I know I may open myself up to many criticisms and backlash for my comments but I don’t care. Its no different than the people out there that have strong opinions about the constant desire and need to make sure what they’re listening to is new and cutting edge.  I say *&^% it, I don’t care.

This weekend with The Tony Foster Trio featuring Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen is everything jazz is supposed to be; swinging, fun, happy, sad, humorous, engaging…need I go on?  It just put some faith back in me that these things actually STILL exist in this music AND more importantly that there are tons of people that LOVE IT. Scott and / or Harry won’t ever get on the cover of Downbeat or Jazz Times, they’ll never get headlining gigs at festivals because the views of most of those organizations is that if it swings and feels good then its not worthy of writing about.

Long live the torch bearers of things that swing!




  1. Musician1 :”So how much jazz was there at the (fill in the blank here) Jazz Festival?

    Musician2 :”Just enough piss everyone off.”

    Which these days isn’t much….
    Great piece Cory.

    • As a student of jazz music (at Cap) I have always loved the swinging, engaging, dynamic stuff. But I disagree strongly with the notion that only music that “swings” is truly jazz. I think it’s good to take everything in – good music is good music period, no matter how the eighth notes are played. Though your point about some people needing to listen to the “new” and “cutting edge” stuff is right on. There’s a lot to be learned from the old masters, and a lot of the “hip” stuff out now has already been done by people like Chick, Herbie, Shorter, Joe Henderson, Miles, etc. and even people before their time too.

      • My “joke” is really aimed at the fact that many jazz festival (like here in Toronto) have so much music that does not by any stretch of anyone’s definition of jazz, would be identified as jazz.

        For example: Willie Nelson opened our festival, and Steve Martin (banjo) closed it. And don’t assume I don’t LIKE these two acts. I love good banjo playing AND heartfelt Country music.
        That’s not the issue.

        My definition of jazz is probably just like your’s Jonathan.
        But are there NO limits to the music that could be defined as jazz?

        This is important because what happens as a result is that many players who have played “jazz'” all their lives simply have NO gigs during the festival. There’s just no room for them due to the current expansive definition of jazz.

        To elaborate:

        The definition of jazz is now so broad that it has essentially become meaningless. This may be because the use of the word jazz is one of the most bastardized in English.
        Admittedly, jazz is very hard to define. Still, one must try, and I maintain that some people have a very good idea of what jazz is. Who are these people? The ones who have a good idea of what jazz is and where it belongs? The answer is surprising. Wait for it.

        Here’s the basic problem with our lack of clarity about what jazz music IS.
        As far as JAZZ festivals go, the label ‘jazz’ seems to INCLUDE everything. Music from all disciplines and locales is fair game… Funk, Country, Balinese Gamelon, all World music.

        Oddly sometimes JAZZ itself is given short shrift at jazz fests.
        In spite of this the mainstream of jazz music itself is EXCLUDED from all manner of music festivals with labels like Caribana, Folk, Blues, Classical and so on. (I’ve never seen a BeBop band invited to play at The Mariposa Folk Festival or a BLUES festival for example, even though there may be as much blues in any Bebop band as there is in any bluesy blues band, and the be-bop band is made up of Folks)

        It seems that the world’s non jazz-music festivals have no problem defining ‘jazz’ and understanding where it belongs, or more to the point, where it *doesn’t* belong! Yes, THESE are the people who know what jazz is! And it sure as hell isn’t going to be in their festivals!

        It would be wonderful if the jazz impresarios had the same understanding and clear definition of jazz music as the non-jazz venues’ booking agents!

        This has become the best definition of JAZZ that I can think of. It is like a Black Hole in astronomy, you can’t see it, but you can infer what it is because of it’s absence. That’s jazz. The black hole of music.

  2. I think that Cory’s point is really “Scott and / or Harry won’t ever get on the cover of Downbeat or Jazz Times, they’ll never get headlining gigs at festivals”.
    That problem is a direct result of my points made above. These ideas are connected. Surely players like Scott Hamilton are at least as deserving of a gig at a jazz festival as Willie Nelson, and I maintain MORE deserving, by definition alone.

    • I shouldn’t be surprised by some of the comments I’m getting here and on Facebook. I started my post by saying as much. Im happy that people like Mark and other people that are more articulate than me are talking about this. This is also NOT a shot at the Vancouver Jazz Festival or any other festival for that matter.

      I have strong opinions about what I like and strong opinions about what I don’t like and what I feel is ruining jazz. I don’t wish to get into a definition of what jazz is so I’m inventing a new genre within the umbrella of jazz and its called MyJazz and it can be whatever the hell I want it to be. MyJazz is defined as including all of the elements that I outlined in my original post. If it doesn’t contain healthy amounts of those things then it can’t be in my genre.

      Long live MyJazz!

  3. Jazz – must have a swing feel and improvisation must be a major part of the performance. I love the way Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen play, they are right in the tradition of Ben Webster, Zoot Sims, Illinois Jacquet, Stan Getz etc.

    Here in the greater Norfolk area we have “Jazz” Festivals too that aren’t Jazz Festivals. Very few if any of the people playing are Jazz Artist, they are R ‘n ‘ B, Soul, Rock and Smooth Jazz. The only time a real jazz artist plays is when Wynton or Branford play at the Local Arts Festival once in a while or when someone like Ken Peplowski plays at the 1 local jazz club. I was there 2 weeks ago to hear John Abercrombie and there were 21 people in the place, I don’t know how they stay in business.

    For the record I play tenor sax and clarinet professionally and teach.

  4. My feelings exactly Cory. These two people just made me feel HAPPY and surely thats what Jazz should be all about. Tony Foster Trio magic and those “guests’ on Sunday were not too shabby either. long live this type of music…where has the word “Swing” gone? I was fortunate to hear Al Cohn and Zoot Sims together in the sixties. Scott and Harry took me back to those days and brought a huge grin to my face. Thank you for all you do to bring quality Musicians to The Cellar

  5. I agree re: the jazz fest stuff. The definition of jazz has definitely become too broad in many respects – many headlining artists at these jazz festivals are playing music that has no connection to what we might call “jazz” or even have influences as such. My only complaint is with the notion that jazz music HAS to “swing”. Giving such a strict policy on it limits a lot of creative and legitimate variations (such as Afro-Cuban jazz, the original jazz fusion, almost the entire ECM label). Anyways, I appreciate the venue you provide for this type of jazz, even if I may disagree with comments you make at times. You aren’t afraid to express your opinions and it’s refreshing. Cheers.

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