Thursday, December 15, 2005

e - u - rup! e - u - rup! e - u - rup! (to the tune of "u - s -a! u - s - a!")

Stuart Nicholson does it again. "It" being singlehandedly creating a rift between the US and EU jazz scenes, vastly overstating its importance and oversimplifying the nature of each continent's music, thereby handily eliminating the myriad elements that prick holes in his argument (which you can get more of, as well as a taste of his Pitchfork-style reviewing).

At the root of Nicholoson's point, there's an odd conflation: the secessionist spirit of the 60s euro-free jazz guys is set against the staidness of the Marsalis era, even though both epochs are now very faded (and, obviously, didn't coincide at all). It's too easy to point out the flaws in Nicholson's arguments: the US progressives and avantists of the 80s and 90s and 00s, the Euro nothing-new-heres of all times, Django Rheinhardt rendering this whole debate moot before the Second World War was done, the ignorance of music outside the US-EU axis, etc. and so on. It used to be that Euro critics would look down upon their jazz-playing countrymen as inherently inferior to their American idols. Now we're supposed to believe that "Euros are inherently less hidebound" is a worthier line of thought. It's telling that in the Independant on Sunday article, the quotes from the musicians are far more nuanced, precise and interesting than the claims of the critics.

I'm discussing the first article mainly because cited in it, but barely discussed, is my man Alexi Tuomarila. Not someone I consider to be radically redefining jazz, but a really good musician nonetheless.