THE SOUND OF A NEW GENERATION
Early this month a long-haired young man named Jerry Garcia went to all the record stores in San Francisco and bought all the albums he could find by the French gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt. This would not be at all remarkable except for the fact that Jerry Garcia is the lead guitar player and featured soloist with The Grateful Dead, and rock groups are supposed to be something other than jazz.
But like so many other things in our world, what seems to be turns out not to really be at all.
Jerry Garcia, like a number of the very best of the young rock musicians, is a fan of all music that's good and that, of course, includes jazz.
"I've been listening to a lot of jazz lately," he says. "I've been listening to a lot of Django Reinhardt. Mostly for the guitar, but I've learned as much from the violin player in terms of those really lovely, graceful ideas. And that's the kind of stuff I like. Anything that is beautiful. Indian music. Soul music, rhythm & blues, old time blues, jug band music. Anything."
That catholicism of taste is one of the reasons why the young rock musicians are so important and are already making a deep imprint on contemporary music. It is a curious thing that jazz began by accusing the symphony and conservatory players of refusing to listen to them. Now the jazz musicians, or at least a regrettable majority of them, are not opening their ears to the worthwhile music coming from the new generation.
John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet is an exception. He has been digging the groups in England as they have appeared and spent some time in a New York studio working on a record of "Misty Roses," the Tim Hardin tune, for Atlantic because "I wanted to find out how it is done."
Lewis has a healthy respect for the rock musicians. Of the British youth, he says, "they are living the history of jazz all over again," pointing to their interest in blues and traditional jazz and now rock.
But Lewis is an exception in the ranks of jazz, whereas Garcia is not an exception in the ranks of rock. Almost all the good rock musicians with whom I've talked, British or American, have dug jazz and many of them came from it to rock.
The point, of course, is that good music is good music regardless of labels. The music that Garcia's group, The Grateful Dead, plays is really jazz even though the sound of the electric guitars at first inhibits you from saying that. The Dead have a deep, driving swing that is irresistible, and the solos played by Garcia are pure jazz solos. The vocals are folk-rock-blues, of course, but the solo lines by the bassist, Phil Lesh, a former jazz trumpet player, and the over-all feeling of the group is precisely the same kind of feeling that emanates from the best jazz groups and always has.
We're in for some interesting new sounds in the future. The more the rock players listen to jazz, the more complex and inventive they will become. And the jazz players, for all of their complexity and invention, have things to learn from rock. I won't be surprised to see the day that John Lewis records with Jerry Garcia. I would like to hear them.
(by Ralph Gleason, from the "Lively Arts" column, Datebook, April 9 1967)
Thanks to jgmf.blogspot.com