September 2009 Archives

What I've learned since writing that WSJ piece is that, Dave Douglas's comment aside (as well as those of musicians I did not quote in print), the "jazz wars" are still to a fair extent alive and relevant to a degree I no longer thought true, though the term "jazz war" itself may be a trivialization of something far more complex: By that I mean that there is still a good deal of clear resentment toward and well-expressed opposition to Jazz at Lincoln Center's aesthetic sensibility and, more the point, its dominance of both funding and press attention in some musical circles. There is even still very much a sense among some musicians I've heard from that JALC "defines" jazz in a way that is dangerously in opposition with or dismissive of broader, more progressive representations (as one musician put it, " interpretive version of jazz to be held higher than originality"), and which they feel drowns out or smothers alternative viewpoints. Also, there is at some level the feeling of injustice based simply on income disparity.

I should have known all this, as it appears to be truest among the ranks of the very communities I spend much of my time listening to and writing about. And I've come very quickly to respect the fact that what I'm talking about is not the sort of critic-oriented philosophical argument that was so common in the 1990s: This is a deeply held feeling within communities of musicians who, for lack of better words, are often described as avant-garde or free-improvising but who in reality create music no less well defined or connected to jazz tradition than anything else anyone calls jazz, yet also not confined by such definitions.

Buried in what I've learned is a potentially meaningful debate or at least discussion that I for one wish to flesh out (and which I touched on directly through quotes of Scott Southard and Randall Kline): Is the net effect of Jazz at Lincoln Center's work in education, fundraising, and presentation helpful, neutral, or detrimental to the career potential and audience development of those musicians whose music is not reflected at all in JALC's programming or aesthetic?

September 27, 2009 4:16 PM | | Comments (4)

Well, the hate mail has already begun flowing in: I expected it, having written something positive about Jazz at Lincoln Center in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. One email ranted on about how "google news and custom search aggregation" has made all print journalists like me "obsolete," But most response has been more focused, and rooted in the petty "jazz wars" of the 1990s, which, trumped up as they were even then, now seem irrelevant. (In my piece, as trumpeter Dave Douglas puts it: "Has [Jazz at Lincoln Center's strict genre boundaries and corporate image succeeded in silencing creative music and musicians? Without a doubt, no.")

Also, those who wring hands while wondering--as did the headline to my Journal colleague Terry Teachout's August 9th column-- "Can Jazz Be Saved?" make a fundamental mistake in thinking that once jazz enters the funded high-art realm of American life, it walks the plank of aging dying audiences a la classical music and opera, somehow losing its street-cred in the process.

That's not true.

Jazz at Lincoln Center neither defines nor limits jazz outside its own massive presence--and that massive presence is, on balance, a very good thing. 

September 25, 2009 10:43 AM | | Comments (0)

I missed the spectacle of Tom DeLay, former Texas Republican Congressman, now rhinestone cowboy, shaking his ass, sliding on his knees, and playing air guitar to "Wild Thing," on Dancing with the Stars, as investigators mulled money-laundering charges against him.

But I was struck by the how well DeLay--who, while representing a state that is more than one-third Hispanic, supported a 1999 bill to declare English the official language of the U.S.--highlighted the Afro Latin roots of American music. He danced to the Troggs' 1966 hit in a cha-cha competition.

How enlightened, Tom.

So pronounced is the clave of that song, that one would need to strain not to hear it. Yet the centrality of Afro Latin roots to early rock and roll is a well-kept secret in this country. The best exposition of this truth can be found in Ned Sublette's terrific first book, "Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo" (he uses "Louie, Louie" as the essential case). And I'll tip my hat to Ned, who tonight celebrates the release of his fine new third book, his second on the Crescent City, "The Year Before the Flood: A New Orleans Story." Wish I could be at the Mother-in-Law Lounge, to hear the always animated Sublette read, across the room from an inanimate likeness of Ernie K-Doe (who is among the book's characters), at what promises to be the mother-in-law of book parties.

I'm rereading Ned's book now, as I work on an essay about it for The Nation.


September 24, 2009 10:22 AM | | Comments (0)
I've said it before. I'm saying it again now. I'm going to take up blogging again in earnest and with respect for what the enterprise offers. Not every day, perhaps. But for real. And I'll get back to posting some of those good pictures from New Orleans. 

So let me start with the contents of an email I got this morning. For those in New Orleans, it's something you should attend this evening. For those outside the city, it's a good example of how indigenous culture IS social activism in New Orleans and how, in the slow, troubled and unequal process of recovery, those who make music and dance to it and those who are fighting against violent crime, corrupt politics, and other ills have formalized what they were always doing--working in tandem.

This year, the Young Men Olympian, Jr. Mutual Aid and Benevolent Society celebrates 125 years of community engagement and service, as well as cultural celebration. On Sunday, September 27, the club will hold their second parade of the season, starting at their home base on Josephine Street. And this Thursday evening, September 24, the Young Men Olympian will precede their annual parade by joining SilenceIsViolence and the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force in a City Walk/Peace Walk through the Central City neighborhood.

For over a century, the Young Men Olympian have quietly done community service and public safety work, without seeking recognition or reward. The club membership participates in cemetery clean-ups, Night Out Against Crime sponsorships, peace rallies (including a memorial for police officer Nicola Cotton), and much more. We are honored that the group has chosen to partner with SilenceIsViolence and the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force for Thursday's Peace Walk. Please join us at the Young Men Olympian, Jr. Hall, 2101 Josephine Street, at 6pm this Thursday. We will follow a circular route, spreading a message of peace, ending back at the Hall around 7pm. A brass band will perform after the walk.

September 23, 2009 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)




About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2009 is the previous archive.

October 2009 is the next archive.

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About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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