Presidential politics and jazz: Show of hands

Google “Obama” and “jazz” and this Jazz Beyond Jazz post comes up second! The search engine flatters, so here’s more research on the connection/support of the jazz world for the candidates, and the candidates of jazz (as a fundamental American cultural phenomenon). 

This concert seems indicative of most jazz musicians’ preference:
(gen’l admission: $100; vip seats and post-show reception: $250; students/seniors, $50).
Comparable events last week in Cincinnati, Ohio and Oct. 12 in Kansas City MO, with Dick Gregory as keynote speaker on the occasion of his 76th birthday. This afternoon in Brooklyn, Jazz Passenger alto saxophonist/storyteller Roy Nathanson hosts a party at which attendees supporting Obama will call voters in swing-states, making the case. Further such jazz activism seems likely.
Not to be unfair to the other side: Google “McCain” and “jazz” and here’s the top relevant result.
Political Picture - John McCain
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  1. says

    It would be interesting to assemble a profile of the Bush/McCain jazz fan. There are such unfortunates—and not all listen to the music only up to 1946…when jazz got all “messed up.” Some even collect Blue Note reissues! Possibly McCain and his VP, Mrs. Moose-olini, don’t mind smooth jazz.
    HM: Among prominent GOP jazz fans, there’s Alan Greenspan who ushered in our current financial crisis under Mr. Bush (I don’t know his favorite era or artists), and his friend Leonard Garment, long ago a saxophonist with Woody Herman, chairman of the board of Brooklyn Academy of Music, currently a major supporter of the Jazz Museum in Harlem, the Special Counsel to Richard Nixon in the bad old days leading up to that president’s resignation. The late Tony Snow, Fox broadcaster and Bush press secretary, played jazz flute (mediocre but not outright bad, as per this video clip: Of course Lee Atwater, the pre-Rove Rove, played blues guitar. Which goes to show the music itself imposes no restrictions upon those who seek its blessings.
    I’ve been researching jazz in Arizona and in Alaska, and will report my findings when I’ve got some more.

  2. Michael J. West says

    As long as we’re talking about jazz fans, and jazz musicians who are Obama fans, I thought it’d be worth pointing out that Obama has reportedly a big jazz fan since middle school–of John Coltrane in particular. (And I’m pretty sure I saw him at a Jimmy McGriff show at Blues Alley a couple years back.) Not sure that means anything in particular, except the possibility of more visibility and perhaps funding for jazz programs.
    Also, Howard, not to argue with your note above that “the music itself imposes no restrictions upon those who seek its blessings,” but Lee Atwater played shitty blues guitar. At least, what little I’ve heard has been pretty terrible.
    Finally, because I’m shameless, I’ll point out that I come up seventh on the “obama jazz” Google search.
    HM: Great Mike — about yr Google position and blog posting. I never would have thought the unscrupulous Lee Atwater could actually play with any feeling that would affect me or most blues fans. It’s interesting that he wanted to appropriate the blues (and barbeque, and all the imagery — you know, he was behind the Red, Hot and Blue barbeque franchise); I imagine this as a ploy to attract votes on the most superficial level of identification without researching positions (i.e., getting people to vote against their self-interests). I do want to say though that under Dana Gioia’s administration (at the pleasure of Geo Bush, or with his lack of oversite) the NEA has done a lot to promote jazz masters. So jazz (and blues) can be a bi-partisan art form after all.
    but I love this quote: “If there’s anything I’m lacking in, I’ve got to tell you, it’s taste in music and art and other great things in life,” McCain told the Aspen Institute. I believe him and wonder what Palin’s position is on music and art.

  3. says

    There’s sooo much more to the art of expression than text, with a pic, and a ‘smooth jazz’ dig (again). Looksy here:
    Takin’ it Back with Barack Jack! (For Swing voters!!!)
    Beyond “Jazz”, I would say The Arts are expressing for Obama.
    Les Misbarack
    HM: Thanks Claude, and note I’m not smearing smooth jazz — if that’s what people like, hey. . . But “Takin’ it Back” is seriously amusing, especially as it’s Louis Jordan’s centennial year. High production values on Les Misbarack, but I’m not sure this link above is working.

  4. says

    For the record, HM, I like All jazz and most every form of instrumental music. And, to be fair, it was Richard who made the Smooth Jazz dig with “Possibly McCain and his VP, Mrs. Moose-olini, don’t mind smooth jazz”.
    When I bought my first jazz record, Dave Brubeck Take Five, in High School (’74), some said white jazz was’nt real jazz. When I got into fusion I was told that was’nt real jazz. Now, smooth jazz aint real jazz. Whatever! Its all jazz to me!!
    HM: I admire your breadth of enjoyment, Claude. I’m of the Ornette camp, being anti-label; they obscure more than enlighten. Even the great Duke made one distinction though — between good music and bad. My first Down Beat feature was an interview with Grover Washington Jr. just after Mr. Magic (if that counts as smooth or “Stolen Moments” or “Wakajawaka” (sp?) — well, probably not “Wakaja. . .) Consider every particular for its particularity. Is it possible to dismiss an entire genre? There are quite a lot of musical cliches associated with the smooth jazz marketing initiative (currently on the wane) that I dislike reflexively, hurry to turn off or get away from. Ever the student, I could find something, I s’pose, to listen to in the worst of it, as I could fusion or white jazz. Complexion’s not the issue, originality and vitality maybe.

  5. says

    Oh well, I have to confess Smooth Jazz did introduce me to the hidden pleasure of Sade. My first jazz records were Goodman and Ellington 78s! As my taste moved chronologically forward, I came to the fork in the road with bop going one way and rhythm ‘n blues the other. While bop and cool were the legit way to go, the whole King catalog from those days helped shape my hormone development—to the horror of white Mom and Dad. Talk of hidden pleasures, an old Earl Bostic ballad still will get me onto the dance floor. Come to think of it, how could Sarah Palin resist Bull Moose Jackson?

  6. DBrooks says

    I found this post, and couldn’t let it pass. First of all, I’ve always said that so-called “Smooth Jazz” is jazz for people who don’t like jazz. As for the interest in Bush/McCain jazz fans, well, I would certainly qualify as one. I own 8-10,000 recordings, with about 70% of them Jazz–everything from John Abercrombie to Louis Armstrong to Cannonball to Count Basie to Joanne Brackeen to Gary Burton to Coltrane to Chick Corea to Stanley Clarke to Larry Coryell to Miles, and so on through the alphabet. I don’t consider myself an “unfortunate” by any means. I hope you realize those comments reek of self-absorbed elitism. Conservatives don’t fit inside some tiny box of characteristics anymore than Progressives or Liberals do. It would benefit us all if we tried to accept the reality that there are plenty of educated, “evolved” individuals on both sides of the political divide, and that those individuals came to their particular set of principles and beliefs after just as much careful deliberation and sober reflection as those who hold views similar to our own. Anyway, I enjoy this site, but regret seeing it regress into the same tiresome political comments one sees everywhere. A great art form like Jazz belongs to all–not just to those on the Left.
    HM: Thanks for your comment DBrooks. I believe there are indeed smart and considerate people on many sides of the current political debates, and myself have not “regressed” in political commentary — I merely reported Google’s top hits for the candidates and “jazz” and reported also about jazz people’s evident support of Obama (which makes sense to me, since he is a candidate steeped in issues of urban American culture, from which comes jazz, and personally I believe he has demonstrated that he has a grasp of many of jazz’s inherent values — virtuosity, interactivity, respect for and knowledge of tradition as well as imperative towards innovation and progressive development of what we’ve discovered.
    McCain supporters are free to love jazz, but ought to realize that McCain doesn’t evidently have much interest in it or any of the arts, as far as I’ve been able to discover. He led the fight against the NEA in the ’80s. You may find McCain to be your candidate due to his positions on other issues — ok, we could debate those issues, but this blog is not the place to do so. I don’t think it’s wrong to bring up Lee Atwater, one of the most despicable games players of our political system pre-Rove, or identify Greenspan as a jazz fan, and ask how the beliefs and actions of these men square with their involvement with music that would seem to contradict or at least complicate their worldviews. I see no answers to that question, only the assertion that everybody can love jazz and blues. True enough, but that doesn’t mean all jazz lovers have to forge common cause with everybody who professes similar tastes and set aside our own perspectives on the culture at large.

  7. Joe Northway says

    Risking raining on the parade, some of the players featured in this concert for Senator Obama are not popular in the sense that there is real public demand for their music. As we all know, a lot of today’s high-profile Jazz artists and singers are somewhat forced on the Jazz recording and festival scene by people that want to make American jazz music more and more institutionalized and academically oriented. (a lot of no-talent, jive-ass Jazz educators owe their whole livelihoods to all these programs!) And the cd labels are entwined in all this too.
    A lot of government resources and money that could help the Americans in the way the Senator intends is wasted on propping up a lot of very uninteresting and underwhelming people (a lot of them not even musicians) with things like “Genius Grants”. And the Jazz recording scene is now loaded with gimmicks and “all-star” recordings where the players are thrown together and have little chemistry. This kind of “reverse commercialization” is responsible for a lot of bored Jazz fans at the gigs and a lot of cds that get listened two maybe ONCE all the way though, or not even. Its a shame, because the audience’s expectations are lowered and the vitality and rebellion that used to be what Jazz carried with it is getting lost in the process. The way that the Jazz scene is managed and run these days is not really in harmony with the vision that the Senator puts forth in his inspiring messages. Yeah, he seems to like Jazz a lot, and that’s very cool, but he’d be as bored as anybody else with most of the recordings and festivals that are clogging up the whole scene. No doubt this concert will have had a lot of built in napping opportunities. haha!
    HM: Johnny, you’ve raised a dozen points in this comment, most of which beg a more nuanced response than I’m gonna give here. I didn’t attend the jazz for Obama show in NYC, but from many ear-witness reports it was not boring — and a week after it I heard Dee Dee Bridgewater’s version of “Compared to What,” the concert’s finale, which I will attest was a thrill-raiser.
    I’ll add that although the MacArthur “genius” grants seem out of proportion to most jazz musicians’ incomes, many of the recipients (George Lewis, John Zorn, Ken Vandermark among the recent ones) have used their funds to seed activity beyond their own comforts, and Miguel Zenon, the most recent recipient, is a deft alto saxophonist with a mission that also reaches beyond his immediate personal benefit. If elected, Senator Obama will join a distinguished list of presidents (all Democrats, for one reason or another) who are attuned to jazz. I’m thinking of Clinton the saxophonist, Carter who hosted a historic jazz concert in the Rose Garden, and Kennedy who liked bossa nova.
    Full disclosure: I’m not undecided and I urge jazz beyond jazz listeners to strongly consider his assets as a thinking man who has broad interests in the welfare of American society and measured proposals well beyond the illogical, ideological, anti-Kensyan, quasi-religious perspectives and fear-mongering of the GOP opposition. I don’t want to exclude anyone from being interested in meaningful, exploratory music, literature or other arts and have no intention of making this an overtly partisan political blog, but Obama is the candidate of those who are adaptive and thinking ahead, which is what jazz beyond jazz and related forms of creativity are really about.