[JPL] Get Out'Tha Ghetto!

Ray Reach rreach at bellsouth.net
Fri Aug 8 13:14:38 EDT 2008

Dear Misters Davis and Willis,

As a professional musician of some 45 years, I find validity in some aspects of both your points of view.  Here's my view:  I believe that there are good things to be gleaned from both more traditional ("mainstream") jazz and the so-called "contemporary" or "smooth" jazz

It is my belief that, in the words of Louis Armstrong, there are "...only TWO kinds of music, good music and bad music."  Fact is, there has always been, since the earliest days of recorded music history, lots of mediocre and bad music and precious little good music.  Not all of us (musicians) are in possesion of the high level of talent or skill that it takes to be a Mozart or an Ellington.

However, it is also my firm belief that "the cream will rise to the top."  The quality listeners will always seek out the quality music.

I produce recordings of all sorts, from Country to Gospel to Jazz to Classical.  True, my fave is jazz, but I also appreciate great Bluegrass, Western Swing (a la Bob Wills or Asleep At The Wheel), Pop / R & B (a la Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire and Luther Vandross), great Classical (a la Itzak Perlman), etc., etc., etc.  

I remember the 1970's when many jazz "purists" thought Chick Corea and Return To Forever and other such fusion groups were the jazz "Anti-Christ."  Nowadays, tunes such as Spain from RTF's "Light As A Feather" album are considered mainstream.

My main point is:  All these genre and subgenre of jazz don't have to be mutually exclusive.  Jazz will continue to evolve.  If it doesn't, it will surely die.  So, at this point, I guess I agree with Mr. Davis.  Let's "lighten up."  Yes, there are a lot of "dumb" (low artistic content) smooth jazz recordings out there.  But, I've also heard a lot of "stupid," poorly executed "pure" jazz recordings.

Dare I say this?  I've heard some cuts by John Coltrane and others wherein the intonation problems are massive, but they were still released.  And live recordings of various "pure jazz" artists that exhibited ensemble problems, problems with balance and blend, and poorly executed improvised solos, yet they became "hit" jazz recordings.  Or recordings of the Ellington band which sounded as if most of the band was drunk.  (They may have been.)

Are these poor quality "pure" jazz recordings any better than some of the slickly produced, but unimaginative, smooth jazz recordings.  I think not.  In fact, I've heard contemporary jazz recordings such as the recent effort by Al Jarreau and George Benson, which got slammed by the critics, and I thought it was wonderful!  The arrangements were extremely clever, the production was top drawer, the performances were incredible, yet the critics gave it a "thumbs down."  Often I wonder if many critics are bipolar, and if they were having a depressed day when the wrote certain reviews.

All the best,

Ray Reach 

Pianist / Vocalist / Guitarist / 
Arranger / Composer / Producer 
CEO, Magic City Music Productions 
207 Three Sons Drive 
Birmingham, AL 35226 
Director of Student Jazz Programs, 
Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame 
Cellular: 205-960-6328 

-------------- Original message from mileswillis at wpfw.org: -------------- 

This week's sponsor: JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be announced in 
> August; registration opens in September. 
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 
> Dear Mr. Davis, 
>      I think that I understand your sentiments but must take strong 
> exception to your characterization of a commitment to playing 'pure' 
> jazz as some stubborn 'ghetto-ization' of the music that may 
> ultimately lead to it's disappearance from the radio airwaves. 
>      I assume that what you are hinting at is the mixing of music that 
> is referred to as 'smooth' or 'contemporary' along with jazz for the 
> purpose of gaining greater general audience appeal. You go on to infer 
> that doing so will lead to "developing a mindset... that programs jazz 
> as a part of an interesting, challenging, sophisticated general music 
> format", as though the playing of ONLY jazz cannot precipitate such a 
> development. This thought makes apparent that you, inexplicably, do 
> not find jazz itself to be 'interesting, sophisticated and 
> challenging' on it's own and can only become so by diluting it's 
> presention with non-jazz music.  
>      Being that you are (or claim to be) a jazz radio programmer, I'm 
> deeply troubled by your assertion that we must 'rid (ourselves) of the 
> idea that (we)... owe something to this genre... (or that) it must be 
> kept "pure"'!? First of all, it is the musicians who keep it the art 
> form "pure" by respecting and absorbing it's traditions as 
> they continue it's evolvement. Even more disconcerting is your belief 
> that it is BOTH musicians and radio people who are responsible for 
> this 'ghetto-ization', which you define, rather clumsily, as "making 
> music that appeals primarily to academic circles--conservatory 
> musicians and a few fellow travellers". While I do acknowledge that 
> some of jazz' more abstract forms/genres are difficult for even some 
> of it's most avid fans to appreciate, there is no reason why the more 
> traditional and/or mainstream works cannot have more broad popular 
> appeal far beyond the conservatories and academic circles, 
> particularly if it... you know, swings. 
>      You blame the music and the 'purity' with which we stubbornly 
> present it as the reason for it's disappearance from radio, implying 
> is that a larger potential audience awaits if we'd all just 'lighten 
> up'. The truth is that too few people ever get to hear jazz in the 
> first place. We, the musicians and 'radio people', need to promote the 
> music to, shall we say, 'underserved' populations. Let's go to the 
> schools, community centers, bookstores, etc. to talk about and play 
> this great music for those who've never had the opportunity to hear 
> it, which would include just about everyone, everwhere. The music can 
> create it own demand or, to paraphrase, 'if they hear it they will dig 
> it'. For nearly a century jazz has stood upon its own merits, 
> diluting, however well-intentioned, it is the surest path toward its 
> demise.  
> Sincerely, 
> Miles Willis 
> WPFW - Washington, DC   
> Quoting Eric Hines : 
> > This week's sponsor:  JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be  
> > announced in August; registration opens in September. 
> > 
> > ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 
> > 
> > 
> > How do we stop these changes? Jazz programmers have to get as serious 
> > about radio as they are about jazz. I've seen plenty of progress here at 
> > jpl over the years on that issue, but there's still a lot of work to be 
> > done. 
> > 
> > One thing that I think needs to happen is that programmers have to rid 
> > themselves of the idea that they,a s radio programmers, owe something to 
> > the genre "jazz" or that this genre has to be kept "pure." Radio is a 
> > mass medium; if you don't use it (less than 1 AQH share in wmub's case), 
> > you lose it. I know a lot of us (including me) have a long way to go in 
> > that respect, but that's the battle we're fighting. 
> > 
> > Developing a mindset--and programs--that programs jazz as a part of an 
> > interesting, challenging, sophisticated general music format probably is 
> > the only chance there is for jazz music on radio. And the more musicians 
> >   and radio people ghettoize the music (by making music that appeals 
> > primarily to academic circles--conservatory musicians and a few fellow 
> > travellers; by programming shows consisting largely of such music), the 
> > more likely it will be ghettoized on the radio as well--to places like 
> > HD, which, frankly, is a bad joke which we won't have to kick around for 
> > very long in any case. 
> > 
> > --eric 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > Eric Hines 
> > General Manager 
> > WNMC 90.7 FM 
> > http://www.wnmc.org[1] ( http://www.wnmc.org/[2] ) 
> > 1701 East Front St. 
> > Traverse City, MI 49686 
> > 231-995-2562 
> > 
> > 
> > Play in NMC’s scholarship golf outing Aug. 7 ( 
> > http://www.nmc.edu/foundation/events/golf-scholarship.html[3] ) ( 
> > http://www.nmc.edu/alumni/update.html[4] ) 
> > 
> >>>> "Dr. Jazz" 8/7/2008 3:11 PM >>> 
> > This week's sponsor:  JazzWeek Summit 2009 -- dates and venue to be 
> > announced in August; registration opens in September. 
> > 
> > ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 
> > 
> > WMUB (Miami U) in Ohio has just changed to an all news & info station, 
> > 
> > and has moved all music to their HD channel.  From their website: 
> > 
> > *Why These Changes? 
> > *As many of our listeners know, in the last 18 months WMUB has been the 
> > 
> > subject of a major internal study from Miami University, chaired by 
> > Journalism Program Chair Richard Campbell. The radio environment both 
> > nationally and locally has seen rapid change during that time, but as 
> > General Manager of WMUB I did not feel it was appropriate to institute 
> > 
> > anything but very minor changes to our overall programming mix during 
> > this time. 
> > 
> > Now that review is over, and it is time for WMUB to move ahead. The 
> > committee's recommendation of dynamic partnerships on and off campus 
> > has 
> > challenged us to live up to our mission as never before: 
> > 
> >      * Miami's review affirmed WMUB's role as a public service radio 
> >        station. 
> >      * We believe that commitment is best served by a full-time mix of 
> >        local and national news and information programming. 
> >      * By focusing our format, we believe we will increase our ability 
> > to 
> >        attract and retain new listeners as well as serve the great 
> >        majority of current listeners. 
> >      * This change thus orients us toward future growth in audience and 
> >        local fundraising capacity. 
> >      * The resources of the WMUB news room will build on the best of 
> > NPR 
> >        and now (for the first time) the BBC. 
> >      * Repeating Diane Rehm and Talk of the Nation reinforces the 
> >        centrality of our news and information format. 
> >      * The repeats give those who can't listen during the daytime the 
> >        chance to experience the depth of NPR's talk shows. 
> >      * The BBC World Service gives an international scope and 
> > perspective 
> >        unmatched by any other available source. 
> >      * Although other stations in the area carry some BBC also, we will 
> >        carry more hours, and at different times. 
> >      * The *HD2 Jazz channel* and its 
> >        associated live web stream provide the appropriate vehicles for 
> >        presenting Mama Jazz to her audience as well as our overnight 
> > and 
> >        daytime jazz offerings. 
> >      * We will be able to provide further opportunities to work with 
> >        Miami students in a professional environment. 
> > 
> > What can be done to stop this continuing trend by non-commercial 
> > stations? 
> > -Dr. 
> > 
> > -- 
> > Dr. Jazz 
> > Dr. Jazz Operations 
> > 24270 Eastwood 
> > Oak Park, MI  48237 
> > (248) 542-7888 
> > http://www.drjazz.com[6] ( http://www.drjazz.com/[7] ) 
> > SKYPE:  drjazz99 
> > 
> > -- 
> > 
> > Jazz Programmers' Mailing List: jazzproglist at jazzweek.com 
> > List information: 
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> > List archive: http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/[9] 
> > Sponsorship information: jplsponsor at jazzweek.com 
> > -- 
> > 
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> > 
> Links: 
> ------ 
> [1] http://www.wnmc.org/ 
> [2] http://www.wnmc.org/ 
> [3] http://www.nmc.edu/foundation/events/golf-scholarship.html 
> [4] http://www.nmc.edu/alumni/update.html 
> [5] http://www.wmub.org/HDradio/ 
> [6] http://www.drjazz.com/ 
> [7] http://www.drjazz.com/ 
> [8] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist 
> [9] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/ 
> [10] http://lists.jazzweek.com/mailman/listinfo/jazzproglist 
> [11] http://lists.jazzweek.com/pipermail/jazzproglist/ 
> -- 
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