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3960Re: When did Jazz die?

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  • David N. Lewis
    Mar 18, 2007
      My personal feeling is that, while Jazz is not altogether dead, it is
      really, really struggling. And of course I'm talking about Jazz as a
      whole, not the traditional Jazz we love, as for some reason that has
      always adapted to fit the dimensions of the audience that was willing
      to support it.
      The current museum environment for Jazz, and its commercial, "smooth"
      counterpart, seems an uncomfortable fit for the music. The continued
      exploration of jazz in the historical context of racial injustice is
      likewise serving to kill it. Even from the beginning it appears that
      there was a lot of involvement of Italian and Jewish musicians in
      Jazz, who had intolerance of their own to bear, but are not getting a
      lot of love from jazz "scholars," due to a kind of prejudice that
      shuts them (the Jewish and Italian musicians) out of the history.
      Jazz was a great social revolution, but it is not about racial
      injustice; it is about freedom and different cultures from within the
      United States learning to get along.
      Albert Ayler, if anything, helped to revive ultra-traditional jazz
      within a new framework - his fat, wobbly tone is closer to the sound
      of really early jazz musicians than most others of his era. So I
      don't think Free Jazz killed Jazz. But we are closing in on about 30
      years since there were any significant stylistic developments in
      Jazz. Commercially, Wynton Marsalis and the smooth stuff are both in
      the toilet from the standpoint of the major record companies, and I'm
      surprised that they continue to support it. There have been no "Take
      Five"s or "Kind of Blue"s for a long time at this point.
      Also, audiences are strangely divided as to what they will go for in
      terms of Jazz. I was in contact recently with a New York based group
      that has a female singer and plays slightly out, freeform jazz within
      a loose framework. They were getting nowhere fast trying to pitch
      their album, and I suggested that they try some other labels more
      oriented towards avant-garde classical and improvised music. They
      thanked me and wrote "We try to play at jazz gigs, but that's not our
      audience - they hate us! We really do much better at the arty Gallery
      type shows and with people who like kind of off the wall classical
      So at this point, Jazz is not developing forward because cultural
      philistines have backed it into a corner. Will it get out? What's the
      use of it if the very definition of what "Jazz" is is proscribed by a
      few very selfish "experts" who are utilizing its legacy to pursue a
      social agenda?
      Just my thoughts,

      Uncle Dave Lewis
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