hawkins from 1944 with Thelonious Monk. In fact, it was Monk’s recording debut.

"Flying Hawk"
"Drifting on a Reed"
"On the Bean"

After listening to them, I started thinking about some other records from a 1957 session in which Coleman Hawkins sits in with Monk’s regular group which included John Coltrane: “Monk’s Music” and “Monk and Coltrane.”

Hawkins was a true innovator but he was always open to others’ new ideas.

Those 1944 recordings with Monk are an example. This was transition time between swing and bebop. He was trying to learn the new music. In order to do this he sought out someone who was an architect of the new form, but also had respect for the tradition of which he was a central figure. A lot of people considered Monk to be eccentric and difficult but Hawkins embraced him and gave him "standing."

When Monk finally "arrived" in the 50's, Hawkins was there too. To me, the 1957 session shows how much they respected each other.

There are two versions of Monk’s ballad “Ruby My Dear” using the same arrangement: one with Coleman Hawkins, the other with Coltrane. Both are beautiful and soulful.

I have this picture in my mind: Monk sets up and plays the first version with Coltrane soloing. Then Hawkins who has been watching and listening, gets up to take his turn. The "father of the tenor saxophone" asserts himself after Coltrane, soon to be, the most accomplished modernist. What a treat!

Hawkins loved to play with the cutting-edge players and he loved Monk. I think this was due to Monk's advanced concepts of harmonics and time, plus his ability to morph back to the old-time stride piano style. Then there was something new. You can already hear how the music would change by the way Coltrane was playing on these recordings. Hawkins must have been challenged by him and his solos became inspired. He never stopped. He swung, bopped, and was now on to the next best thing.

David Wilson

Steve Provizer said...

David-Thanks for your thoughtful comment. What it evokes in me is a thread that I didn't really parse out in my original post: the question of "sound."

That is, as a musician passes through these kinds of changes, does the actual timbre of the notes change, or is it just the background, the notes chosen, electrification, etc. This is an interesting enough question to me to pursue in a separate post-thanks for the inspiration.