[JPL] Mastery Redux
rick at jazzrockworld.com
Sun Sep 17 01:07:07 EDT 2006
It always seems to boil down to the same issue with Jazz. Is it dead? If it
is, let's treat it with the respect it deserves and proceed accordingly. If
not, then what determines it's health? Is it growing or shrinking? Who
dictates the guidelines for judging these qualities?
Just for ducks (shits & giggles for you youngn's) I went to Dictionary Dot
Com and noted the following:
1. a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of
something: a master of six languages; to be master of one's fate.
2. an owner of a slave, animal, etc.
3. an employer of workers or servants.
4. the male head of a household.
5. a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation, art, or
science: the great masters of the Impressionist period.
1. celebrated, renowned, illustrious, outstanding. See famous. 2. noted;
Given those parameters Jazz has "qualified" masters. The same parameters
apply to Fusion (being the super freak I am, I had to throw that in). The
question that comes up for me regarding both Jazz and Fusion is the common
element of having masters that have not changed since they were established,
at least it seems that way, please correct me if I'm wrong. With Jazz, these
masters were established before many of us were born. Having been out of the
traditional Jazz loop for about 20 years, can someone tell me if a Jazz
master has been established (besides Wynton) since the 80's?
Additionally, if the masters are considered the benchmark, which is probably
a good policy, then why aren't there better masters today than yesterday
which should be the new benchmark? Example: Johnny Unitas is a master
quarterback, Joe Montana is a master quarterback, did that stop Michael
Vick? Did anyone think there would ever be someone better than Babe Ruth or
Willie Mays? What about Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Didn't Michael
Jordan become a master? Didn't the Galloping Ghost pass the torch on to Jim
Brown and then Sweetness? Will there be another Jerry Rice? Why doesn't that
work with Jazz? (Or, does it?)
I think the answer is the elephant in the room - sports have clear
boundaries between them. You can't mistake a football player for a
basketball player. Music on the other hand has boundaries as clear as the
instruction book for assembling the NASA Shuttle.
It seems to comes back to the notion of an original American art form that
is either fixed (dead), or fluid. Traditional Jazz in it's current state has
self-imposed boundaries (it seems) and there is no mistaking Jazz when you
hear it. On the other hand, there are Jazz musicians that don't comply with
the time honored boundaries. Is what they play still considered Jazz as
determined by the parameters of a master?
How does that relate to a programmer? It seems to me that the programmer is
stuck in a catch-22. In order to play Jazz, they need to honor the masters,
otherwise they risk playing music that's not considered Jazz on a Jazz
station. Some of these "new" (living) Jazz musicians play music that doesn't
comply with the traditional boundaries. Therefore, programming it is pretty
risky for stations that have audiences that want to hear Jazz as defined by
the established parameters. Am I understanding the question properly here?
Does any of that make sense?
I'm not sure that I can be more specific and articulate my dissertation down
to a few succinct sentences, so I apologize up front for having to sift
through all that and try to reach the essence of my thoughts. I'm not even
sure I have an essence, it may be more of a general concept or out of focus
From: jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com
[mailto:jazzproglist-bounces at jazzweek.com] On Behalf Of Rick McLaughlin
Sent: Saturday, September 16, 2006 6:11 PM
To: 'Jazz Programmers Mailing List'
Subject: RE: [JPL] Mastery Redux
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Hey Jae, Rick, Jan, Bobby, everyone,
Thanks for such thoughtful replies. Here's where I'm going with this: the
discussion re: Roberta Gamberini highlighted something that has been on my
mind recently, something that I find troubling and I don't know the answer
to (recognizing, Jae, that you have already somewhat addressed the context
in which this happened, but still...) - when the conversation about her new
recording moved to one where people were saying things like "she's the real
deal" and the whole bit about relating (and/or comparing) her to Ella and
Sarah Vaughn et al, well, it struck me. It struck me not because I have any
affiliation with her, although I may have met her at NEC some years ago (we
were students there around the same time).
Here's the deal - if "mastery" is not something that can clearly be defined
yet recordings of the "masters" are the ones that get a majority of the
airply; and if the jazz icons are going to be the benchmarks against which
all new music is going to be heard and compared (again recognizing some
significant room for varying approaches here), then:
a) how can jazz radio programmers _AND_ musicians expect the jazz audience
to increase in number? In this context, America's only art form, the
musical genre that was defined by innovation and innovators for decades,
well I think it is in danger of becoming a musty ol' museum piece. I love
museums, so problem here, but still... And,
b) how can we expect for up and coming artists to get a fair shake? Roberta
Gamberini is just one of hundreds of my generation and younger trying to
make our way through this (but let me also be clear that I'm not trying to
make this about me). As another example, if the Brooklyn scene is working
its way through a rock band sound (huge Nick Drake, Radiohead & Wilco
following there), and these cats are hitting all the major festivals in
Europe, how can they expect to get a fair shake here? How can they build an
audience of "jazz" fans, when what they are playing sounds so different?
The jazz radio programmers are probably not going to say, "that was the new
recording by [some incredible band on Fresh Sound/New Talent] - they are
doing some new stuff, reminds me of Wilco." But to cite any fusion records
or hard bop records or anything else would be off the mark. You dig?
PS - And I'm not asking how THEY specifically are going to do it, I'm
wondering how to deal with this phenomenon of having a tiny audience, a
large number of amazing musicians on the scene, music schools hitting record
admission levels, and yet instead of talking about the new sounds of a
Roberta Gamberini, we are stuck with the same old thing - "she's the real
deal" and, you know, she reminds me of Ella, just like Ella, etc., etc. And
seriously, I don't even own her record, I'm just saying that it's the same
old conversation - I'm not trying to sell more of her records or get a gig
with her or anything, I'm just asking the question and she provides a timely
Phew. Seems like a tirade. Sorry about that.
Ok, one last thing in my tome. I just want to say again that I'm a
musician, not a radio guy. I'm in on this because I think that ultimately
we have the same goal, which is to get great music heard. I also think that
we are dealing with some of the same problems, centered on a tiny and maybe
even shrinking audience.
That's it for now and thanks again everyone,
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