[Dixielandjazz] Fairness and savvy marketers

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Fri Dec 19 22:12:22 PST 2003

Nancy Giffin wrote:

> OKOM purists may sit at home and listen to recordings of Louis and
> other
> greats, meanwhile looking down upon  (etc).

Nancy's post made a great deal of sense. Especially that short snippet

Neither Nancy nor I disrespect those who sit at home and listen to
Louis, Benny, Bix etc. Love that music all you want. On the other hand,
you are neither the bulk of the OKOM festival audience, not the bulk of
the audience for live music.

Louis, Benny and Bix are dead. They do not appear at Festivals. Their
music however, lives on records.

Those bands that pay tribute (EXCESSIVELY) to them are for the most part
trying to copy exactly, or are a poor approximation of the original. On
the other hand, those that play the music they played, without copying,
may have something to offer.

Louis, Benny and Bix have been copied to death  (no pun intended) and
the result is similar to that of the Elvis Impersonator. Good for a few
old folks for nostalgia purposes, but pretty boring musically.

Why? Because Louis Benny and Bix solved all the jazz problems of
technique, phrasing, and improvisation that were to be solved during
their time. What is to be gained trying to re-solve them by lesser
musos? There is, in fact, no further musical solution to the musical
forms they developed 70 years ago. (new then, old now) So Benny begets
Tony Scott, Buddy DeFranco, Eddie Daniels et al. We may not like them,
but that is of little import in the musical scheme of things.

There are those that adore B, L & B and will listen to nothing else?
That's fine. But they are not the jazz audience. They are just a few
people with individual likes. There is no festival that can succeed
targeting them as an audience because they are just about extinct. There
is no festival around that can present a "live" equivalent of Louis
Benny and Bix. Only DJs can do that and they say they hate DJs?

If we know about Ascona 2003, or JVC in NYC in 2003, we know that both
presented "Bix" themes. Ascona in total and JVC in part. Neither copied
Bix and in fact, JVC presented some pretty modern adaptations of Bix's
compositions. Ascona was wildly successful, JVC partly so because it is
a "modern jazz" festival. And, of course, many of us Bixophiles acted as
if the musicians had desecrated Bix's grave by modernizing his music.
But the Bix segment of the festival audience loved it, as did the well
respected musicians who performed  the adaptations.

One would have to think that Bix would have applauded the JVC musical
effort because if we know about Bix, we know that "experimental" is what
he was all about.

Bottom Line? No Traditional OKOM musicians today have the magnetism of
Louis, Benny or Bix. Partly because the finest jazz musicians of these
last few generations do not play much Traditional OKOM. Two reasons.

1. The musical problems of the genre were solved long ago and jazz
musicians generally do not keep replaying the same old stuff because it
gets very boring. (The two Louis's, Armstrong and Prima found a way
around this by fixating on the "entertainment" aspect of the
performance. Both were very fine, original, innovative New Orleans Jazz
musicians early on)

2. There is more money to be made playing other forms of jazz music.

And so, until we can make OKOM a little more interesting (or a little
more entertaining) as well as a paying proposition, the best jazz
musicians will play something else. Perfect examples are Nicholas Peyton
and Jon Erik Kellso. To survive, they solved the poverty aspect
differently. Nicholas has become a modern jazz player and Jon Erik tours
Europe with several different kinds of jazz bands. Either one is also
the finest OKOM trumpet player most of us on the list probably never


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