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ARSCLIST  April 2013

ARSCLIST April 2013

Subject:

Re: revisiting an old thread -- jazz anthologies

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 5 Apr 2013 06:41:28 -0400

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Hi Dave:

Wow, this new discussion is the ULTIMATE of historical revisionism and political correctness.

JAZZ or Jass, as has been known as a distinct music for over a century now, is definitely NOT just a 
"black" musical form. It's an amalgam of long-standing European scales and chords, march tempo and 
other elements, plus European instrumentation, combined with African rhythms and the same African 
elements that formed field chants and then the blues. Jazz and blues, especially in the early years, 
borrow liberally from each other, and continue to influence each other to this day.

Yes, the first practicianers of early jazz were mostly black and creole (which is in itself a "mutt" 
just like jazz is "mutt" music, which is what makes it so distinctly American, from a country of 
"mutts"). But almost immediately the music was embraced and mastered by white musicians. The first 
recordings were by white musicians if you count ODJB as the first band to record. Most of what Cary 
and I were complaining about, ignoring the Hot-Jazz Revival musicians and ignoring Latin-jazz stems 
from racial politics. Injecting new racial politics into the study of jazz would be a big mistake.

I can't understand why people just can't embrace the whole spectrum of jazz and celebrate it as 
AMERICAN music, the "mutt" that is in, the product of a "mutt" country. We should all strut the 
mutt, as our local dog shelter says on its banners. More importantly, appreciation of those who were 
great jazz musicians and those who moved the music in new directions shouldn't depend on their skin 
color. Jazz is one of those areas that, from early in its history, it was a meritocracy. It broke 
down silly and arbitrary skin-color barriers (aside from the fact that mixed-race bands existed from 
the early times forward, anyone can study the lives of folks like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, 
Benny Goodman, John Hammond, Norman Granz or Fletcher Henderson and form the same conclusions). 
Leave it to the PC crowd today to re-erect barriers!

As for slicing and dicing jazz into "micro-categories" -- why??? The beauty of the music is that it 
ebbs and flows in so many directions, it's massive and varied like the country of its birth. I think 
there may be academic bones to be made (ie publishing rather than perishing) from slicing off tiny 
sub-genres and writing too many words rather than letting the music speak for itself, but I see no 
other purpose to over-classify any type of music. That's the main beef about many of the 
well-known/well-regarded anthologies and the Burns documentary -- the definition was too narrow from 
the get-go. So why narrow things further?

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "David Lewis" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, April 05, 2013 2:29 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] revisiting an old thread -- jazz anthologies


>I note that in 2009 someone noted that "discussion of jazz is finally
> coming out from under the shadow of Ken Burns' 'Jazz.'" One direction the
> discussion is now taking is the idea that the word
> 'jazz' itself is inappropriate to identify the central core of the music,
> as it is shackled to a milieu of colonialism and slavery. The term "Black
> American Music," or BAM, or #BAM has been suggested
> as an alternative by trumpeter Nicholas Payton, who cites that musicians
> such as Duke Ellington disliked the term "jazz" and Louis Armstrong stated
> that in New Orleans in the early days the term
> was not used.
>
> I've met Nicholas Payton, a long time ago, and I liked him very much
> personally. But even he has said that he is not the same person that he was
> 15 years ago when we met, and in all fairness, neither am I.
> I will not link directly to his manifesto of thinking on this topic because
> I think the foul language and content of the piece would tend only to
> enrage many of the people here. Below my sig I have a link to a
> (mostly negative) article about it, which does contain a further link
> to Payton's statement, for those who dare. You've been warned.
>
> I do understand how such a designation, or one like it, might help to
> separate out the desirable core from music that was either already around,
> or also evolving, circa 1916-22 that is either distantly,
> or not, related to it, all of which is called "jazz" in historical
> advertising and other sources. But if you look at its history, what we
> commonly call jazz covers a lot of territory that develops swiftly and
> overlaps.
> In just the years 1945-50 alone, we have bebop, progressive, the decline of
> swing, sweet things like Marjorie Hughes vocal on Frankie Carle's "Oh! What
> it Seemed to Be," Buddy Clark's last recordings,
> Frank Sinatra's first solo outings, the rise of Latin Jazz. All different
> things -- some may say Marjorie Hughes doesn't fit, but what she did is not
> far off what we regard as jazz singing from other singers
> who have reputations for that sort of thing. So you take BAM out of that,
> and all of the other stuff goes flying off into other directions
> category-wise. And there's a bit of a problem in separating the
> Latin Jazz and the bebop, as they are clearly related in this period. And
> most listeners at the time couldn't tell the difference between bebop and
> progressive; it was all modern jazz, and many people then hated it.
> Which brings up the question as to how important historically derived
> categories are; it appears that we adopt some and reject others with no
> traceable lineage as to why we determine that some are not
> useful.
>
> So my main question is; are we all ready to redesignate such individual,
> past styles into microcategories, much as has been done with popular music
> of the last two decades? I do not know the difference
> between Darkwave, Screamo or Slowcore, but they are all out there and are
> recent. If we have to develop new authorities, who's going to make the
> call? Are there folks on this list who already have devised such
> smaller categories in their own systems? I can see at the library/archival
> level where the idea might be desirable. But I do not see how we would rid
> ourselves of the word 'jazz" in regard to the past,
> and I can't say that getting rid of it altogether because "it is holding on
> to an oppressive idea" is reason enough. If you want to be rid of it in
> regard to what you are playing now, then I guess I don't
> have a problem with that.
>
> http://blogs.phillymag.com/the_philly_post/2012/01/10/call-jazz-call-black-american-music/
>
> Uncle Dave Lewis
> Lebanon, OH
> 

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