JAZZ: Scott DeVeaux, W.W. Norton & Company


Connecting to rock and pop, I mean we're in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Dave Matthews Band got its launch here and is headquartered here - can you comment a little bit on some of the jazzy sounds you hear in the Dave Matthews Band?

Yeah, well the Dave Matthews Band was actually quite interesting because LeRoi Moore, who actually passed away last year, was actually a member of, you know, he was a Charlottesville native and he was part of our jazz community and in fact he was part of the group of musicians I brought into class every semester, in the History of Jazz class. LeRoi was for a time the tenor saxophonist. Of course, he discovered Dave Matthews and suddenly went off and became a huge rock celebrity, which really startled me because I knew him from gigs and weddings and things like that around Charlottesville.

But yes there is this boundary line between jazz and rock that is quite permeable, which means that there are rock acts that have a jazzy sound, which is what I would say the Dave Matthews Band has and in fact they did in performance, they had a sense in which not only LeRoi, but also Carter Beauford is someone whom we also played with – I played with him less often but still enough that I'm still kind of, still kind of absorbing the fact that he's a rock celebrity more than a local jazz guy – but they knew how to work together and they knew how to create that jazz atmosphere in their recordings.

But that whole sense of permeability is something that I'm very interested in. It's really part of what I call the whole jam band scene, which is to . . . a lot of rock musicians like the idea of these improvising rock groups. And there is on the jazz side of things groups that I think a lot of jazz people would say, "That sounds too rock- oriented for me," but a lot of other people say, "No, this in fact is part of really where jazz is today." Medeski, Martin & Wood, for example, is a good example of that kind of thing. A group that sort of started on the road and built up its reputation going from gig to gig on college campuses and finding ways of relating to audiences that were there – produced a kind of music that we still recognize as jazz but that is on that boundary line.

And as I say in the textbook, there is a sense in which that boundary line exists – just on the other side of it is the group Phish, you know, which disbanded a couple of years ago but which was on the rock side of things and, of course, because it was on the rock side of things – it had guitars and vocalists and things like that – you know, had an audience a hundred times the size of Medeski, Martin & Wood. But that particular boundary line is very difficult to figure out – people go out and hear groups – and I just have – and say, "Is this jazz?" And I have to say, "I don't know. You tell me. I don't know whether that particular mixture would work for me," and sometimes they bring together things and I say, "No, that's not jazz, I don't think that would work." And other times I say, "Yeah, go ahead and use that." John Durth here, for example, is involved with a lot of groups that can be like that if he wants to be. You know, there are any numbers of ways that musicians can flow across that boundary line as they, as they see fit, and that is something that, you know, you just have to respect. You trust the musicians and you know how good they are and you know how much they know about jazz, and if they want to cross across that boundary line then that in some ways creates the boundary for what we think of as jazz.