Colbert’s tin ear

Steven Colbert plays a pointed dance on the funny-bone, but misled his “nation” unintentionally at least once  last night in the segment “Who’s Not Honoring Me Now.” At 12 minutes into the show, he sniffed at the MacArthur Foundation’s award of a $500,000 fellowship to saxophonist Miguel Zenon, tongue-in-cheeking “Never give money to a jazz musician — they’ll just blow it on heroin and berets.” 

Then he listened to a moment of Zenon’s mellifluous style, boppin’ along to it. But: “It’s not genius level jazz if it sounds like music,” Colbert went on; “Ask Pulitzer Prize-winning saxophonist Ornette Coleman.” Ten seconds of Ornette, from his Pulitzer-Prize winning album Sound Grammar. “God, that’s unbearable. Ergo, it must be ‘good.'”
Slight correction: the “unbearable” excerpt featured Ornette playing violin, which even for fans of jazz beyond jazz can be an acquired taste. That’s okay, we know the truth, as opposed to the truthiness, of this bit. Colbert loves jazz — enough to make fun of it.
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  1. Herb Levy says

    Hi Howard,
    I don’t recall if you noted the Colbert piece when John Zorn got a MacArthur Fellowship in 2006 (or if this blog was even up and running then), but that’s worth a look too:
    HM: Hi Herb — I remember Zorn ridiculed on Colbert (no my blog wasn’t running then). Zorn is extremely sensitive to criticism and indeed ANY public comment, and he did come off looking, uh, unique as he is. But how many Colbert viewers would ever have heard a moment of Zorn without that exposure? Too bad there is no American media exposure that treats avant-garde musics as suitable for genuine exploration.

  2. ries says

    As someone who loves BOTH Zorn and Colbert,
    (and, of course, Coleman too, that goes without saying- in fact, Science Fiction is one of my favorites- and it has lotsa that violin)
    I have to say the whole POINT of Colbert’s show is to mislead the nation.
    Thats why its funny.
    HM: Right you are.

  3. Jorge says

    Hello Howard,
    Could you please post the name of the Coleman’s song sampled for that sketch?
    HM: Jorge, I’ll try to identify it precisely , but that’s going to take me a bit of time — an unscheduled listen! Maybe later this afternoon I can work it in. I wanted to post your comment right away.