Well, Wynton is probably the single most controversial figure in jazz in the past 20 years. Before recently, I've never heard his music; not because I didn't want to, just because I didn't get a chance to. But he's been on my mind lately for a few reasons: 1. I saw the Ken Burns Jazz documentary which featured him a lot and read a funny editorial slamming it. I didn't agree with a lot of it, but it was still pretty funny. 2. I just finished reading Miles Davis' autobiography (highly recommended!) and he slams Wynton too, but it seemed more of a retaliation for feeling slighted by Wynton's comments. 3. My roommate bought a 7-disc live set of Wynton's band. Basically, it seems like this cat started real young and became huge because at that time (early 80s), there really was no acoustic jazz on the scene anymore. It had died. Somehow, Art Blakey's group was still around and Wynton was in that band. Some people feel he didn't really "pay his dues" because he got to the top so quickly, possibly before he really found his own voice and matured. I don't know, I have yet to hear his early material. Wynton shot himself in the foot when he vocalised his purist attitudes. He doesn't dig fusion or free jazz or any of that stuff. According to Miles Davis, this rhetoric included his music as well, especially since his 80s material had a big pop element. Wynton became the embodiment of jazz snobery. He has also been accused of racism, but I always question that claim. Maybe he's just very pro-black, and why shouldn't he be? After all... he's black, and jazz, especially the kind he plays, is black music. On the other hand, some in the black community have accused him of selling out and such. Miles laments his decision to perform European classical music. He also has held prominent positions in formal musical institutions. But, in the end, I never really care what anyone says. I used to really listen to what my favorite musicians had to say, but I discovered that their intimate knowledge of music has nothing to do with compatibility to my taste. Whether it's Mingus slamming rock music, R&B artists slamming jazz, jazz "purists," anti-prog punk... it's all quite silly to me. In his autobiography, Miles expresses dislike for a lot of Coltrane's musical decisions (while respecting his talent), free jazz, and most post-70s jazz. It was all quite surprising, but that's his opinions and that's it. So what about the music? Well, I'm finishing up the 3rd disc in Wynton's Live at the Village Vanguard box set. First of all, the band is great. It's a crisp, swinging rhythm section and a pleasure to listen to. These are just great musicians, and sound like they're having a lot of fun. There is some really great original material. Wynton did some concept album about American black history, and the titles of these songs seem like they're from that. They're full of energy and some sweet harmony, leaving room for the band to play. The covers are nice but not too impressive. They do fit in nicely mixed in with the original stuff and they make it sound their own, though they won't be ranking at the top performances of those songs any time soon in my book. Wynton's style is melodic and pleasant. He is aware of his audience and both his banter and his music are accessible. This conforms with his idea of a concert, which involves a good time and a friendly, sophisticated atmosphere (this is contrary to people like Mingus and Cecil Taylor who demanded full attention and open minds from their audiences). Basically, it's all very "safe." Wynton will not blow your mind, but he doesn't want to. He seems to want to play the music he likes well, and that is alright with me. While some are eager to raise him to the stature of the Greats, I personally would reserve that for those who were true groundbreakers, like Monk or Bird, who created their own musical language. Wynton's purist attitudes will prevent him from ever doing that. But not everything I listen to has to be mind-blowingly different and amazing. I love cats like Grant Green, Hank Mobley, and Freddie Hubbard who just do their thing so well. When I have the scratch, I'll pick up a copy of this box set for myself. I also want to get Hot House Flowers on CD and SACD. I also wonder what his classical performances sound like. Anyone hear any?