Like A Rock, Or, The Stationary Stones

Nate Chinen has a new column for JazzTimes, wherein he coins the term "mossy stone":

A mossy stone is a jazz adherent whose core stylistic allegiance is to the music pioneered in the 1940s, streamlined in the '50s and diversified in the '60s. This region of inquiry begins with bebop and ends with free jazz, cutting off at the early stirrings of fusion. Wynton Marsalis, once disparaged by critic Gene Santoro as a "latter-day moldy fig," actually fits this bill: Though vocal in his advocacy of swing and earlier jazz, he's a modernist at heart, as his own track record proves. (Listen again to his last few albums on Blue Note.) But you could despise Marsalis and still be a mossy stone. All it takes is a tacit understanding that jazz innovation peaked by about 1967, and that nothing of real, lasting value has changed in the music since.

It's something of a play on "moldy fig," a pejorative term from 50-plus years ago once used to categorize those who didn't accept Swing and later, bebop. But jazz traditionalism — some would say "conservatism" — has changed somewhat since then. Hence, a new phrase.

Everyone's favorite Hawaiian jazz critic didn't mean to disparage "mossy stones"; he points out his sympathies toward those lines of thinking, and his byline record proves it. As a framing device, Chinen talked with early-jazz conoisseur Michael Steinman of Jazz Lives, who responded here. Nate also amplified his thoughts at his own blog.

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