[Dixielandjazz] America - Losing the Jazz Battle?

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 6 06:36:55 PST 2005

>From another chat list:

Steve Barbone

America's Been Tough On The Jazzman  By Eric Pettine
Not only does he have to master his ax, isolate himself (to an extent) from
mainstream society to create in solitude, engage in often maddening
self-denial, but the jazzman is constantly judged by his creations on the
spot by his listening audience and as well as by his peers. Most doctors and
lawyers don't have to endure that kind of intense scrutiny. Popular
professional sports figures maybe endure that public pickiness for a season
but get paid more in one season than most jazzmen will receive in a
lifetime. Even in his own field, a jazzman must accept the fact that a
rapper has to spew only rhythm and rhyme to make mega-moolah.
Consider The ³Language² Barrier. Although the average jazz listener doesn't
have to theoretically comprehend harmonic extentions/complex chordal
voicings or modal melodies to enjoy jazz music, he/she usually
unconsciously, savors those sounds that are so prevalent throughout the
³language² of jazz. The jazz ³language/sound² even found it's way into the
best of mainstream contemporary music (Beatles, Beach Boys [Brian Wilson],
Burt Bacharach, Steely Dan, et al) last century. However, with today's
modern ³pop² music being so ³dumbed-down² and so devoid of those jazzy
chords/voicings and modalities - in any/most current popular music genres -
society's collective musical ³ears² have either forgotten or never
experienced the ³jazz sound². Record and radio companies who focused/focus
on ³formula as finance² should perhaps bear the greatest amount of guilt for
Consider Our Attention Span. It's difficult for most people to pull
themselves away from that hyperkinetic/hypnotic flick they've just rented,
that pro/college/amateur football game they're rooting for and/or betting
on, the online poker game that's pecking at their last chip or that
Playstation ³T² or ³M² rated game in which they're virtually vicariously
victorious. These folks, it seems, are not willing or much less likely to
check out Nancy Wilson, Cassandra Wilson, Bill Evans, Bill Frisell or the
local jazz cats on a Friday/Saturday night or Sunday afternoon anymore. For
many Americans maybe jazz just isn't wiggy enough.
Consider This ³Idol² Business. Only in America, it seems, would we have a
hit TV show entitled ³American Idol². Maybe it's asking too much for a
series called American Talent which could showcase the vocally and
instrumentally gifted performing original (jazz or other stylistic)
compositions rather than feature a plethora of karaoke king and queen
wannabes. If idol equals image and image equals icon (in the most pejorative
sense of the word) as it does so prevalently throughout the US, the fate of
the jazzman in this country is in serious trouble. We know that Miles made
various funky fashion statements throughout his career, Dizzy had the
coolest looking chops around, and Coltrane was Cosmic, but, in the end it
was what came from their horns, heads and hearts that will be remembered
miles beyond. 
Consider our Lacking Cultural Pride. It's been said that America's been
great at inventing and reinventing itself and from a technological
standpoint who can argue? We are the models of mass-materialism and the
masters of massiveness. Jazz is an American invention that has stood the
test of time and like other popular American inventions namely baseball,
football and basketball, it should be held in high esteem and perpetually
and popularly celebrated. Maybe not so ironically jazz is and has been
lauded consistently in a very big way in Europe (especially in Scandinavia,
Germany, Austria and France) where the people have always cultivated
culture. Saxophonist Dave Leibman in his article entitled ³Europe - Its Role
In Jazz² says that George Wein (founder of the Newport and JVC Jazz
Festivals) once told him: ³If it weren't for Europe, there would be no
jazz!² America's a tough crowd indeed.
Consider Jazz' Future. It seems jazz is no longer solely America's music.
Mike Zwerin, noted jazz critic and author states that, ³the future of the
music (jazz) is growing out more than up...it is getting everywhere. There
appear to be no more Coltranes on the horizon ... on the other hand you can
now go to just about any city in the developed world and hear a world-class
rhythm section.² It would make sense that, jazz in the truest sense of the
word‹as a creative, improvisational and personal and high art form‹would
flourish overseas rather than in an America seemingly infatuated with a
³fix² rather than a foundation. The European people, by and large, know how
to enjoy jazz and each other's company better than we Americans do. The cafe
is still THE place for great jazz and conversation. However, it's difficult
to imagine jazz cafes springing up in the ubiquitous strip malls across
America, although, there's always the possibility of reinvention.

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