One of the big trends of today is a return to the bebop and post bop roots of modern jazz. This movement is often referred to as neoclassicism. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his brother, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, have achieved much popular success playing music that is based on styles of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The best of this group of young musicians, including the Marsalises and their rhythm sections of Kenny Kirkland or Marcus Roberts on piano, Bob Hurst on bass, and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, manage to extend the art through new approaches to melodicism, harmony, rhythm, and form, rather than just recreate the music of past masters.
An exciting development since the mid 1980’s has been a collective of musicians that refers to its music as M-Base. There seems to be some disagreement, even among its members, as to what this means exactly, but the music is characterized by angular melodic lines played over complex funky beats with unusual rhythmic twists. This movement is led by saxophonists Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, and Gary Thomas, trumpet player Graham Haynes, trombonist Robin Eubanks, bass player Anthony Cox, and drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith.
Many other musicians are making strong music in the modern tradition. Among musicians already mentioned, there are Ornette Coleman, David Murray, Joe Henderson, Dewey Redman, Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, Tony Williams, and Jack DeJohnette. Others include saxophonists Phil Woods, Frank Morgan, Bobby Watson, Tim Berne, John Zorn, Chico Freeman, Courtney Pine, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano, Bob Berg, and Jerry Bergonzi; clarinetists Don Byron and Eddie Daniels; trumpet players Tom Harrell, Marcus Belgrave, and Arturo Sanduval; trombonists Steve Turre and Ray Anderson; pianists Geri Allen, Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Barron, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Eduard Simon, Renee Rosnes, and Marilyn Crispell; guitarists John Scofield, Bill Frisell, and Kevin Eubanks; vibraphonist Gary Burton; bassists Niels-Henning Oersted Pedersen and Lonnie Plaxico; and vocalists Bobby McFerrin and Cassandra Wilson. This is by no means a complete list, and you are encouraged to listen to as many musicians as possible to increase your awareness and appreciation for different styles.