Innovation is Overrated!

There seems to be a common thread in major and minor jazz press that unless music or a specific musician is perceived as ‘pushing the music forward’ then it isn’t worth writing about because its just the same old, same old or when it is written about it gets criticized for not being new. I find this to be very upsetting and extremely unfair especially to those musicians who are fans of straight-ahead jazz and the proponents of it. There are many examples of the gross mis-treatment by the media of musicians who are perceived as not being innovative or pushing the boundaries. Rather than state all of them or even some of them I thought I would use saxophonists as an example seeing as thats the instrument I play. I should say that I try to be totally subjective about the music I listen to and I happen to be a fan of the more straight ahead players than I do of the more modern saxophonists.

Lets take someone like Eric Alexander who I am a big fan of. The first thing about Eric is that his sound is instantaneously recognizable. Do I think that Eric is pushing the music forward or trying to innovate or reinvent the wheel. My personal opinion is no he is not. He is channeling his influences such as George Coleman, Stanley Turrentine etc. and forging out his own sound and identity. As I said you can pick Eric Alexander out of million saxophonists instantly. I don’t think the same can be said for many of the same saxophonists that have come from the Joe Lovano school of playing the saxophone. Many of them sound exactly the same. Eric’s press coverage is usually limited to a small feature at the back of Downbeat or Jazz Times or any other magazine while his contemporaries get plastered all over the place in print.

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