A century on and the evolution of jazz continues to unfold. There will always be traditionalists and there will always be those who desire to walk the coals to find the next level of blowing. The intention of these weekly posts will not be to hold your hand through the chronology of jazz history, but to give you an idea of the many directions you can choose to go in the exploration of the myriad, complex, and curious forms that fall under the moniker of jazz.
Can you imagine sitting down in your easy chair, highball in hand, at 5 pm on a Friday and tuning in to a major network television station to watch a program about jazz? A serious program with an erudite host and a crack live studio band? Seems wildly unimaginable, doesn't it?
In 1958 NBC ran a 13-part series hosted by Gilbert Seldes, along with musical director Billy Taylor, titled The Subject Is Jazz. The half-hour segments provide a plethora of great players and performances (both older standards and newer cutting-edge compositions) over the course of the series, and it must have sent hardcore jazz fans into paroxysms of ecstasy.
The clip we present to you today was the last show of the series; it features the great George Russell as a guest. Mr. Russell offers some insight into his heady ideas on the Lydian Chromatic Concept (which ushered the development of modal jazz), and at the end of the interview segment he accurately predicts the advent of free jazz (or, at least, freer forms of jazz). Now, go ahead and refresh your drink; you've got some serious television to watch!