The Epiphany Season
It's been a really rough couple weeks for jazz.
First, poorly conceived satire piece in The New Yorker aimed at an elder statesman.
It's supposed to be funny, but it's not. At best, it's a poor, confusing joke. At worst, it's racist.
And now someone dismissing the whole genre – not satire – in The Washington Post.
Thank goodness for this response.
All what jazz? Or: How to declare something dead without listening to it
There's an entire of generation of rising young jazz players wrestling with that perception — and with the idea that jazz music belongs to the past, not the present. Two years ago, the inventive young pianist Robert Glasper told me, "I love all my jazz masters and my elders that came before me, but I always say that people have killed the living to praise the dead."
The refusal to investigate Glapser's world — i.e. the present — is what makes this argument so bothersome. The article dismisses an art that the author is not currently engaged with, tamping his broadside with the disclaimer of simply speaking one's mind. These are "some of my problems," [Justin] Moyer writes. (And Moyer has a fascinating mind — I've known him through the D.C. punk scene since I was a teenager.)
But personal and provocative declarations are what make the Internet hum, and in music journalism, (and everywhere else), the clicks have become more important than the quality of the conversation. So the conversation stays urgent and stupid, preventing a substantive dialogue from ever getting started. A little more brain gets chewed up and spit out.
How many of us musicians have to deal with the "urgent and stupid" conversation about an art form that our critics don't bother to engage with? How many of us really have the courage to? Or the time?
Music must belong in the present. Music of every genre happens in the present.
We can have better conversations. We must.
Reports of the death of music of all types has been greatly exaggerated.
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