Skip to comments.Annette John-Hall: New Name or No, Jazz is in Trouble (Renaming Jazz)
Posted on 03/08/2012 11:25:10 AM PST by nickcarraway
It's lunchtime in East Mount Airy, and pianist Orrin Evans is working on a killer salad complete with boiled eggs, nuts, and colorful produce - a garden bounty. Healthy eating keeps his blood pressure down, Evans says.
So I'm guessing I'm not helping much when I bring up Evans' life's work, the African American classical music he is passionate about - jazz.
See, these days, just uttering the word jazz is bound to get some people's pressure up. That's because Evans, 36, along with a small group of multiracial, multigenerational artists led by New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton, want to deep-six jazz - the name, not the art form - and resurrect it as Black American Music (BAM).
Why? Because "jazz died in 1959," blogged Payton last year. "Jazz was a limited idea. . . . Jazz is only cool if you don't actually play it for a living. Jazz musicians have accepted the idea that it's OK to be poor."
Ask any musician why they advocate BAM, and the reasons are as varied as a Sonny Rollins solo.
"The fact people find an acknowledgment of black music hard to swallow says a lot," says Ben Wolfe, a white bassist who is one of Evans' closest friends. "The music I play is black American music. It's something to celebrate.
"Why isn't that good news?"
The musicians pretty much agree that marketers have managed to hijack the name to define music that is anything but jazz.
Try Common, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu headlining at the Heineken Jazz Festival a few years ago.
"You've made it so I can't even get a gig at my own festival," Evans argues. "You've polluted my term, so why not drop the term?"
Jazz. BAM. In many ways, preference breaks along generational lines.
"I think there needs to be more discussion," says longtime Philly saxophonist and educator Tony Williams, 80. "I'm very comfortable with the name jazz, and I don't think changing the name is going to make a difference.
"I love Orrin, but I think he may be a little impetuous."
Evans says that when it comes to keeping the music alive, there's little time to waste.
He has always been proactive in engineering his own career. Whether it was teaching at Germantown Friends or playing free jam sessions at the local club, part of Evans' mission is getting his music to the masses. His Twitter and Facebook accounts serve as his personal publicists.
But despite all that he does to promote himself and his music, African American faces are still largely absent from his gigs. And that is Evans' greatest frustration.
"I love black people, and I want them to be exposed to the music," says Evans, the youngest son of opera singer Frances Gooding Evans and playwright Donald T. Evans. "But the music isn't marketing to us. In the last 20 years, I'd like to count the number of jazz musicians that have been on the cover of Ebony. Or Jet. Or Essence, if they're supposed to be reference points to what is hip."
Renaming jazz BAM would draw the desired audience, he says. "If it's about us, we'll check it out."
That kind of rationale doesn't ring so true to saxophonist Lovett Hines, 68, the Clef Club's director of education. Sure, African Americans created the form, but jazz evolved to include many stellar white musicians who contributed mightily: Benny Goodman (who paved the way for Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson), Stan Getz, Bill Evans.
"If you leave them out, you're not telling the full picture," Hines says. "Integration allowed the music to develop."
As a lover of the music, I'll say one thing: Jazz, BAM, or whatever you want to call it, is dying a slow death. Whenever I hear about another jazz-studies program slashed or yet another jazz club shuttered, I wonder what will become of the priceless gift my parents gave me.
The renaissance should come from revival, not name change.
"Beethoven is not interchangeable with anything else," Hines says. "Charlie Parker shouldn't be, either."
Yes, but you couldn't post it or repeat it in public.
I wonder if they might want to rename the blues as the blacks? The blues are largely dieing along with jazz.
Heck, if it works on those we could campaign to rename rap as crap...truth in advertising.
My favorite jazz guy is Frank Zappa, it ain’t black music.
Truth is, the finest jazz contributors were white, dating back to Bix. How about Desmond, Konitz, Kenton, Pepper, Shank, Sheldon, Ferguson, Mulligan, Baker, Evans, Charlop, Woods, Getz, Cohn, Brubeck, Hamilton, Vache, Daniels, Zoot, Pass, Martino, DiFrancesco.....and on and on. These guys took the art form way beyond its primitive beginnings.
Wow. Really? The finest? All white guys?
Truth is, maybe 2 or 3 of the guys you mention above have had a lasting impact on the language of jazz. Our lists overlap a bit in that regard.
But to have a list of the finest jazz contributors and not even mention Monk, Diz, Bird, Satchmo, Cannonball, the Trane, Kenny Burrell, Ellington, Basie ... should I go on?
Wes in his orginal organ trio, and Nat in his trio. Just great music.
The original Pat Metheny Group was what got me into Jazz as a teenager....their “White Album” from 1977, is still the finest true blend of rock and jazz. Pat and Lyle were just amazing in how they could take their influences, Ornette Coleman and Bill Evans, and combine them into a more accessible rock-like sound, with Mark Egan’s Jaco-like bass playing. I never get tired of playing that album.
When I listen to Benny Goodman’s earliest recordings of solos (say, 1926-32), I notice his style is really all his own. He doesn’t sound like Bechet, Dodds, Noone, or any black clarinetist I know of. And he seems to stand out from the styles of other then-contemporary white clarinetists like Russell and Teschemacher. It always seems like Goodman is rather short-shrifted in the ‘history of jazz’ discussions, with the whole emphasis always diverted to his eventual band using some Henderson arrangements.
Your discussion of the technologies is kind of lost on me. The music is not the same as the instruments on which it is played, or recorded.
This is smoky bar discussion (oh, no smoking in bars anymore), and I’m sure I’d enjoy this discussion with you and dfwgator.
I won’t even pretend that I’mn not seriously opinionated on this topic, and would argue passionately. My opinions are not fly by night, I studied jazz guitar/jazz perfornmance for better than a decade with a private teacher (as an adult while working full time in a non musical job). But I listen pretty good as well.
Of course, I put those studies to great use, now playing the telecaster and mandolin in a twangy rock n roll outfit.
Jazz is the “baseball” of music....it’s the one form of music people can talk about and argue over for hours on end.
Let’s call it Black American Music.....Developed in White America. Makes as much sense.
Saw Pat perform that record while a junior in college touring with Lyle. Put his acoustic up a stand so he could rake those harmonics without dropping his electric.
Mind blowing concert experience.
Still gets regular play in my world as well.
And of course, anyone who suggests that Jim Hall is the world’s greatest jazz guitar player clearly has his head on straight. I might not say best ever, but I drove to NYC from Baltimore a number of years ago in advance of a blizzard to hang with Mr. Hall at the Blue Note.
Curiously, there were attempts to rename "jazz" virtually from the beginning. Some wanted to call Duke Ellington's music "African-American classical music." A contest in the 20s or 30s yielded "rhapsodoon," "peppa," "exilera," "Paradisa," and "glideola."
Pat’s also a big Wes guy as well. But what makes the PMG so special is Pat and Lyle...I’ve got Pat’s records he did with Brad Mehldau, he’s a great piano player and all, but he ain’t Lyle. Pat and Lyle are the Lennon and McCartney of instrumental music. And I wish Pat would stop with the trio and Orchestion stuff and get back to making records with Lyle.
Thank you, Ken Burns ...
I like to think of baseball as the jazz of sports, and jazz as the national parks of music ...
Nope -it is an AMERICAN art form. There were certainly black roots to it, but it the practitioners were of both European and African descent during it’s hay-day.
Nope -it is an AMERICAN art form. There were certainly black roots to it, but it the practitioners were of both European and African descent during its hay-day.
I would recommend reading a bit more jazz history.
Early Jazz by Gunther Schuller would be a great start.
Of course I don’t what era you consider to be jazz’s heyday.
“Jazz Music emerged as as a recognizable musical form around the turn of the 20the century. The roots of jazz, however, extend backward over several centuries. Jazz music represents the “synthesis of many cultural influences...that was achieved through the institution of slavery.” Jazz music combines elements of African music with elements of Western European music.”
Your post is short so I’m not sure quite what you are implying I missed here? From another web-site “As a musical language of communication, jazz is the first indigenous American style to affect music in the rest of the World.”
I believe both of these statements back up the simple point I made, which was that Jazz evolved in the US from multiple cultural influences, including the Black American experience.
As for Jazz history - well I’m not a professional musician - having explicitly chosen to be an engineer instead of a Trumpet player. So the majority of my music education involved technicalities involved with playing classical music on the trumpet.
That being said - I listened to a fair amount of Jazz growing up in the 60s, and performed some of it while in school. I don’t claim to be an expert on music histor, just someone who enjoys the art form. From my own reading - and having listened to people like Al Hurt, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Harry James, etc. So I do mix the big-bands in with Jazz as far as what I enjoyed.. and to answer the basic question, to me the 30’s-early 50’s would maybe be Jazz’s hay-day.
When I play that first ODJB record on my Victrola (it’s a pretty common disc) as I was doing again not too many weeks ago, I can’t help but think how mind-blowing and downright ‘startling’ it must have been to folks in 1917, hearing it for the first time. Like it must have been something ‘from Mars.’ Quite a jarring step from the earlier ragtime-type stuff from “Six Brown Brothers” and whatnot that preceded it. Maybe a few folks who lived in New Orleans or who traveled on riverboats, listening to King Oliver and Sidney Bechet might have already been a little acclimatized to such fare, but I suspect over 99% of the folks out in the country were quite jarred.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.