The attack on jazz

Sam Smith – A strange thing is going on about jazz, of which John Halle, director of music theory at Bard College, makes an interesting FB comment:

John Oliver last night: “Congress is like jazz in that most people hate it and anyone who says they don’t is lying.” Someone needs to get to the bottom of all this. My provisional take: jazz is a proxy for Obama buyers’ remorse. All the smart people (often the same people) told us we should wave the pom-poms. But just as Obama turned out to be just another politician so too is jazz just another form of music. Some of it great, some of it appalling, most of it mediocre. Lord knows I wish we got the political backlash instead of the musical one, but that’s the way things roll right now-for reasons which should be discussed and better understood.

My own thinking is that music and culture are so intertwined that music outside of a contemporary culture can sometimes be as alien as fashion that doesn’t reflect the times. And there is a tie with politics, too,  i have, for example, long listed the disco drum machine, along with the Harvard Business School and Yale Law School, as major causes of the collapse of the First American Republic.

There have been times when the popular taste in music has been far more eclectic.When I had a radio jazz show in college back in the 1950s, for example, the tension between the classical, jazz and folk DJs mainly consisted of bad jokes. This is clearly not such a time, due in no small part to the way the monopolistic music industry currently runs the show and controls what we hear.

But it is the duty of any artist is not to be cowed by the tyranny of the present. And about the time that we start to get out of our current cultural disasters we will undoubtedly be aided by new sounds many would not tolerate today. As Louis Armstorng put it once, “If they act too hip, you know they can’t play shit.”












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