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<<  -- 4 --  Rex Harley    A MIXED BAG

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A young man in the row in front of me, quietly but determinedly head-banged his way through several numbers, but, at moments like this, when I was finding it impossible to sit still, he'd stopped moving. This put me in mind of a comment, in his book Blues People, by LeRoi Jones, with regard to the comment, usually from whites, to the effect that you can't dance to modern jazz: 'My friends and I as youths used to emphasise the pronoun more saying ... you can't dance to it, and whispered, or anything else for that matter.' Yet it's precisely the syncopations of modern jazz, the shifting of the beat, the defeating of aural expectations that has always over-ridden my own strong inhibitions to move my body to music; (I wouldn't dare grace the results with the word 'dancing'!) Conversely, when things are thrashing along in 4/4, and you can't concentrate on individual instruments through a wall of noise ...

And that was how large chunks of the concert were. The rest of the audience seemed to like them quite as much as the young man in front. I was bored. Effectively this material is deutero-Rock, and I've never been that interested in the real thing.

So, it was a mixed bag. As for Zawinul himself, it's apparent that the other musicians both like and respect him, but for me the synthesised sounds were often muddy, even when they weren't being drowned out by the other instruments. Much of the time he's playing, in the other sense of the word: twiddling around; trying things out; and patently having a good time. This kind of risk-taking is admirable, in its way, but there is a thin line between adventurous performance and sheer self-indulgence.

There was a standing ovation, of course.

Copyright © 29 May 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK

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