Hatin’ on ‘Jazz’ – The New Yorker and The Washington Post…

In the last week or so, I have seen two writings published bashing ‘Jazz’. Here is a snippet of my thoughts on the matter on not only ‘Jazz’, but the public view of artistry in general.

The primary issue is that we (people) need to label things. I know it’s trite to state that this fact is unbecoming. There are artists I like, and artists I do not. There are periods for some artists I love and other periods of the same artist that I do not understand or care to hear, see, or read.

(For my metalhead friends, let’s say, Metallica up to and including the Black Album and nothing further.)

The secondary issue is that the average person, yes, most people are average, which is the entire concept of average, but I digress…the average person only understands and believes what they are told. If ‘a source of information’ provides a label, then, by golly, that must be that something’s identity. I do not blame ignorance for this fact, I blame laziness. Research, self-reliance, and open-mindedness are hard work.

Is Kenny G ‘Jazz’? Not in my mind. Are the Yellowjackets ‘Jazz’? Not in my mind either. Plenty of people love them and plenty of people go to their concerts. Unfortunately, too many affluent white people think these artists, among others, represent ‘Modern Jazz’.

The problem this causes is that when we label a group of artists of a certain period with a specific name, then that name is limiting the artists, groups, and art. This is helpful to some degree, but I believe it is ultimately underserving to those artists and beyond.

I have seen both ugly sides of this circumstance.

1. I tell someone I like ‘Jazz’ and I am thinking ‘Classic Jazz’. They get excited and say they love ‘Jazz’ too and immediately ask me if I love what I presume to be their favorite ‘Jazz’ group or artist. Inevitably, their favorite artist or group knows nothing of the function of beats two and four.

2. Someone tells me, without prompting on my part, but usually after someone introduces me as a ‘Jazz Guitarist’, that they hate ‘Jazz’ and give me examples of groups/artists who know nothing of the function of beats two and four.

I love the Miles Davis’ “Cookin'” recording and consider it one of the pinnacle albums of the instrumental, small combo ‘Jazz’ period. Is Davis’ “Bitches Brew” or “Live-Evil” ‘Jazz’? Not in my mind, but they are great recordings which broke new ground and are completely Miles.

If the only labels we use for music are the names of the groups, artists, or albums, all of which are indeed labels; then we can have a nice conversation about the pros and cons of certain artists, albums, or periods without dismissing decades of music and Artistic Choice.

We just need more people willing to do the work of seeking, listening, reading, watching, and forming a critical opinion to change the world-view of creative endeavors.

-Justin

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