Thanks to purveyors of straight ahead jazz, we have for decades been able to enjoy a special blend of rhythms born from great musicians who crossed The Jazz Bridge.
On one side of the bridge, we have Donald Byrd and his hard bop style on the album Byrd Jazz from the 1950’s. After crossing the bridge two decades later, a special blend album Places and Spaces.
Like many jazz artists who made the trip across the bridge one collection of fans deserted in their droves quickly replaced by a brand new audience for the Donald Byrd sound.
Not all jazz players were so lucky but Donald told me the slings and arrows of outrage from the fan base he left behind were well worth it. Rent needed to be paid and food put on the table but that aside he loved the musical challenge. Kool and the Gang would have played jazz if that blend of music paid the bills and I suspect there were lots of others too.
Miles Davis crossed the bridge with his electronic album Tutu produced by Marcus Miller. Had the Miles Davis traditional fan base not deserted their hero because of this radical change in style both Miles and Marcus agreed that the project would have been a failure.
A personal musical hero is Herbie Hancock. It would be difficult to find a musician more steeped in the music of pure straight-ahead jazz. Herbies’ played with list is a proper who’s who of Jazz. Dexter Gordon, Freddie Hubbard, Coleman Hawkins are just three which is perhaps why he described himself as a “jazz snob”.
That snob has crossed the jazz bridge more times than anyone I know. I cannot tell you what a thrill it was for this great man to stand by me in the DJ booth at Flicks in Dartford to see his music fill the dance floor. It is amazing what a vacoder can do and it is amazing what a full dance floor can do for the “jazz snob” who used it to full effect.
If your music collection includes Let The Music Play by Charles Earland and written by Randy Brass Construction Muller you may be surprised to know this is a major jazz artist who crossed the bridge. Earland, known as The Mighty Burner, got the very best from the Hammond Organ B-3 reckoned by some to be the original synthesizer. Self taught his inspiration came from working with organ great Jimmy McGriff. Playing sax in McGriff’s band Charles Earland said he looked at Jimmy McGriff and thought he was having more fun than he was.
It was not long before the Mighty Burner was playing his B-3 with Lou Donaldson and you cannot get more jazz than that. The jazz blend is best heard on Intergalactic Love Song from his 1976 Odyssey album. No organ but keyboards and synthesizers.
A little anorak fact. Charles Earland recorded an album using Grover Washington’s younger brother Darryl on drums and gave Grover his first recording experience playing sax on the Living Black album recorded live at The Key Club in Newark, New Jersey in 1970.
You may like to contribute an idea to a top ten of traditional jazz players you feel successfully crossed The Jazz Bridge.