Jazz in the Space Age

Jazz in the space age is an album by George Russell recorded in 1960.

In his liner notes he envisions how jazz will be in the future:

The techniques are going to get more complex and it will be a challenge for the composer to master the techniques and yet preserve his intuitive approach and it will be a challenge to the improviser to master these techniques and also preserve the intuitive, earthy dignity of jazz.

Specifically, it’s going to be a pan-rhythmic, pan-tonal age. I think that jazz will by-pass atonality because jazz actually has roots in folk music, and folk music is scale-based music and atonality negates the scale. I think that jazz will be intensely chromatic, but you can be chromatic and not be atonal.

The answer seems to lie in pan-tonality. The basic folk nature of the scales is preserved and yet, because you can be in any number of tonalities at once and/or sequentially, it also creates a very chromatic kind of feeling, so that it’s sort of like being atonal with a
Big Bill Broonzy sound. YOU CAN RETAIN THE FUNK.

I have had this album for a long time but had never noticed those sentences because I was not ready to pay attention to them and also because I have a French edition of this album with liner notes translated in that language.

I ran into them again while reading How my heart sings by Peter Pettinger, a biography of Bill Evans, playing on that album.

When I read them, because of my interest for microtonal music, I thought what George Russell wrote 55 years ago could be easily applied to the recent developments of xenharmonic music with only a few changes. What would happen if we substitute “pan-tonal” with “micro-tonal”?

I consider my music, weird as it can be, some kind of microtonal folk music. At least some of it, my album Gammatar, for example and on my music catalog you can find music that could be filed under “microtonal jazz”.

So, who knows, in other 55 years the palette of musical pitches could be much wider than the one available nowadays and no one would need the label micro-tonal attached to his/her music.