What happened to the jazz?

Sebastiani Theater, SonomaLast week, coming home from a conference in Northern California, I detoured through the historic town of Sonoma, deep in the wine country. The town’s center is a beautiful Spanish colonial plaza surrounded by historic clapboard, brick and adobe buildings, including the northernmost of California’s missions, Mission San Francisco Solano. The town served briefly as the capital of the short-lived Republic of California prior to the discovery of gold and subsequent absorption into the United States. Every spring the town hosts Sonoma Jazz+; visitors can spend the afternoons sipping wine, strolling around the plaza, and listening to bands in different venues. Continue reading →

Cultures of improvisation (1)

Franz Liszt Improvising at the PianoImprovisation has been the norm in most cultures throughout most of human history. Nowadays, though, improvisation is largely associated with jazz, and its antithesis is Britney Spears at one end of the spectrum and a classical symphony at the other. Improvisation — that foundation of the musical impulse in man — has been drained out of classical music and much of contemporary popular music like the Taliban shutting down music stores. What happened? Continue reading →