Feel free to use this thread to review and discuss about Wynton’s new book:
Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz can change your life
Music can be enjoyed by everyone and the appeal of a certain style is proven by the test of time. Moving to Higher Ground is an American history book focusing on the roots of the blues and the subsequent development of jazz.
There is no deification of the art form or its participants; instead Wynton Marsalis and Geoffrey Ward focus on a central theme which parallels Democracy and the interaction of jazz artists on the bandstand. From the collective improvisation of New Orleans jazz to the avant-garde experiments of Coltrane, freedom of expression has been inherent to jazz.
By focusing on the history of jazz with its American heritage we can discover more about what it means to be Americans.
Lyrically written for the jazz novice or aficionado, Wynton explains the elements of jazz, including rhythm, improvisation and harmony. Various styles are highlighted by citing the life/work of jazz greats including Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, John Lewis, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk. Significant recordings are listed for each artist (I’m glad “Live at the It Club” made the cut for Monk).
Framing his own career in the context of the Civil Rights movement, Wynton ironically compared his early experience to that of young Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke! His migration to New York City followed a musical tradition established by Louis Armstrong and prominent jazz musicians. There are wonderful anecdotes about Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and band leaders who trained and prepared their ‘apprentices’ for the next generation of jazz.
The book contains dozens of topics for discussion, ranging from technical concepts of music theory to our American legacy. Drawing a connection between jazz and Democracy may simply begin with a composer’s intention. In the original score, after the principal theme and swing rhythm are firmly established, the composer allots a certain amount of time for musicians to improvise.
In effect the writer has given away compositional control to promote individual creativity. However, the composer has also effectively retained control over the timing, development and resolution of the piece even when allowing distinctive voices to be heard. Likewise in a Democracy, Americans would optimally operate within the Constitution (as intended), creating an effective government while promoting free speech and socio-economic mobility. So, as jazz music moves through time with its synchronous rhythms, diverse melodies and riffs, we too can make harmonious progress within a Democracy!
Moving to Higher Ground is an entertaining and informative resource. Look forward to your thoughts! Best, Glo.
Gloria i agree with almost everything you said on this new book by them. Seems Im missing something in if and i don’t know what it is. Its like the blues you know its the blues when its being played but you are not convinced the person deliverying the blues is really feeling it. they know all the facts all the notes but there is a sesaoning missing. I can’t put my finger on it. I love the book. I might have read it too quickly.
S: Often I’ve noticed, too, how difficult it is to translate the feeling of music, not only jazz and blues, into the written word. Music theory can be rendered dull and lifeless in a textbook until you analyze the actual compositions and styles of great composers. Then everything comes to life from a manuscript of dissonant chords and phrasings. The proof, or authenticity, of their labor is in the performer’s hands.
This is Wynton’s best book because it is so lyrically written. Even Wynton admits, “...playing the blues is different from reading about them!”
Wynton’s reference to Albert Murray’s Stomping the Blues emphasizes your comment, which may be the root of aesthetics in music: Facts only go so far in art. The inanimate object of a musical instrument suddenly brings the blues to life only through the artistry, diligence and discipline of the musician. Displaying “intent” —isn’t that what we’re striving for? It’s easy to analyze, criticize and create impressive descriptions; but isn’t it more fun to hear those critics play something?!! Best. G.
A lot of concepts that Wynton explained in the book, can be found on the videos from the Master Classes he gave in Marciac last year.
> Gloria i agree with almost everything you said on
> this new book by them. Seems Im missing something
> in if and i don’t know what it is. Its like the
> blues you know its the blues when its being played
> but you are not convinced the person deliverying
> the blues is really feeling it. they know all the
> facts all the notes but there is a sesaoning
> missing. I can’t put my finger on it. I love the
> book. I might have read it too quickly.
Seasoned, looking at the interviews about the book to my understanding Geoffry Ward put alot of his mark on the book, which is like putting cream in coffee lol. That being said Wynton’s best work is with his horn. Music is like sex or drugs, you can read about it with an innocent mind but until you actually experienced it, all that you have read is simply head knowledge and not experiential.
The University of Virgina
I have been aware of Wynton Marsalis for some time, but got my first real dose of hearing him talk on the Ken Burns Jazz documentary. Fantastic! To put it bluntly, I was completely blown away.
I am now nearly finished with his new book and am still just floored by the man, his eloquence, his clarity and the depth of his thinking. The parallels he draws between music and life are real and far-reaching, and I have rarely heard anyone with the ability to express themselves so truly. The man speaks from his soul and in reading his words I have been brought to tears more than once. As a musician myself it is very validating to hear someone say things that I have always felt, but didn’t have words for.
It is easy to lose heart and get discouraged in today’s modern world, and Wynton’s voice has been a breath of fresh air and hope for me. I would recommend this book to musician and non-musician alike, there is so much truth in it that needs to be heard.
It makes me very happy that this man is out there advocating for the music he loves, and for the arts in general…
Thank you Wynton, you are an inspiration to us all!
P.S. My girlfriend too! She LOVES you and the way you talk about art.
Dr. Wahoo the improvisation of our conversation and your interpertation of the book I tend to agree with your coffee & cream approach to the established melody. I’m sure you know what I mean by established melody. I must read the book like like approaching a tune: I like to take a tune play it fast AND slow.
I am well into this book and as you would expect with anything with Wynton’s name on it it is proving to be an interesting and informative read. This book is required reading for anyone interested in Wynton and very insightful for learning about jazz in a general way.
“to my understanding Geoffry Ward put alot of his mark on the book”
Hahahaha…you’re wrong Dr Hoo..again!! Mr. Ward primarily served as an editor and an organizer…the book came about from Sunday morning conversations over breakfast…Wynton has final say over what is published and is very close to Mr. Ward…who, has nothing to gain by “putting his mark” on anything…
You go on, Juanmustard!! Back to get that Wahoo one more time!!
You know, I saw the St Augstine marching band on their Mardi Gras parade route. Let’s see, they were in the Muses parade on Thursday night Feb 19. I heard one night that Wynton and Victor went there for high school. So when I saw St Aug on the banner, sheeit, I started marching with ‘em. It seems that Mardi Gras was destined to come to me this year. The committee added a new start spot to the parade routes. This parade started one block from my house!! That meant that I got to see the band marching right into the beginning of their performance and their whole intro routine. After that, once their horns were up, they started to swing, and now I know what those guys mean when they say “swing”. When those players march, they literally swing their horns, hittin’ the top of the measure on either side of the action. And not all of the bands do that.
Ok, so this new parade route did not come off without a glitch, but I have to admit, there was a benefit to this. When the top of the parade hit Napoleon and the other parade, it brought the Muses to a halt, they stood for a good hour before starting up again. This meant St. Aug stood smack in front of Le Bon Temps Roule and played a whole song right there on the 4800 block of Magazine St. Juanmustard, let me tell you, I loved it.
That’s right, Mardi Gras itself moved to higher ground this year, coming a little bit more Uptown!!
I read “Moving to Higher Ground” while I was also reading “Letters from the Road” A lot of truths in both books. Loved the humor and pointed tone. I found these books refreshing and “In tune”. Looking forward to the next read.
> I am well into this book and as you would expect
> with anything with Wynton’s name on it it is
> proving to be an interesting and informative read.
> This book is required reading for anyone
> interested in Wynton and very insightful for
> learning about jazz in a general way.
I agree. I found and read this book as well. I find it very refreshing as a musical player. Such lessons on music in general is a bit new to me but has a good idea on how to allow people to approach music the right way.
I’m still working my way through this book. It has been frustrating because, as I am not a musician, many of the concepts Marsalis brings up are unfamiliar to me. So my question is this: what should I learn before reading this book? To explain a bit more, I enjoy listening to jazz, but do not ‘appreciate’ it fully, due to my lack of technical knowledge and experience. To be honest, the introduction (in which he describes meeting Danny Barker and practicing with the brass band) was very alienating to me, as it reinforced my perception that jazz is music for people who understand music, especially musicians. Later, in chapter 1, he describes shuffle accented triplet rhythm, and suggests ‘think of any Irish jig’. This supposes that there is some link between hearing a jig and grasping the concept ‘triplet rhythm ‘. Note, I am not asking for an explanation of this specific example, but advice and recommendations on what to learn in general so that I can read this book with comprehension. I do not think that Marsalis’s objective was to metaphorically snatch the book from my hands and shout “No jazz for you!” , which is why I’m trying to learn what I need to in order to understand what he’s talking about. I thank you all for reading this far, and look forward to your suggestions.