GIVING JAZZ ITS DUE
GIVING JAZZ ITS DUE
I have strong feelings about traditions and family. I have emerged from my life experiences with certain likes and dislikes based on what is familiar. We were limited in the food that was available during WW2, and I probably have a pretty simple palate. Through the years I have acquired new tastes but when I want true satisfaction I sit down to a table with heaps of traditional comfort food. It is the same with music.
I have gone through periods in my life when I get caught up in a musical genre which coincides with what is happening around me. But I still depend on jazz to lift my spirits.
I knew of jazz because my parents listened to jazz. Jazz was at the cutting edge and incorporated into pop music. I remember Bing Crosby and Sidney Bechet sharing the same swinging beat. Bing Crosby never stopped swinging, while Bechet left a profound mark on the way the clarinet and the soprano saxophone are played today in jazz. He has influenced countless musicians including Johnny Hodges, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Bob Wilber and Branford Marsalis. Bechet was a great improviser with a passion for life as well as music. It was in Europe that he achieved his greatest success and where he eventually made his home, but he never forgot the New Orleans tradition that nurtured and inspired him.
THE WORLD HAS ALREADY GIVEN JAZZ ITS DUE
“Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and it never will.”
By all accounts jazz started in Cuba’s most northern port of its commerce, New Orleans. This new music borrowed from European classical form, African and Latin rhythms and added anything that came along. It spread north in America and crossed the Atlantic where it shook up the continent. Hitler banned jazz while he could. Berlin recovered with a strong dose of jazz which continues today.. During apartheid in South Africa, jazz was always there as part of a proud counter force. Following WW2 jazz musicians were welcomed around a world that valued free expression. Jazz musicians can still do better financially in Europe than they do here. Jazz gets respect in the Middle-East. It is huge in Japan, just ask Kimmie Horne. Jazz was in China in the 20s. Brazil adopted jazz, as did most of the world’s cultures. Most of all the world’s pop music is tinged with jazz and a lot of our jazz has been strengthened by the gifts that have come back to us. It is now a world music and the better for it.
The jump across the ocean showed that jazz had no boundaries. Although it was uniquely American, it was not immune to transformation by other cultures. Jazz was no longer an isolated musical movement.
Today jazz remains America’s most admired musical export throughout the world.
GETTING ITS DUE IN ITS BIRTHPLACE
However, back in jazz’s birthplace the luster has worn off a little as new generations have not had the opportunity to witness live jazz. The generations following WWII have grown up with rock ‘n roll, acid rock, punk, grunge, rap, and hip-hop and seem to be unaware that jazz set most of our music free to swing. Folks danced, clapped and tapped to live jazz until the advent of bebop moved jazz from being the dance music of the day to listening music.
Few young people dance to jazz anymore, but the jazz aesthetic is all around them. There is no question that it has defined and changed everything about our culture from music to art and fashion. Dixieland jazz grew as one of the most popular sub-genres of jazz as the depression era approached. Jazz was always there for us when we needed it.
Many young people in the United States are unaware that jazz is the progenitor of much of today’s pop music. They have never seen a live show nor have their parents.
While jazz was once the preeminent music of America and is still part of all our music from fusion to electronics, it gets little attention in the musical marketplace. Classical piano virtuoso Van Cliburn had to go to Russia in 1958 to win the highly coveted Tchaikovsky Piano Competition to become famous in America. This is certainly not the first time someone had to go out of town, so to speak, in order to get respect back home.
Jazz gets respect in many parts of the world. Americans, however, have forgotten what their forbears have given to the world.
SHINING A LIGHT ON JAZZ
Musicians of all stripes have incorporating jazz in their music and freely give jazz a thumbs up. The rest of us when we have the chance have to give a boost to all the artists whose improvisation, technical competence and utter, raw emotion in jazz will probably always be part of the American culture.
I am confident that jazz will continue to change and grow, and I am starting to think that jazz will quietly reassert itself in due time. Jazz has deep roots and the power to make us stop and listen, sing, play, move and to have hope. We will always need jazz, It is going to be OK.
THIS WEEK AT THE DIRTY DOG JAZZ CAFÉ
DECEMBER 07-08 T- BONE PAXTON / RJ SPANGLER
DECEMBER 08 – 9 VANESSA RUBIN