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Excellent Article Greg.
"Blaming the word "jazz" for the current sad state of the music, in terms of cultural relevance to most Americans, is ridiculous. Mr. Payton stated, in the panel discussion at Birdland, that the image the word jazz portrays is, to most people, of a drug-induced, negative stereotype of a musician (along with other negative attributes). I assume he bases this image from the reference point of the 1940s/'50s/'60s, when heroin ravaged many of our great talents."
Right and right.. It's not the word that caused people to not follow it like we had hoped to the degree of popular music, it's rock, other forms of music that showed up which interested people more, and which require less of a cerebral understanding to appreciate that jumped in front.
As for stereotyping the musicians. It's pretty obvious that jazz musicians are understood to be of very high intellect and admired greatly, no longer doing drugs. Payton knows that too. I have a feeling he threw that in to get as many negatives to say as possible in his argument perhaps.
I think it's sad that people still attempt to compartmentalise music within racial boundaries. All sides have valid arguments, and at the same time some very poor arguments, but calling it Black American Music surely does blacks and non-blacks a massive disservice.
As a saxophonist am I not allowed to embrace, play or simply just enjoy the music of Dexter Gordon, Coltrane or Washington Jnr? Or as a non-black (and non-white) do I have to just turn on to non-black players?
Also if we divide music by colour, are we now to remove the term 'African American' and allow the freer use of black?
Prior to bebop, jazz was dance and social music of the first order. For the people. This was a fundamental of the tradition. After WWII, jazz became more of an creative pursuit of discovery to satisfy the musician's hunger for modern expression, public be damned. While this is part of the tradition also, it now seemed to become the focus.
Not all jazz musicians were ready to buy into this new focus (bebop), and many went on to pioneer r&b, a continuation of the jazz tradition from the dance and social aspect. This is where the great divide begins.
R&B becomes the people's music, and "jazz" becomes a more formal art form. Ever since then, the public and the musicians can't really decide what jazz is. Unfortunately the view is more exclusive than inclusive, and jazz became a music for the initiated few.
Much of the new jazz that musicians want to play today is not well served by the name jazz, as it relates to public appeal. We have a strong body of work being made that combines bebop and r&b, both elements of the tradition, but the public does not identify this as jazz. This is a much more populous form of jazz, and they don't even know it exists, because they are confused by what they think jazz is.
Is it that hard to understand why some "jazz" musicians are looking to reconnect with a new audience? Jazz in 2012 is as much about groove as it ever was, and the greater public needs to know what they are missing out on. It is music for them.
I disagree with Mr.Payton and others who feel the name jazz has negative racial implications. I feel that the public has held jazz in the same lofty position of esteem as classical music for over a generation. It's time for people to rediscover that the music is for them again, not just for musicians. Can BAM do that? I'm out to lunch on it.
Nicely put Jeffrey Smith. Excellent.
Greg, what an eloquently written and hugely inspirational article-- especially your further thoughts on BAM and Nicholas Payton. It really shows character that you've so thoroughly broken down all the holes in his thinking, his lack of fact check, and exposing the fact that he's basically calling his own opinions fact. I was blown away by the depth of this article. You are one talented fellow. It would do NP some good to learn how to debate in a professional manner from now on, unlike the way he tried to personally attack you in his blog, which you have completely and utterly thrown back in his now very embarrassed face. I look forward to reading more.
Now, Mr Thomas, tell us how you really feel...I know too many talented, dedicated, responsible musicians who passionately embrace the label "jazz" to think too seriously about its detractors...in certain ways, the BAM "line" resembles the empty, inflammatory, obfuscatory language and tactics of the radical right. thanks for taking the time to respond in so righteous a manner.
Yes Chuck. Obfuscatory is a great word to use here. And if something is so difficult to explain even to those that are the fan base, that's a sign that something is wrong. Nobody disputes that it is Black American in it's origin. And it DOES need to have a title that can allow it to be identified among other forms of music that are also Black American. And furthermore when you feel that the original name has some great connotations to begin with, now what is the real problem here? Educate people more about the origins if that is the big insecurity here I say.. and move on. It's a beautiful music and people love it. People also love jazz musicians and respect them, admire them. Now what again is the problem? That society has not labelled the music with the racial identifier of it's creators? C'mon..
Dig, (good Miles tune 0n sweet gorgia brown) There our only two races in/on this world******* THE DECENT and THE INDECENT! see my article archived here at AAJ on white guys playing the blues-and Benny Goodman practicing in the nude. Hey, lighten up every one. Were (most of us) in this s**t together. Mort
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