Thursday, March 08, 2007

jazz death part 2

Just want to keep the conversation happening. Lots of folks say to me, "This is boring! There have been so many discussions of whether or not jazz is dead. Get over it." I take that as a good sign. If there have been so many discussions about it, why aren't the results more crystalline? Cogent?

Part of the problem is the yutes of today. They ain't got no respect. The whole idea of tradition is anathema to them. Everything springs full blown and unrooted out of the present moment. There's little if any sense of music history informing their listening or appreciation. Maybe this rant should be saved for my new blog, "Git Offa Mah Yahrd!" (the blog that will pave the way for my inevitable descent into snarling senescence and violent curmudgeonhood).

But really, a lot of what I hear that's being done now just sounds like stuff I've already heard. A lot of my younger friends don't seem to have that baggage. "It's nice," they say and kind of shrug. Why get all lathered up over Branford Marsalis' execrable "version" of A Love Supreme, for example? I mean, if you haven't heard 'Trane's, what difference does it make. And even if you have, so what? It's all good. Shrug. "It's nice."

No, it's not fuckin' nice. It's horrifying.

Well, maybe not. Maybe we're just spoiled in different ways. I'm spoiled by thinking that great artists did great things at various times that are still great and still worth knowing fairly intimately. They're spoiled by the fundamental idea that no one is any more or less great than anyone else and it's all...nice. Shrug.

Culture right now has all the vitality of McMurphy after he's lobotomized in Kesey's "Cuckoo's Nest."

Not sure what this has to do with jazz being dead. Dead as roadkill. Dead as dead can be. If I didn't keep nailing it to the perch it would be pushing up the daisies. It's an EX-genre. It's rung up the curtain and joined the choir invisible.


thehotelsterno said...

The music of the past is still vital, it pushes into today. The AEC. Sun Ra. Cecil. Hemphill. So while jazz may be "dead" as far as what's being made today, I wouldn't say that it need necessarily be dead tomorrow, when some group or individual synthesizes yet another cogent hybrid into a new style, or mode. Spring Heel Jack, Mat Maneri, Shipp, they are all putting out some nice musics that 10 years from now we may be recognizing as something special. That said, it's few & far between, & most of what passes for the music today is, yes, execrable. I share your pessimism, but I can still hope, huh?

Massimo Magee said...

'nice' is exactly the should grab you by the throat and shake you around until you *get it* or fall into a coma. No-holds-barred that's what I mean. The kind of music to wake people up out of their torpor, make them realise that there is more to our being here.....I think that is still going on, but it sounds different now, where it once was done with volume and passion, it can now be done with near-silence. It can still be just as forceful, if you get me.

thehotlesterno said...

"Nice" was probably not the choicest word usage around, but I do see your point. About half of Maneri's Pentagon release is, for me, pretty damn throat-shaking. I just wish he'd kept more focus with the release instead of trying to do everything. His Sustain with Joe McPhee is also pretty great. The same with the free-jazzish Spring Heel Jack discs. They get close, & I can see that they are trying for something new, they just haven't got there yet. So while they may not be classic releases, they do seem to point to a way out of the dead woods.

Chris Rich said...

It isn't so much dead as moribund. There is life in the huge cities where there is critical mass for an audience.

This is especially so for New York. The reason is that New York is the vestibule to the EU where the real work and audiences are.

There is life in Chicago and St Louis and possibly some flickers in LA. Seattle benefits from an honest presenter in Earshot and adequate radio.

Philly has life and maybe Detroit. Boston is a wreck as I tirelessly repeat and San Fran may be slighyly better.

The Main stream media signals reaching to more remote areas are universally dumb and depressing but that is what the blogosphere is for.

It is spectacularly successful in leftist politics as I well know and has potential for keeping real information alive about honest jazz.

The macroeconomic factors imposed by Bush can't be overlooked. The NER is shriveled as are most state arts councils and they often provided critical support for low cost or free events that help audience growth.

This, in turn has put a huge strain on foundations. Radio consolidation and the proliferation of witless NPR on the public bandwidth has also reduced jazz radio presence in favor of middle mind psycho babble.

But keep an eye to the kids, let em hear Les Stances A Sophie by the Art Ensemble and so on and they will be curious.

I was a dumb kid 35 years ago in equally terrible times, maybe even worse cause of baby boomers. Now kids aren't inclined to despise Cecil Taylor, they just have no way of knowing he exists.

peter breslin said...

thanks for writing one and all. I'm so thrashed with busy-ness recently and over the next couple of weeks it's hard for me to blog much.


the improvising guitarist said...

My comment started mutating into something a little too extensive, so, as way of reply: ‘what’s in a name: the j-word’.

S, tig