John Ellis, live tweeting, and the meaning of words

On August 29th, the Jeff Albert Quartet played a midnight show at Snug Harbor. The earlier shows featured John Ellis and Double Wide. That same night, Ken Vandermark was playing in NY with Nasheet Waits, Jason Moran, and Eric Revis. I made a little deal with Matt that I would live tweet the John Ellis show, and he would live tweet the NY show. He did, I didn’t, and now I owe him a blog post on the night.

A brief aside about live tweeting first. It is really hard to form and transmit coherent 140 character thoughts while listening to music. I’m still not sure if I think that level of intellectual processing while an audience member makes the experience better or worse.

Ok, John Ellis’ band is fun to listen to, and they throw down. The rhythm section of Jason Marsalis (drums), Matt Perrinne (sousaphone), and Brian Coogan (organ) has the rare ability to get groovy-party-space and pushing-towards-abstraction-space to peacefully co-exsist. It is tough to make one move body parts and be musically surprised simultaneously. These guys can do that.

The front line consisted of Ellis on tenor sax and bass clarinet, Alan Ferber (trombone) and Gregoire Marét (harmonica). The material makes good use of the timbral possibilities of that combination. Marét is super underrated. He takes the very cool sound of the harmonica and uses it to make wonderful modern sophisticated exciting music. The band recorded a new CD in the days after this performance, so be on the lookout for that.

In other news, Lubricity had a post on language used to identify music and musicians. Alex had issues with the word “jazzer.” I get his point. Any time a word is used as a way to limit someone else, that gets problematic. I would have no problem trying to expunge “jazzer” from my lexicon.

The term that really sets me off however is “legit,” when offered as the alternative to “jazz.” If one thing is described as legit (legitimate), inherent in that description is the idea that the thing not being described is illegitimate. If I say “get the brown shirt,” you know that the other shirt is not brown.

Some argue that “classical” is an inaccurate term when describing non-jazz because it is also used to describe a particular historical period and style. I say that record stores and music marketers would not use a term that is vague or leads to uncertainty. If it is good enough for Barnes and Noble, it has to be better than legit.

Others argue that no slight is meant when they use the term “legit.” Regardless of one’s intention, the word has a pretty specific meaning. Again, if I call the brown shirt “orange” and then say, “well you all know what I mean, and I’m not intending to insult the brown shirt, I just like to call it orange because I am too lazy to adjust my usage to better reflect reality,” I am still using the word “orange” incorrectly.

So there’s the short version of my word rant…I’ll have to reword all of my jazzer and legit guy jokes, and that will be ok.

3 thoughts on “John Ellis, live tweeting, and the meaning of words”

  1. Thanks for the link, Jeff — “legit” is another good example of a word that can be used to detrimental effect, although it’s coming from inside the jazz community lexicon (as opposed to “jazzer”, which is more of a label imposed by journalists and uninformed academics.) Duke Ellington used to call Juan Tizol, the only classically-trained musician in his group, the “cat who could play the legit stuff.” I think you’re right to point out that the history of the term’s usage in the jazz community reflects a certain kind of inferiority complex or self-consciousness with regard to classical music.

  2. Well, we don’t have to look far to finds words that have been used prevalently inside the community that they derogate. I would like to see evidence of the term’s origination. I know it is used in the jazz community, but I have no reason to believe it originated there. I have heard jazzer used widely within the jazz community as well.

    Duke probably said that (about Tizol) before World War II. I hope our thinking (and the language that expresses that thought) has evolved since then.

Comments are closed.