Jazz has a colorful and impressive past: from Dixieland to bebop and from cool jazz to free jazz, there is a rich history that rewards exploration. Modern jazz gets a bit more tricky and rests on the fundamental questions: should jazz artists respect the past or explore new directions? Then answer, as always, is to do both, but getting that balance right, as always, is hard.
The jazz wave after the 1960s had to contend with a more complex media environment, which is to say it had to compete with the ascendency of rock music. Herbie Hancock got his start with Miles Davis, took his jazz in a rock direction, and was successful enough to have two of the most two of the 100 jazz albums that shook the world, 1973’s “Head Hunter” and 1995’s “The New Standard,” which is a testament to Hancock’s longevity as well as his talent. YPC will always however remember Herbie Hancock for his MTV video “Rockit,” which was not like any other video. For that matter, Jean-Luc Ponty’s “Individual Choice,” which features a still intact New York World Trade Center, left a similar impression. Other artists who blended jazz with rock in the early 1970s include the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “Inner Mounting Flame” and Pat Metheny’s “Bright Size Life.” They’re worth a listen and represent that moment when jazz was trying to find its way in a changing musical eco-system, which remains just as vibrant and changeable today.