Gary Giddins – Heir to a Secret History (Jason Moran) (Village Voice, October 17, 2001; reprinted in Weather Bird, 2004)

Sometimes great lists are snuck indiscriminately into the middle of an article, presented as an aside or provided as context, nearly hidden from view, formatted like regular text when you and I both know it is in fact no such thing. Look at that Oxford comma! That is not a sentence; that is a list! Treat it with respect! Provide line breaks and present it vertically! Give it bullet points! List items in order of preference! Listers; what would the world do without us.

Here’s an example of just such a monstrosity: near the beginning of this Giddins article praising jazz pianist Jason Moran there hides a short but excellent list of ’60s Blue Note albums which “epitomize the struggle to remake jazz structure, employing free spirits unleashed by the avant-garde without embracing the potential chaos of unstructured improvisation.” Eureka! It’s a secret history of ’60s progressive jazz in list form: not a history in which mainstream musicians resist the avant-garde, nor one in which the avant-garde resists the mainstream, but something more nuanced than that (and, let’s be honest, everything is a little more nuanced than that, amirite? Except that which constitutes a list; obviously, in this, there are no exceptions).

The recordings Giddins lists present that history and aesthetic puzzle in all of its angular and peculiar beauty. Granted, like a punk, he couched it in the substance of a sound and compelling argument, but still, we’ll give him a pass because 1. he’s Gary Giddins, and 2. it’s a great list. Enjoy.

  • Sam Rivers, Fuchsia Swing Song (“which should be heard as presented by Mosaic . . . including three utterly dissimilar alternate takes of ‘Downstairs Blues Upstairs'” [also included as bonus tracks on the 2003 Blue Note Connoisseur Series reissue])
  • Jackie McLean, Destination Out!
  • Eric Dolphy, Out to Lunch
  • Tony Williams, Lifetime
  • Wayne Shorter, The All-Seeing Eye
  • Andrew Hill, Point of Departure
  • Bobby Hutcherson, Components
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