When the Nets basketball team moved from New Jersey and set up shop in a hip new Brooklyn stadium a mile from my home, I felt a lifelong allegiance to my beloved Manhattan-based Knicks strained. I’m sticking, though I have to admit that I love the Nets’ attitude and style of play so far this season. They act tough and look slick in those black-and-white uniforms, like they belong in BK.
Of course, there’s long been jazz branded in Brooklyn that has, in so many creative ways, said “Yo.” Pianist Randy Weston’s autobiography documents a 1950s and ’60 heyday with flair. Christopher Felver’s wonderful documentary, “All the Notes,” about pianist Cecil Taylor, gives you a close-up of the Brooklyn tree that sways gently outside the window near Taylor’s piano, from which he’s drawn decades of inspiration. I contributed a chapter to the 2001 essay collection, “Brooklyn: A State of Mind,”detailing the 1980s jazz ferment in and around the Fort Greene neighborhood, which included the loose and innovative collective around saxophonist Steve Coleman’s ideas known as M-BASE—saxophonist Greg Osby, trumpeter Graham Haynes, singer Cassandra Wilson, among others, were in on that—and the tight-knit academy represented by the bands and the brownstone of singer Betty Carter.
So I read with great interest Matthew Kassel’s Village Voice piece on current Brooklyn jazz collectives and venues, which profiles among other scenes the developing one at bassist Matthew Garrison’s ShapeShifter Lab.
Kassell reports on a new story that is also a very old one:
a tight-knit group of motivated Brooklyn jazz musicians have created their own artistic infrastructure, borne of frustration and necessity, DIY to the bone. It’s a world in which gigs—always hard to come by—can be secured months in advance, where nascent ideas can be tested out and worked on and made better.