Wynton Marsalis Discussion Forum

   

The Rise and Fall of Jazz Music

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I have been told that Jazz is the only American art form. Honestly I have no clue what that means. But for me jazz is a lifestyle, a cultural experience that grew out of Black Intellectualism & spirituality.

Quality jazz music is not just notes on a page or some complex theory. Real jazz music reflects the soul of the musician. When jazz was in it’s infancy it spoke of the struggles of an oppressed people who refused to be defeated. Today, most of what is called jazz especially Kenny G is pop jazz, very shallow and boring. Thanks but no thanks Kenny, I like my jazz, rough, raw & unpredictable.

 

I also like jazz to be full of the spirit of a musician who has been through some tough times & came out stronger, because in essence that is what true jazz music was about. During the Civil Rights Movement Jazz artists remained at the center of the struggle. Miles Davis’s band played a benefit concerts for the NAACP. They gave back to the community that inspired their music and in return the community embraced them.

 

However, today so many jazz artists strive to be so main stream, that they have become self-absorbed and soulless. They could care less about the struggles of the average person. So they charge $100 for tickets to hear them play in swanky theaters. They create and play music that seeks only to glorify how fast or high they can play. So outside of the hotbeds of jazz like New York, no one could really care less about jazz music.

 

Simply put jazz is just an outward reflection of an inward reality. Jazz can’t be what the musician is not. It can only authenticate what is inside their heart. So if a musician doesn’t care about the people, then people won’t care about jazz.

 

Finally, at the very heart of the decline of quality jazz music, is that jazz has become completely watered down and institutionalized in schools. This is okay to some degree, but the majority of people now producing jazz music are white middle class musicians who are racist and who don’t have the slightest clue about the struggles of Black America that shaped jazz music. To these people jazz is just notes on a page or theory that has to be practiced ad nauseum. This creates a type of jazz music that indeed has great musicianship, but is largely soulless. I believe whole heartedly that it is almost utterly impossible that a so called jazz musician can create quality jazz music if they do not embrace and respect the people who created this great gift from God.

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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DrWahoo Wrote:

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> This is okay to some degree, but the

> majority of people now producing jazz music are

> white middle class musicians who are racist and

> who don’t have the slightest clue about the

> struggles of Black America that shaped jazz music.

 

 

Do you spend any time with jazz musicians? In what world do you live in where the majority of jazz musicians are racist? In my opinion, comments like that devalue any intelligent criticism you are trying to express.

     
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Jazz will never die. It is a true art form and has a incomparable beauty. Jazz is forever.

     
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loweredsixth.

First of all personal attacks lower your intelligence period.

 

Second of all, perhaps you should try to present empirical data to your argument instead of attacking me.  Clearly you lack the capabilities of participating in a scholarly discussion and perhaps I have struck a chord in your heart.

 

You have no idea who I am or where I come from, so to question my intelligence is really quite laughable. Unless you have graduated from one of the top universities in the nation I will from now on ignore you, because clearly you are beneath me.

 

But because I do not like people to languish in complete ignorance here is some food for thought.

 

1) Why is classical music called “legit music” ? Who came up with this dichotomy between jazz music and classical ? It infers that jazz is illegitimate.

 

2) Statistically how many African Americans are employed as Jazz instructors in the major musical schools such as Eastman, Juliard and Curtis ?

 

3) Statistically how many African Americans actually are trained to play jazz music ?

 

4) Do all jazz programs require a thorough study of jazz composers or simply can they get by with just learning theory ? My experience in 4 different jazz programs says the latter.

 

5)  In elementary school programs is jazz incorporated into the musical curriculum ? My experience as a mother and student says no.

 

 

The questions go on and on. People who attack people because they dare question the status quo really just irritate me and are so boring.  They remind me of the people in the story the Emporer’s New Clothes.

 

On another note, jazz is most certainly not dead, but you have to be totally delusional to think that it has not lost some prominence in American culture. For example, in the 50s and 60s jazz defended America from the tyranny of fascism and communism. During this time the state department sent jazz musicians all over the world to show that America was in fact an open minded and tolerant country. A complete facade of course, because these same jazz musicians got called nigger and sent to the back of the bus just like all other black people. Today still this disrespect of jazz music and musicians goes on. As a personal friend of some fairly prominent musicians both jazz and classical, I know for a fact that jazz musicians get the least amount of respect, even though jazz takes ALOT more musical intelligence to master.  This disrespect is probably the underlying reason why Wynton wrote his book in the first place. However, his philosophy and methodology for returning jazz to prominence is totally different than mine because I am educator then an artist, he is vice versa. Plus as a really spiritual person, I just can’t buy into the fact that jazz can save anyone, but I haven’t read the book so the title just might be a marketing ploy ;)

 

 

Finally as a black woman I have personally been demeaned and had to endure racial slurs by so called white jazz musicians. I am sure they would say ” I am not racist, I play jazz” just like those same racist people who say ” I am not racist, I have a black friend.” This is the same mentality that allowed the so called founding fathers and other racist white people to brutalize black women, men and childern on their plantations, in their towns and across America. And I for one will not tolerate the exploitation of my people or OUR music.

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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Hey DrWaHoo,

You said that personal attacks lower intelligence and then you personally attacked Lowered Sixth. 

 

As for the issue of race, what you are talking about is a reality.  People don’t always know that the look on their face is expressing what they are thinking loud and clear.  But when people love jazz, it’s an opportunity to educate them further in the areas of what is means to be American.  President Nixon commissioned the Koerner Report which did put on government record that two Americas exist; to sum it up: one with money and one without.  So I took this perspective when I went to teach a course called “Dance and Community”.  How does dance form within community when people have funding and how do people organize to dance when there is no funding or institutional support?  Well, my approach was criticized and was asked “Where are the white people?” by the department chair.  Hell, most white people can fund or find funding for whatever they want, so why would they even have to think about what’s it like. 

 

One point that I would like to make is that institutional success does not indicate that one is souless or self centered.  It just means that the musicians have a stage to call home and money for their families to prosper on.  Now, isn’t that the American Dream?

 

I know of two African Americans employed for the jazz school at the Eastman.  I know of two African Americans who have left the Juilliard school.

     
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Well done Karen. True dialogue.

An attack, is only an attack if it is not true and without merit. What I said was in self defense, meant to disarm my attacker from any further attacks on my psyche.  A right that I have often relinquished with very troubling effects :(

 

I did not suggest that institutionalization was the primary cause of soullessness in jazz, just a contributing factor. The whole purpose of institutionalization is to trap something so it can be studied, analyzed or contained. I.e. mental institution. Or as its root word institution is defined by Wikipedia

 

“Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals. “

 

An institution in essence does not often promote freedom or innovation, but instead controls behavior. In fact that is why the best innovators did not go to college, i.e.  Bill Gates, Michael Dell, the Beatles, etc.,etc. From my own experience as a web developer colleges manufacture technicians and managers not innovators.  In fact I believe institutionalization is the antithesis to innovation.

 

When we start focusing too much on the “letter” of the music and not the spirit, we shut down the spirit of innovation and authentic self expression. (This is somewhat analogous to what the Pharisees tried to do in the Bible.)

 

All that being said, most free-spirits are dirt poor and need to conform to something in order to pay the bills. This is the on going struggle of every artist no matter what the medium.  That is why I need to hurry up and get a dang job and stop wasting my time pontificating on something that doesn’t pay my rent, ROFL.

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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You can’t make a statement that most jazz musicians are racist without expecting some disagreement. I took that comment as an insult to a group of people I belong to (i.e. jazz musicians.)

In response to your questions:

 

1) I resent the fact that some people refer to jazz music as illegitimate. I can assure you that it is not jazz musicians saying that. So, I’m not sure that your argument supports all jazz musicians as being racist.

 

2) I don’t consider most music programs as having much to do with the jazz comunity anyway. Also, this argument has nothing to do with jazz musicians being racist. It may have something to do with college faculty being racist. I don’t know anything about that.

 

3) I would say about the same number of African Americans are trained to play jazz as anyone else. That number is significantly small.

 

4) Again, these schools don’t have much to do with the jazz community anyway. Also, what does this have to do with jazz musicians being racist?

 

5) I agree that it is not. Again, what does this have to do with jazz musicians being racist?

 

 

I did not personally attack you. You made an ignorant statement about jazz musicians and as one I felt the need to respond.

     
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Karen Wrote:

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> Hell, most

> white people can fund or find funding for whatever

> they want, so why would they even have to think

> about what’s it like.

 

 

Oh my. I can’t believe the level of racism in this thread. Let’s all play nice now. There’s no reason to make general statements about race here. The original post has some real intelligent meaning in it. It would be nice if we can ignore the ignorant racist comments and focus on why much of jazz music has apparently degenerated into a mere “string of meaningless licks” (my opinion only.)

     
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http://www.juilliard.edu/asp/fsnew/faculty_results.php?Division=Music&School=College

it’s not all that hard to find answers to your questions these days.

     
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To be clear I did not quantify how many jazz musicians are racist. I just said there a lot of them. I don’t know where you are from loweredsixth, but I am from Northern Virginia where most of my music experiences and simply education consisted of me being a bean in a big pot of elitist rice. Not to be rude, but if you are white you simply have no credibility to discuss race relations period.

 

loweredsixth Wrote:

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> 3) I would say about the same number of African

> Americans are trained to play jazz as anyone else.

> That number is significantly small.

>

 

Yeah in 1869 the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson tried to say the same thing. The old “separate but equal” argument. After 112 years I am glad to know it is still alive,lol.

 

What does racism have to do with jazz ? It is quite simple a tree can not thrive if it is cut off from its roots. The black experience is the life blood jazz music, point blank. For example, no one would ever think that Salsa or Meringue would continue to thrive if the majority of people involved where WASPs. Jazz is NOT EUROPEAN music. This is not anymore racist than saying Afro Cuban music IS NOT ASIAN music or that Banghra IS NOT AFRICAN music.

 

But I do agree about the lack of melodic sounding songs. Alot of Baby Boomers like Bill Cosby who love jazz would probably say the same thing, you can’t dance or nod your head to be bop music. And to be frank I could really care less about jazz music right now, just like a majority of Americans. It has simply become culturally irrelevant sort of like hockey, Lol.

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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Look I am just trying to help you, Wynton and some other jazz musicians who I love dearly. My legacy is going to live on regardless if jazz music exists or not in the year 3010.  If you knew how deep the rabbit hole goes with me, you would understand ;)  Herbie Hancock winning the Grammy for that piece crap CD that he put out is like hand writing on the freaking wall.

Jazz could become like spoken Latin or Irish Folk music, a niche or obsolete art form, which to me is very sad. Already black American culture is being continually white washed like Egyptian culture did when someone shot off the black nose of the Sphinx. In Japan some people think that Langston Hughes is white.

 

Lord Have mercy, like Solomon said “there is nothing new under the sun.” I could pontificate all day long about the far reaching legacy of racism in the world and how it continually robs people of color of any foot prints in World History.( Anyone with a shred of knowledge of African History would know this or simply look at the Pantene Pro V Jesus hanging in most churches around the world.)

 

Sadly,it might be too late for jazz in a centuriy :( I shudder to think that Kenny G could be considered a jazz legend one day.The genius of Wynton Marsalis and black pioneers like him could be buried underneath the sands of time like King Tunkenhamen. It is like Wyton’s soul is crying out through his new book. And what is his soul saying ? I AM LEGEND.

 

And if you want to go even deeper, which very few people can with me. There is but one hope for jazz in the centuries to come. The time capsule launched into space during Carter’s Administration. In it, it had Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue Album. Like Nostradamus, and they great oracles and seers before me I speak into eternity that Jazz will be born again and only God knows who will return with it :)

 

Dang this is so deep I think I need someone to throw me a rope or some scuba gear, lol.

     

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DrWahoo Wrote:

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> To be clear I did not quantify how many jazz

> musicians are racist. I just said there a lot of

> them.

 

To be clear, you stated that the MAJORITY of people producing jazz music are white middle class and racist.

 

I’m sorry, but that is a ridiculous statement.

 

 

 

DrWahoo Wrote:

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> Jazz is NOT EUROPEAN music. This is not anymore racist than saying Afro Cuban music IS NOT ASIAN music or that Banghra IS NOT AFRICAN music.

 

No, Jazz is AMERICAN music. It is not AFRICAN music. But, since America has all but abandon jazz music, it is quickly becoming WORLD music. There were many different types of people involved in the creation of jazz music. That is one of it’s most appealing qualities.

 

 

 

DrWahoo Wrote:

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> Not to be rude, but if you are white you simply have no credibility to discuss race relations period.

 

 

I’m actually suprised that this thread is surviving on these boards. Incredible.

 

If you are saying that white jazz musicians are racist, then aren’t they the people you would most want to discuss race relations with? Or do you just want them to listen to your arguments without getting to voice their own?

 

Also, do you really need to know if I am white or not to decide whether my points have any credibility? Is the color of my skin the deciding factor for you? Maybe our online user names should include a descriptor of our race. That way people like you can prejudge accordingly.

     
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The topic is ugly.  People become very upset when discussing the impacts of racial perceptions and racial identity.  Basically, the best we can do is know and love ourselves, repsect the decisions we make, and project that confidence to the world.  Racially integrated activities make it possible to socially balance our interactions, and cultural events facillitate feeling good while all being together.  Tolerance for difference, compassion for background, and friendliness make is easier to mix, relate, and even love.  Social recovery takes generations when the toll has been so extreme to the quality and locale of human lives.  Just think about Wynton and his dad, Ellis.  What a difference in quality of life in just one generation.  What a difference for Ellis Marsalis, from Chapter One to playing at the Rose in Brooks Brothers for his run in the 2005 Red Hot Holiday Stomp.

     
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I thought I would step in before I go yell at my baby daddy for not paying child support, and my I am never disappointed, ROFL. I do LOVE provoking people over meaningless things like music. Especially when the majority of the world’s population is destitute and there are people in Texas have no roof over their head. Nevertheless, it is a good escape and and I do like getting ugly;).

loweredsixth only a white person would say that Jazz is American music, just like when white people say that black people need to get over racism, slavery and that discrimination doesn’t exist today.  White, black whatever you are you need a history lesson and luckily for you by the grace of God I am very well trained to give you one.

 

Not until 1965 were black people even considered Americans. And I do believe before that time black people combined blues, negro spirituals and the like to create a music called jazz. It was called “jazz” because it was a mixture of stuff. Remember my new best friend, (i do admire your tenacity) that there was indeed dichotomy between “legit music” and basically anything that black people created.  So now 40 years after King was shot and many more years after Billy Holiday wrote “Strange Fruit”  all of a sudden jazz is American music. Uhmmm no. 

 

I refuse to by into some sentimental bull crap that SOME ignorant white people try to propagate.  Jazz wasn’t so American when the Miles Davis quintet played at the NAACP convention. Nor was it American when Louis Armstrong, or W.C. Handy were called niggers and colored and not allowed to vote or even get a decent hotel.

 

The ONLY reason why Jazz is so open is because BLACK people historically had a co-dependent relationship with white people.  Well loweredsixth Slaves times is over !!! The only frontier left is mental slavery.  Free your mind and the rest will follow.  Jazz music emphatically grew out of BLACK intellectualism and spirituality. It is the only art form created in America by a people brutalized and disenfranchised by a nation it helped built but were declared 2/3 of person. 

 

I don’t really care you can ignore history if you want to but for me the truth always sets people free.  And as a jazz missionary my brother,and the Good News of the Jazz Gospel is that jazz is the way the truth and the light, no one comes fully to jazz unless they transcend and accept that it is indeed Black music. But if this is still to hard for anyone to comprehend check out this song by the Dean Bowman Quartet

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElRgjbCM5zE

     

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Charmaine Nokuri

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Oh my. You are so high and mighty. It hurts to even read your posts.

You say things like, “Only a white person would say that Jazz is American music.”

 

Are you sure about that?

 

And what exactly are you proposing here? Should all white people stop playing jazz music? Should all white people stop listening to jazz music? What exactly are you proposing society do to rectify this problem?

 

DrWahoo, have you figured out what color I am? Am I black or white? After all, you cannot even consider my point of view unless you know what color my skin is. Oh no, what if I’m half black and half white? Then what?

 

This is hilarious. I really want to know what color you think I am. Please respond.

     
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I prefer green.