Friday, October 31, 2003

Jazz is international

Here is a transcript from a panel by the Jazz Journalists Association on how the international aspect of jazz is (or isn't) represented in North America, in festivals and magazines.

Andy Gilbert makes an interesting comment on the importance of local coverage (which I feel concerned by, as I sometimes feel like covering the Belgian scene is as effective as throwing bottles out to sea):

I think that in many ways the battle being fought for writers covering local scenes is to get those scenes covered. Being on the west coast, the media is so New York-centric. I grew up in Los Angeles and my mission was to get the word out about Horace Tapscott, Bobby Bradford, John Carter, and Vinny Golia [applause and some shouts of "Yeah" from the audience]. Drawing attention to these other great scenes and musicians is something I'd love to do, but I feel that, like many writers, I'm a partisan of the musical scene, the musicians I've watched develop.

Those were some of the edgier players. But there were mainstream players too, like Harold Land, Teddy Edwards, these amazing musicians who couldn't get any coverage, or even minimal coverage in the national magazines or in The New York Times. And that goes back 50 years. You know, I don't think that Art Pepper was ever on the cover of Downbeat during his life, or if he was it was only much later during his come-back. So it is like 'What battles are you going to fight?' Sort of being based in the Bay Area, the first one I'll fight for are the great musicians I see weekly who I feel should get more attention. Then, its try to open up and have this different idea of who is important and who the interesting musicians are.

Earlier on, there was talk of the ownership of jazz, with this sad anecdote recounted by Paul deBarros:

The last time I talked to Branford Marsalis, I had just come back from Turkey and I said 'Have you of this guy from Istanbul on Double Moon Records?' and he just went into a rant about how 'who are these people who think they can make innovations in a music that isn't part of their history and culture. How could they presume to do that?'

The irony, of course, is that while seeking to re-inforce the Afro-American claim on jazz, Marsalis rather fences himself in and expresses a very narrow view of what culture is and what capacities individuals as such (rather than only as off-shoots of a culture) possess. Taken to its extreme, he almost justifies the exclusion from classical music Blacks suffered for a long time.

A nice quote by Bill Smith:

There is always this proclamation 'jazz is dead, jazz is dead.' But what it really means is that the writer has come to the end of their ability to continue to listen to newer forms. We always used to laugh about people who were stuck in Benny Goodman, stuck in Woody Herman, Stan Kenton. They were frozen there, couldn't go on to the next one.

That sums it up nicely, for me: "the ability to listen to newer forms." I don't think not being able to get with the "latest thing" is anything to be embarassed about, but one must come up with criticism that sounds like something other than "I prefer the past."