The Michigan Daily - W e4, 4t. - Thursday, February 1, 1996-- 98
lor jazz artists, the classroom's not the club
By James P. Miller
Daily Arts Writer
Jazz is unique in music in that it is
controlled by the individual performer
more than the composer or director. For
that reason,jazz is influenced by perfor-
mance and performers more than the
printed page. Consequently, trends that
changethe waymusiciansplay canchange
the entire landscape of the music. Over
the past 20 years,jazz has seen a funda-
mental change in its musicians. It is the
rise of the conservatoty sound.
In its infancy and adolescence,jazz
was a wild and forbidden form. Con-
demned by intellectuals as gutter
music played by talentless loons, it
was very much an underground mu-
sic. Like the African oral tradition
that spawned it,jazz was handed down
from artist to artist, either by one-on-
one teaching or by ear. Miles Davis
learned volumes on jazz by following
Bird around New York, listening to
and learning from other musicians;
not from his classes at Julliard. Even
compositional geniuses like Charles
Mingus and Ron Carter learned their
craft by ear, playing in groups. The
club was the classroom.
Through the '70s and '80s,jazz began
to earn its rightful place as a serious and
meritous art form. Colleges and high
schools began toteachjazzas they would
any other kind of music. Knowledge that
formerly could only be gained by living
the life of a starving itinerant musician
The classroom is now the club.
This is not entirely a bad thing.
Much ofearly jazz (and especially the
blues) suffers from technical holes
and substandard musicianship. With-
out a doubt, today's player is, on the
average, better equipped technically.
Besides, many jazz musicians with
mountains of soul had classical back-
grounds, like Nina Simone (another
Julliard alum), Keith Jarrett, Marcus
Roberts, Wynton Marsalis and Bill
But this education was tempered with
practical experiences. Jazz cannot be
learned in a vacuum, as these musicians
prove. No matter how sterile their train-
ing seems, the fire of the blues is never
absent from the music. There is always
a pursuit of the knowledge and skills
that cannot be learned anywhere else
but on the battlefields. A musician who
goes right from college to a recording
career is missing half the recipe. He
may have the hands, but the heart is
You know when you're listening to
the lifeless conservatory music. It has
no motion, no purpose. It isn't saying
anything. Even the most silly, old
school Louis Armstrong pop tune has
feeling and depth. Conservatory jazz
consists mostly of flabby lines of
eighth notes that have no purpose other
than following the changes. It's
crammed full of so many influences
that it cannot express the vision of
any of them: no blues, no gospel, no
Latin. It's musically overeducated. In
fact it's rare to hear that blues flour-
ish. Many conservators regard it as
too common and stilted to be a serious
well of inspiration.
Jazz is the music of life. A life half
lived will produce music half played.
Jazz is music unlike any other in that
your development as a person has
more of an influence on your music"
than any other single force. The Miles
Davis of the '50s is worlds away from
the Davis of the late'70s. People who
learn jazz as a totally cerebral art are
missing out on its most powerful as-
set. No other form allows for such
devastating personal expression. It is
the music of each individual player.
The most profound learning does not
take place in the classroom.
Marcus Roberts, noted for his jazz recordings, also has a classical background.
'Homicide' star as dedicated as his character
The Washington Post
it's difficult to figure out where his
character, Detective Frank Pembleton,
stops and Braugher begins.
Both actor and character are men not
quickly forgotten. They speak in subtle,
hypnotic, yet powerful tones. Both are
passionate about their beliefs and cer-
tain of what they have to say.
Braugher, however, is somuchmore.
To some, hesaidswith a smile,he might
be dismissed as "that bald black guy" on
NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street."
The baldness was his own idea;"I got
tired of going to the barber to keep my
fade together," he said, "so I just cut it
To thosewhowatchtheseries closely,
he's a multifaceted, Juilliard-traited ac-
tor whose talents transcend the world of
But to Braugher himself, he's a dedi-
cated family man doing a job he loves,
hoping to serve a purpose higher than
"My goal is to broaden and deepen
the range of African American charac-
ters on television, so I always try to
show human beings' Braugher said.
"I've grown tired of characters w ho
are window dressing, or hipster pimps.
and drug dealers and shadowy under-
world figures. I want to bringt a man to
the screen. Uttfortunately, in teles ision
today thereare very few African Ameri-
can characters who are human heitgs.
They are typically two-dimensional ste-
reotypes, cookie-cutter types."
As Pembleton on riday night's lo-
micide" -which this week has cross-
overepisodes with anotherNBC drama,
"I.as & Order" --Braugher appar-
ently has found a character who meets
"I was alwvays attracted to the part.
the reason I committed myself to the
show was because I could not discern
lPemhletott's race by the sides (script
prcs tiesoted to a single character),
and I stid to myself, 'I'm going to take
a chance on it.' because this might actu-
aly be i character rather than a auote-
utquote black character."
The character Braugher plays is not
necess rilyetndearingtoeveryone. He's
tough, cynical aind not easy to get to
know. It's a character sho is changing.
though., especiatly this season, since
Poimileton and his wife Mary are ex-
pecting a baby.
"Already lie (Pembleton) is respon-
sible for mrec lives than simply his
own, Irgher said,"sothere's asense
of vulnri ability in Pembleton's posi-
tion. 'A ics I tsed to be a lone wolf'
and solitary investigator, now I have a
lot of allcginces."
Mari' 'P ibleton is played by
Bratugher's real-life wife, Ami Brabson.
Acting with his wife is a pleasant
experieicc for Braugher. "I think she's
so cetcommunicate very easily. We
have sitmilar tastes about what is good
and bad in the course of a scene, and we
agree about the complexities of each of
our characters, and things seem to go
quite well and I enjoy it a lot."
Pembleton's allegiances aren't only
familial; they are also with the people
he works with.
"The relationship between Tim
Bayliss (played by Kyle Secor) and
Pembleton has become one of mutual
resnect and consideration. and I believe
they actually care for each other,
whereas three years ago when we first
met, I (Pembleton) couldn'tstandhim,"
Braugher explained how the dynam-
ics of "Homicide" have changed since
the show premiered following the Su-
per Bowl in 1993.
"In the firstyear... ourstoriesseemed
to be separate - concurrent, but sepa-
rate," lie said. "In the second year, that
was where we started mixing and shift-
ing and talking to each other more.
"Our story lines began to involve
more about what we were like and the
office politics. I think that's where the
chemistry developed. We've got a fine
cast, very talented, very dedicated, and
we've come together."
This week's episode adds the cast of
"Law & Order" to the mix. In a cross-
over story line that begins on "Law &
Order" (Wednesday night) and con-
cludes on "Homicide" (Friday night),
detectives and attorneys from both
shows travel back and forth between
Baltimore and New York to catch a
killer responsible for gas bombings.
The interchange between the Balti-
niore and New York detectives is an
explosive one. Each set of detectives
vehemently disagrees with the other's
C e literary world lost a veteran of the New York scene last week.
arold Brodkey, author of "The Runaway Soul" and a staff writer at
The New YorkerdiedofAIDS complications last Friday at 65. Brodkey's
novel is an 835-page autobiographical, free-form work ftll of both
concrete detail and abstract impressionism. He spent some 30 years
working on the project. When the novel was finally published in 1991,
Brodkey said the labor of writing it just about isolated him from reality.
"From the time I was 28 until I was 58, silence," he said in a 1991
interview. "New York City had seven newspapers when 1 started.
- Hemingway was alive. Faulkner was alive. Pearl Buck was still kicking
around. I get some letters and I don't recognize the world the letters are
oming from." That world certainly recognized him, however, and just
as certainly will miss him.
Producer Don Simpson died of unknown causes in Los Angeles last week.
During his long creative partnership with director Jerry Bruckheimer,
"Dangerous Minds" and "Beverly Hills Cop" series.
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