November 2013 Archives

by Julian Gerstin

Julian Gerstin, Ph.D. is an ethnomusicologist and percussionist specializing in music of Africa and the Caribbean. He has taught at Wesleyan University, Clark University, Marlboro College, and is currently at Keene State College. At the Vermont Jazz Center, Julian co-leads the Latin Jazz Ensemble with Eugene Uman, runs an ensemble in the Summer Jazz Workshop, and serves on the Grants Committee and as President of the Board. Julian Gerstin's percussive explorations have led him from the folk traditions of Ghana and Cuba to popular music from Nigeria to Brazil, as well as jazz styles from New Orleans brass bands to avant-garde experimentalism. He currently appears with the Caribbean/Mideastern jazz group As Yet Quintet, Afrocuban dance ensemble Grupo Palo Santo, cajun band Lil' Orphans (on washboard!), Brattleboro's Brass Band Project, and accompanies the Brattleboro Women's Chorus, River Singers, and others. Julian's scholarly interests took him to Martinique in 1993-95 and his articles on Martinican music traditions have appeared in several journals and books.

Manuel Valera, piano and keyboards, Joel Frahm, saxophones, John Benitez, bass, Joel, Mateo, drum set, Mauricio Herrera, congas.

In the mid-1980s and 1990s many jazz critics and fans were worried about the future. Where was the music going? What was left to discover? Like twelve-tone music in the classical field, free jazz seemed to have taken things as far as they could go conceptually, and lost the popular audience. That audience had flocked to jazz fusion for awhile, but many critics and serious fans hated the style. Wynton Marsalis and his crowd had reacted against both free jazz and fusion with "neo-conservatism," reaching back to the glories of swing and bebop to create a postmodern pastiche. Marsalis's music always sounded honest, his own, but it did not lead many other musicians towards new directions. A couple of other populist reactions hovered at the edges for a few years: the swing revival, and acid jazz. Neither lived up to its hype.

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