Has someone imposed a speed limit on jazz?

Last night, I went to the Wednesday night jazz concert series at the Sacramento waterfront. I must say that there's nothing so pleasing as a ride down the American River bicycle trail and into Old Sac to see a modern jazz great at a small, open-air venue. Last night, it was the Charlie Hunter trio on hand.

Granted, Charlie Hunter is a phenomenal guitarist of supremely developed skill. However, as I was listening to the music, I noticed something that has nagged at me for some time. That is, I found the music to be rather uninspiring, as if set on cruise control. I kept wondering, as I do often, if someone has imposed a speed limit on jazz? Or for that matter, on a lot of artistic expression of late?

As I listened Charlie Hunter and his gifted drummer and sax player trade off the spotlight, and each wade through a somewhat syrupy display of unemotional playing, I just kept thinking of what it might sound like with Al DiMeola, Sonny Rollins, and Jack DeJohnette up their in place of these three. Not that those jazz legends are even my favorites at their respective instruments. It's just that they always pushed the music.

Am I simply confused because jazz is a misnomer for today's music? Because I see something similar in art, and in language as well. It's as though artistic expression has become an exercise in puzzle assembly, where a palatable end is defined even before the process begins. I mean, 30 years after Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, do we honestly believe that White Stripes--as a reconstitution of both--stands at the front of the current revolution in rock? Or that Joshua Redman and Dave Koz have sparked a new view of the sax in the way that Lance Armstrong has forced other riders to explore new training methods for professional cycling?

I'm not posting this in order to bash anyone. Rather, I just wanted to share my thoughts, and to get some feedback from other members. Perhaps I'm missing something here. Or maybe we're truly seeing the limits of the expansion of the artistic balloon, and are waiting for it to explode once again. For me, it can't come soon enough.
I got exactly the same feeling when I saw Charlie Hunter live. I was really impressed by his technical ability, but I too thought that his playing lacked any kind of emotional depth.

There is no shortage of mind bending supremely challenging jazz happening right now. Jump in your car and take a trip to the Jazz House in Berkely next Monday night and catch the Claudia Quintet. They will be sure to please.

I thought that the West Coast Jazz scene was weak and you had to go to New York or Europe to get the good stuff. Not true at all. I'm finding you just have to dig deep to find out about the challenging fresh stuff. We have a really rich scene here, you just have to look hard or you could miss it.

Thank you so much for the suggestion. I will be out of town next Monday, but I'll have to check the Jazz House schedule for future shows. I'm sure that with anything, you just have to dig a bit. So that's what I'll do!

Charlie Hunter reminds me of Stanley Jordan. Phenomenal chops but no soul!! By no means should an opinion of Jazz in general (which certainly has it's problems) be based on this particular artist. BTW, where is Stanley now?
Has someone imposed a speed limit on jazz?

You might be on to something.

It may have all started in the Clint Eastwood movie The Enforcer. Specifically, when Harry Callahan and his new partner played by Tyne Daly are chasing a bad guy carrying a briefcase containing a bomb through the streets of San Francisco. Quick tempo top hats and rolling rhythms are playing as Tyne is running out of control down a steep hill while her unrestrained boobs are doing the Lombard Street Boogie.

From then on, I've perceived a slowdown in the pace of all newly composed jazz pieces. It could be that seeing their music represented on the big screen by Cagney's[?], Lacey's[?] bra-less dance was too much for them to bare. Heheh.
I suspect that these things go in cycles. Early Romanticism was an age of pyrotechnic-think Liszt and Paganinni. In jazz,the boppers-think Gillespie and Parker, pushed technique.

The speed limit is set by the technical ability of the players and how well rehearsed they are. A jazz ensamble will play standards they know faster than new things they are working on.

Much music is,or derives from,dance music and is related to heart beat speeds.
Check out Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey - no "speed limit", lots of soul, but they sometimes push the limit to the point where its hard to call it "music".

I've seen C.Hunter really push himself and the music, but I've also experienced the "cruise control" syndrome, as you put it. He plays a ton of shows, I guess you just have to catch the right one when he's "feelin it".

I would imagine they would be OK with taping the show. I have been to the Jazz House a bunch of times and have asked permission of the band each time to tape the show and they have always said OK.
Thanks, Mr. T. I'll have to check out that group.

I really didn't mean to single out/bash Charlie Hunter. I've seen him previously in a small club, and he was quite good. Maybe I just need to watch The Enforcer again. I cried so hard when Tyne took the bullets. To see Callahan get sentimental. Now THAT was art!
I too have seen Charlie Hunter and realy enjoyed the show.I think you must remember that the guy is playing both bass lines and guitar lines at the same time so it may be pert near impossible for him to burn like we may want him too.I don't think there are too many people playing the instrument he is playing.He is basicly the bass player and guitar player(organ sounding at times) in one man.I think there must be limitations for him in letting the music scorch the way we all may want him too.That being said i love the grooves he is able to lay down and i had fun listening to the funk as he played an incredible bass line and wonderful chord comping at the same time.First time i heard a cd by him i was certain there was a very good bass player playing and that the liner notes were wrong and i have been playing bass for 25 years.Now he is no jaco or mingus on the thing but i could never expect that nor did i.
There is a jazz fest that is in town this week "Berks Jazz Fest" and it alas is mostly smooth oriented(not all however thank goodness). I think the trend has to do with that darn comerciality appeal thing and that you just have to dig deeper like Ejlif said.It is still around and they are playing and scorching but you just have to find it.