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Interesting view of jazz and black culture

Rich K.

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Amen. I think that the authors of the article that the original poster cited were asking the wrong question; i.e., why did African Americans reject jazz. The larger question is why did jazz shrink to it's present state? A vaid answer is it was a generational shift. The younger generation will always reject the tastes of the generation before it and find their own way. Elvis and company sounded the death knell for jazz, and the British invasion relegated Elvis and company to the old fashioned, corny bin. Of course there will be "old souls" who seem to be born in the wrong era who will cling to older music that had been relegated to the corny bin before they were born. There will be others like myself who were born in the late 40s, grew up in the 50s and 60s, and changed with the evolving tastes of youth ... only to appreciate our parents' music later in life (music, I might add, that embarrassed me in my teen years when my friends were over and my parents played that stuff.) Great music will eventually find its way into the ears, hearts and passions of a few of us, and will win over those who "discovered" it long after that music became passe, but it is never going to find its way back into the mainstream.
The dixieland folks said big bands, and later bebop would be the death of jazz.
 

JimmyM

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With all due respect, Greg Tate is not addressing how jazz ceased to play a major role in pop and dance music. He's addressing the current status of jazz in the African American community. After jazz ceased to be dominant in the overall culture, black artists Miles, Mingus, Wes Montgomery, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Coltrane and many others continued to shape the direction of jazz. Some of their music directly addressed racism and grassroots politics at the time.
Even at the height of jazz popularity there was a disparity between who created and shaped the music and who gained the most in $$ and reputation. An entire generation of white "swing" musicians were totally influenced by King Oliver, Louis Armsrtrong, Johnny and Baby Dodds and other black artists. While that was going on, Paul Whiteman with his big lumbering orchestra was dubbed "The King of Jazz". Benny Goodman was labeled "King of Swing" in the big band era, making hit records and lucrative live appearances playing great Fletcher Henderson arrangements. Henderson's innovative black band, at one time featuring Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and other all-time great musicians, never made enough money to survive into the big band era. Goodman brought some Henderson's arrangements for $25 a piece! Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller had hugely successful big bands; they were not in the same league with the creativity of Duke Ellington's orchestra. The fantastic groove of Basie's rthym section changed the entire concept of a rthym section. A drummer on this Forum had the balls to write Benny Goodman invented swing.
There is no era where the dominant (white) culture doesn't co-opt and profit from every art form. I could fill this page up with the names of jazz musicians who created and shaped how their instruments are played. The essential concepts of jazz in every era were guided by Louis, Duke, Parker, Miles, Mingus, Monk, Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and on and on.
When R&B and rock took over as poplar music, gee, who influenced that? Elvis Presley wasn't adapting the music of Pat Boone. Think gospel music wasn't adapted to do-wop? English blues bands and guitarists feeding American teenagers music they copied from black blues bands. If you listen to early Rolling Stones records, they're filled with almost exact copies of Chess Chicago blues recordings. We love it, but one could argue the greatest cultural appropriations of the 20th century were jazz, blues and rock.
From England, Eric Burdon and the Animals made their bones mid 1960s with a cover of "House of the Rising Sun". Burdon was a huge blues fan, so when the Animals made their first American tour, he couldn't wait to visit clubs where they played the blues. He said in an interview when he asked some of his American fans where to see the blues, their response was basically, "we don't go to those places, they're filled with________"
By the start of the 21st century, there's no denying the majority of jazz fans (and blues fans) were white. Greg Tate observes that today, jazz has no significant presence in his community. After a century of creating and developing this brilliant art form, what happened? It was so much more than just dance music, it was a source of cultural pride.
The answer, he hopes, is that once again the music of the new century is being created by black artists: It's Hip Hop. He sees young people starting to merge that with the roots of jazz. He hopes it isn't taken over and packaged by big corporate music. Good luck; unfortunately, it's the American way.
Every word the truth. Even country and folk has its roots in field songs by sharecroppers and slaves. At one time, credit was not given so freely, which is a shame. But absolutely the lion’s share of the change in popular music was brought about by black musicians. It’s not even debatable.
 

1988fxlr

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If we accept Mr Tate’s assertion, which I don’t necessarily, it may well have to do with the necessary connection between music and the time period in which it was created. The America of the 1930s-1950’s offers African Americans little reason for nostalgia or romanticizing.
 

drums1225

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There is plenty of vital, new jazz music being made at this very moment. Legit jazz musicians, who have the ability to swing their behinds off, and play in the bands of legends, are fusing the tradition with hip hop, funk, electronic, and world music in new ways. It's a much more eclectic, forward thinking, and frankly, innovative approach to jazz music than has happened in decades.

Robert Glasper, Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, Nate Smith and Kinfolk, Eric Harland, Joshua Redman, Theo Croker, Jon Batiste, Roy Hargrove (RIP) and Terrence Blanchard, Kamasi Washington. Many others.

Is it as popular as mainstream pop? No, and it never will be, but who here can say that their favorite style of music is "pop music"?
 
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JimmyM

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There is plenty of vital, new jazz music being made at this very moment. Legit jazz musicians, who have the ability to swing their behinds off, and play in the band of legends, are fusing the tradition with hip hop, funk, electronic, and world music in new ways. It's a much more eclectic, forward thinking, and frankly, innovative approach to jazz music than has happened in decades.

Robert Glasper, Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, Nate Smith and Kinfolk, Eric Harland, Joshua Redman, Theo Croker, Jon Batiste, Roy Hargrove (RIP) and Terrence Blanchard. Many others.

Is it as popular as mainstream pop? No, and it never will be, but who here can say that their favorite style of music is "pop music"?
I like some pop music. Not all of it is lame.
 

UptownShakedown

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This is an interesting post but it should be mentioned the “jazz is dead“ lament has been going strong for about 70 years and was alive and well during what we consider golden-age periods.
 

BennyK

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The evolution of jazz is broadly described within an American historical context , a significant thread in the fabric of its twentieth century experience .

" As with classical music .... " I disagree with Mr Tate . Chopin is to Poles what Miles or Dizz used to be to others .

It's the responsibility of parents and the familial community to instill awareness and pride of cultural heritage into their children's lives .

 
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BlackPearl

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Perhaps Americans could look to what's happening in the UK jazz scene for a bit of inspiration. I'm in Canada, so only really know about if from what I've read and seen on YouTube, but it seems to be a vibrant, inclusive scene with exciting young players, enthusiastic audiences (who even dance) and great music. Granted, there's not much of the traditional jazz swing beat to be heard - there's a lot of fusion with Afrobeat and Reggae and lots of other things, but I don't have any trouble calling it jazz.

And it can even be heard in the Albert Hall :
 

BennyK

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" I never let school interfere with my education " ... Mark Twain
 

CAMDRUMS

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Here’s the article:
 

RayB

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This is an interesting post but it should be mentioned the “jazz is dead“ lament has been going strong for about 70 years and was alive and well during what we consider golden-age
If we accept Mr Tate’s assertion, which I don’t necessarily, it may well have to do with the necessary connection between music and the time period in which it was created. The America of the 1930s-1950’s offers African Americans little reason for nostalgia or romanticizing.
The fact is African American jazz flourished after the 1950's, and very little of it was nostalgic, looking back stuff. The major artists and jazz innovators included Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Herbie Hancock and Wes Montgomery. Blue Note, Verve, Riverside and Pacific Jazz record labels, along with Columbia, offered current jazz catalogs. The Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Ahmad Jamal, and Jimmy Smith were popular. Certainly on drums, Elvin Jones and Tony Williams paid no homage to nostalgia. Of course it didn't produce record sales like rock and pop music, but it did sell and there were radio stations all over the country playing these artists. The fact lots of jazz music was addressing racial and social issues was not appealing to general white audiences. There was criticism it was too "angry". Sound familiar?
 

toddbishop

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"With jazz...so few educated Afican Americans even support it, preferring black pop.
The real problem with jazz is that it's no longer a form of expression where what black musicians do or don't do matters to most black Americans. Jazz has more meaning for black Americans as a history lesson than a living, breathing cultural experience . It's not on black radio or on black TV programs; it's not in black schools, neighborhoods or churches. The question is how much longer contemporary jazz will even be considered a "black" art form in America. If culture is defined as what people do, then we can say that, in significant numbers, black people don't do jazz anymore."

Who does? It's not popular music, and hasn't been since the 1930s. It doesn't have broad support in any ethnic community. It's also not dead, there are a ton of good musicians around, and it's still used for all kind of commercial purposes, and it's a major part of the education of the most serious younger musicians. It's different than it used to be, but what isn't?

I don't think it's real productive to talk in such broad terms-- jazz is not a genre, it's not one music, and black and white communities are not monoliths.
 

g-dude

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Back in college, I remember reading an essay whose name and author escapes me. What stuck with me was this: jazz was considered a highbrow form of music, while things like rhythm and blues were considered lowbrow or mediumbrow.

This is a huge contrast from the pre-WWII era where jazz was considered to be music that lead to drug abuse, degeneracy, etc.

If something is highbrow long enough, eventually people move on - highbrow is not where the majority of people are at, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.

Jazz has taken its place alongside European classical music as an art form that is high caliber, but also not readily accessible to most people. I enjoy jazz, my wife hates it. Thankfully my son doesn't complain about it, and I'm hoping that an appreciation through exposure will not only rub off on him, but inform his development as a drummer.

Ironically, blues and bluegrass have gone in the opposite direction. They are both so approachable that people have generally moved on because it all starts to sound the same. I mean, I can tell when someone is REALLY good versus merely very good, but most people can't. Fred Armisen's impersonation of someone watching a blues band at a beer festival is spot on.

There's a point on the artistic vs accessible possibilities frontier that maximizes the audience for a given type of music. Jazz isn't sitting there - and maybe that's okay. Or maybe we could be doing a lot better in terms of music education in this country.
 

Rich K.

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I thinks the quickest way to kill hip-hop is to make University departments of hip-hop studies leaded mostly by the white professeers. It workes for the jazz.
That would imply that jazz was killed in the '60s when universities started teaching it, and would also imply that most instructors at jazz programs are white, which isn't true in either case.
 

toddbishop

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That would imply that jazz was killed in the '60s when universities started teaching it, and would also imply that most instructors at jazz programs are white, which isn't true in either case.

And also that white instructors are incompetent to teach it without destroying it, which is totally ridiculous.
 

Rich K.

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A quick Google search found many colleges offering courses in rap and hip hop. I guess I better dump my shares of Deaf Jam.
 


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