Archives for July 2014

MUSINGS IN Cb: Jazz Doesn’t Need to be “Saved”

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MUSINGS IN Cb: Jazz Doesn’t Need to be “Saved" 

Since I have lived long enough now to have succeeding generations following mine, I have come to the conclusions that ”Jazz“ does not need to be; nor, has it ever needed to be, "saved” by the youngest among us. 

Arguably, “Jazz” music, as a musical art form, has not seen anything new in the mainstream since the innovations of John Coltrane (1959), and Charlie Parker (1939) before him.  Giving consideration to this fact, one could easily conclude that “Jazz” music is stagnant or dying.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

During the contemporary times of Coltrane and Parker, both were easily considered non-traditional by the musical standards of popular society in each of their day. And, contrary to most information, “swing” and “dance” music was not what these two innovators created.  They were not “pop” musicians like “Nat Cole” (Coltrane) or “Glenn Miller” (Parker) who played swing “music that people could dance to”.

Both, Cole and Miller were wealthy and likely millionaires. It is reported that Miller was making $20,000 a week when he voluntarily joined the Army Air Corps to serve our country during World War II.  I have never found evidence of Parker and/or Coltrane having been well off financially in context.  But, this is not anything shocking because “pop” music that appeals to the masses is generally always more financially prolific than the musical art that requires a different level of engagement by listeners.  

Not good or bad, just how it is …

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Some “Jazz” musical artists (including the great, Miles Davis) borrowed from the “pop” music of the 1950s and 1960s to usher in the electronic instrumental contributions of the 1970s and beyond.

Just because some “Jazz” today (like Robert Glasper) borrows from “Hip Hop” (a “pop” music development started in NYC during the 1970s), which is likely the most influential music among the youngest generations today, does not necessarily point to a major paradigm shift in the music.

To portend that “Jazz” needs to be saved because it doesn’t sell as many records as Jay-Z, sell out concerts like Lady Gaga, or otherwise resemble “pop” music for the masses; is, well, ridiculous hyperbole …

In recent decades there has been a misplaced infatuation with youth that some writers engage in with respect to each generation performing the music we call, “Jazz” – The young artists will “save” jazz, blah blah blah … it was the “young lions” moniker during my generation … it’s all just blah blah blah to “sell” their publications at worst, or perhaps even lame attempts to “hype” the music at best. I say stop because it is more harmful than good.

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What we might learn from each generation is that there are those among us who are not following the beaten path that may be popular with everybody else. They are extending the traditions of the music gorgeously, rather than putting a dress on a cute pig and trying to pass it off as the belle of the ball.

Too many “Jazz” people missed innovators like, Andrew Hill.

And, too many “Jazz” people overlook today’s true innovators because their music is often too difficult for the masses to digest in 3 minutes and 20 seconds … Same thing that Parker and Coltrane faced in their respective lives and times.

“Jazz” doesn’t need to be “saved” … “fans” simply need to pay attention!

Peace, Cb