"Some years ago William Tenn wrote a science-fiction short story entitled "The Custodian," in which a man, prior to the earth's destruction, gathered only what could fit into a small spaceship from all earth's cultural and artistic treasure. What to choose? Sometimes I have day-dreamed of myself in a similar role. What would I choose to save, what paintings, sculpture, poetry, music, etc. would I choose to represent each area of human artistry?"

Several months ago I wrote this paragraph at the beginning of a post in which I argued that to represent the essence of rock-and-roll I would flip a coin between the Rolling Stones Jumpin Jack Flash and (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction. I then tried to explain the success of the Stones. Link to post here. Hoping to start a series of posts, I challenged Farmer to name the Country song to put into the spaceship. Link to his response. He chose George Jones' He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Well, one thing led to another and to another and none of them led back to this series of questions about material for the spaceship. Till tonight. Below is my choice of the jazz recording to put into the spaceship, the one to represent the essence of jazz. (cont. below)

My choice: from 1961 a live recording (some say bootleg) done at the Village Vanguard of John Coltane (whose group conisted of McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison or Reggie Workman on bass) plus Eric Dolphy.

John Coltrane, genius on the saxophone, is in the mature and extremely productive phase of his career, and everyone on stage makes transendent music. I choose this recording because it exemplifies better than any other I know the creative pairings at the core of jazz: the individual/the group; and freedom/discipline.

When a lot of people think of jazz, they think of freedom and the individual--the liberating of individual talent in solo improvisation. Nobody did or does it better than Coltrane (with all due respect to Miles Davis and Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk). And he was on that night, not a false step, every note and every pause is perfect. The rest of the guys also seem inspired, as if we are getting to listen in to what God had in mind when He thought of jazz. But, the individual in this recording always celebrates his freedom in the context of the group. The discipline of the score--the written notes, the chords, the keys--always form the context of the solos giving a shape and structure within which the individual soloists create their personal music. Great jazz solos are personal expressions, but not individualistic indulgences. It is the chart, the song, that keeps the group together as they play. And they listen to each other, supporting and backing away as needed. Freedom and structure, freedom and discipline. Musicians stepping into and out of the spotlight. As the chart rolls on, musicians will express their individuality in solo, and in the way they support one another (listen to Elvin Jones). But they do this as part of the group: when the spotlight is not on them each works to make the others sound good. This is jazz.