Letters from our readers.
PROFILES IN COURAGE
Bravo to you for publishing Bruce Livesey’s cover story (“The Incredible True Story of Mr. Markarian,” Issue 35) on corporate abuse. I spent twenty years inside the investment industry and now dedicate my life to educating the Canadian public on predatory professional practices. Not only did Mr. Markarian show extreme courage by standing up to a billion-dollar bank—which can (and does) use money and legal tactics to bully customers—your magazine is one of the few left in Canada willing to publish truths like this.
Founder of investoradvocates.ca
Your spring issue had a headline that really rubbed me the wrong way: “When Canadian Jazz Was Good” (Issue 35). I’m sorry, did I miss something? At what point did Canadian jazz become bad?
The piece itself was quite a nice tribute to the late jazz guitarist Nelson Symonds. But was the story of his life not good enough on its own? Why Chantal Braganza felt the need to drop in a couple of negative paragraphs about the state of jazz music in Montreal is lost on me.
Here’s one of the most annoying sentences in the story: “Symonds stayed, but it was jazz that left the city.” Really? Where did it go? I see jazz every day of my life in this city. (I see it in Toronto and Ottawa too.) The scene has changed, sure. Jazz clubs in Montreal have certainly closed down since the time of Davis and Coltrane. That might mean there are fewer gigs for local musicians, but how does that take away from the stellar quality of the music they are making? It doesn’t. There is a very long list of talented musicians who make a decent living in this city. Some were born in Montreal, others moved here to start their careers. There are new inspired, motivated, talented musicians coming around continuously.
An article like yours does a disservice to an already under-appreciated genre of music. Step away from your desks and visit one of the clubs in town. Jazz in this country is still good, Maisonneuve.
As a young Montreal jazz fan I hung out at the now-legendary Black Bottom, where the house band included the amazing guitarist Nelson Symonds. Symonds was a local treasure. As I remember it, there wasn’t a night that the place wasn’t packed with local jazz fans and visitors who came to hear him. At the time I doubt that many of them realized how far his reputation extended, at least among the hipper jazz fans and musicians. When I met McCoy Tyner for the first time in 1976, he asked me where I was from, and when I said, “Montreal,” all he said in reply was “Nelson Symonds.”
MUSIC HISTORY 101
I have to take exception with two claims that you make in “What is an Album, Anyway?” (March 21, 2010, maisonneuve.org). You argue that the fact that the LP allowed a unified collection of songs was only “an accidental side effect of its primary role: the album as ‘commerce.’” You also say: “when the LP first arrived, most bands and artists tackled it as a commercial product—we can get people to buy ten songs instead of just one!” This just is not true.
The impetus behind the development of the LP was classical music, which frequently has songs that are twenty minutes or longer. The 78 rpm “singles” at the time were only capable of containing four to five minutes of music per side. Classical music listeners were understandably annoyed by having to flip over and/or change the record five times just to hear one song from beginning to end. The development of the LP allowed twenty to thirty minutes of uninterrupted music to be recorded per side. Now the classical music fan could listen to a song in its entirety with no interruptions.
In addition, jazz artists realized that the LP’s longer running time would allow them to record versions of their songs that more closely resembled how the songs were played live. In a live setting, each musician in a jazz combo can solo for two to five minutes, and sometimes for much longer. Multiply that time by three or four musicians and one song can last eight minutes or more; much too long to squeeze onto a side of a 78 rpm. The LP allowed the jazz artists to “stretch out” and play more naturally.
Much like the current quest to squeeze more and more computer data into a given physical space, the LP was the result of a quest to squeeze more and more musical information into a given physical space. The reason for this was not primarily commercial; rather, it was a matter of efficiency, convenience and a more pleasing musical experience for the listener.
—Bob Stewart (online)