So, about those recent “I hate Jazz” articles…


BitW square avatarSo, I went on a pretty long Twitter rant.  I finally had to stop blowing up everybody’s timelines and just finish my stream of thoughts here in a post.

It began after reading this recent Ted Gioia column for the Daily Beast (LINK).  It talks about the recent surge of jazz backlash in the media.

I’m cool with his column, but whatevs.  I’ve pretty well restrained myself from commenting on any of these “jazz sucks” columns that have been popping up lately.  I guess that’s over.

Here’s some quick hit thoughts on items brought up by Gioia or just stuff hanging around my head waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

Let’s begin…

Yes, the Rollins piece wasn’t funny. Obvious.

But has anyone pointed out that the bitterness & disillusionment attributed to Rollins might be real for a lot of jazz musicians?

That jazz musicians avoid thinking things like “I wasted my life” like struggling married couple avoid bringing up the D-word?

Jazz takes enormous time & passion to excel. Creativity as a business is even harder. Fear & bitterness & doubt can creep in.  The New York Times piece (unintentionally, I believe) mocks that. Or, at the very least, is casually dismissive of it.

I mean, think of the hardships Rollins went thru in life, both creatively, but also socially & financially via racism & rock’s ascendency?

Are you telling me that he didn’t occasionally struggle with the fear of “I wasted my life” during vulnerable moments?

I don’t think Django Gold was trying to be cruel. I think his poorly crafted article may have been unintentionally insightful in this one instance.

I don’t know Mr. Rollins & I don’t know if my assumptions have any validity. But it’s understandable why other musicians might take offense.

Anyways, that’s the part I of the Django Gold piece I was offended by.

That WaPo column, otoh, was just plain stupid & lazy. I don’t mind if people don’t like Jazz, but don’t dismiss what you won’t explore.

Especially modern jazz, which isn’t explored by the mainstream as much as it should since it incorporates many of the mainstream qualities.

A lot of it sounds more “indie” than jazz. Jazz evolves. It changes. It’s always absorbed other influences, a melting pot of sound.

Each new generation of jazz musicians are different from the previous. They are influenced by new music & new societal forces.
It shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of modern jazz sounds like stuff that doesn’t get categorized as jazz in the first place.

The identity of mod jazz is more diffuse than at any time in its history. Its sound is less recognizable. Mod jazz is hard to sum up.

And that is its strength, even though it is often pointed to as a weakness. However, its diversity makes it more substantial. Bigger.

But I think some misconstrue it as representative as something insubstantial, something easily knocked over by some jabroni who wants some cheap page views.

But they are wrong.

Don’t fear the confidence of modern jazz artists. If they didn’t posses confidence, the music wouldn’t sound as good as it does.

It would be tepid & mimic the jazz of the past & wouldn’t take risks, even in the face of almost certain commercial inviability. It wouldn’t be art. It would be homage.

I just read that Atlantic review of the new Bill Frisell album. It mirrors a lot of my own review (LINK).  Also, it’s not a jazz album, and I think Frisell has gotten to where it’s probably not even accurate to refer to him as a jazz musician.  He does his own thing and he sort of transcends genre classification.  Yes, he got his start in Jazz, and we can claim him as “one of our own,” but not sure it’s applicable to a why is everyone hating jazz theory (too lazy to hyphenate that thing).

But Frisell, after a career of inventive, massively creative music, has really hit a lull with his last few albums.  Me, personally, I have strong feelings about his music, good or bad.  That’s how it is.

Jazz is the Worst is not very funny on Twitter, though I definitely enjoyed both of his blog posts.  I believe that kind of development has more to with a natural blowback against the JazzBro phenomenon.  Unsurprising.

The problem with the defensiveness some of us feel from the “inaccuracies” in columns like the Deadspin one are that, one, it doesn’t represent how we feel or behave, but, two, it does reflect a backlash against some jazz fans who do fit the stereotype of snob/condescending asshole.  Like any general group of people, Jazz Fans is comprised of a wide array of people, and some of them are total pricks.  We do what we can to ignore them or change them or shout them down.

But I sure as hell don’t deserve to have their bad behavior attributed to me.  And I get pissed off when my hard work to change peoples’ opinions on the approachability of jazz are shot down by some knucklehead working for a large media outlet spewing off his witless generalizations about something he or she hasn’t bothered to research and develop a familiarity with.

I believe that I make a welcoming environment for people to explore modern jazz.  Unfortunately there are some people who use their knowledge of jazz as a weapon to hammer into other people the idea that they’re stupid for not knowing something.

Of course people are going to prematurely dismiss something when they expect to be called stupid.  They are going to hate the haters first.

What I don’t like is that these columns calling out “jazz fans” for behavior is attributing the behavior of the worst of us to the group overall.  Fuck that.  I don’t want people to feel stupid for not knowing things about jazz.  I want them to experience the excitement of getting familiar with it, discovering new music, discovering music that brings them happiness.

It’s the whole reason I have this site.  I absolutely love discovering cool new music.  I want to be able to help others do the same.  I want to help guide people to music they may like.  They won’t like all of it and that’s okay.  If I find one album a month that makes me wonder how I got through life without it, that’s a pretty big deal.

Okay, I think I’m out of steam on this one.  I’ll add more if it comes to me, but I think I got that out of my system.

Here’s where you can follow me on Twitter-> LINK.

And here’s a song I like from a 2014 release.  It’s by Angles 9, and you shouldn’t be surprised if it ends up in my Best of 2014 list…


You can read my recommendation of their 2014 release, Injuries, here, at Bird is the Worm.

Have a great Sunday!