Jazz, that classy music

Saxophonist Steve Wilson and I talked about “Jazz and the Class Divide” at Dartmouth College, and here’s the entire half-hour clip on foratv.com.

Wilson, a gentleman and a great player, was touring with the Blue Note 7, the band anchored by pianist Bill Charlap that’s been a big thing because Blue Note refers to the record label celebrating its 70th year in business in 2009. I get a couple chuckles out of watching myself, especially when I lose my point. . . but I do pick it up (Oh yeah – – Cecil Taylor can quote Messaein without hardly trying!). Well anyway, between the two of us some points were raised. I hope you’ll enjoy this talk. Please let me know about that with which you disagree.
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  1. says

    I just watched the video and I agreed with what you and Steve said, 99% if not 100%. However, I think some significant angles on jazz and class were not mentioned. Steve’s points about access and audience diversity are important. I would expand on his good point about the relative lack of diversity among jazz students, though, to add that access to the highest levels of college-preparatory and college jazz education, which for better or worse are the path (or a part of the path) *almost* all versatile, fully competent musicians come through, is extremely unequal with regard to class, or multi-generational family wealth and the concomitant values associated with generations of elite higher ed access plus wealth. While music schools really do their very best to raise increasing amounts for need-based scholarships to mitigate this, it’s still true — increasingly true — that families that live in wealthy suburbs and neighborhoods of large, culturally sophisticated cities are more likely to send kids to the (expensive) teachers and weekend and summer programs that prepare them to compete for admission in the best jazz schools. And jazz education is dauntingly expensive for all except those get a big scholarship. Many prospective students who *could* get a need-based scholarship are scared away by the list price, and this can slow their career through lost educational and networking opportunities. The good news is that lots of us are working hard to counter this.
    Then there’s the trust-fund-subsidized jazz career launch. But I’d better stop here. No one wants to talk about that. As Philip Johnston often says, “Don’t start pulling that thread or the whole thing will unravel.”