[JPL] Jazz Insights | Jazz Vent by AJ Smith BOYCOTT THE GRAMMYS!

Jim Eigo jim at jazzpromoservices.com
Mon Jan 9 15:26:04 EST 2012

> http://jazzinsights.net/
> BOYCOTT THE GRAMMYS! <http://jazzinsights.net/?p=101>
> Posted on January 5, 2012 <http://jazzinsights.net/?p=101>
>  <http://jazzinsights.net/?p=101#respond>
> the 2012 Grammy Awards is the first one to eliminate many categories, the most
> prominent being Latin Jazz. there are those who argue that Latin Jazz is not a
> separate genre but a substratum of other music. why not then, they suggest, a
> category for bebop, or swing, or Dixieland. the answer is simple: trad-jazz,
> i.e. Dixieland, or New Orleans jazz, Swing, Chicago-style, Kansas City and
> bebop are cogs in the evolution of contemporary, or modern jazz.
> Latin Jazz evolved uniquely and independently from Spanish influences in that
> great multi-cultural gumbo that is New Orleans combining with the African
> Negro diaspora. Scott Joplin used the habañera in his ³Solace² in the 19th
> century; Jelly Roll Morton called his fusion ³the Spanish Tinge² in the early
> 20th; the original rhythm of W.C. Handy¹s ³St. Louis Blues² was, you guessed
> it, the habañera. it all seems to have emanated from Georges Bizet who called
> a selection from his opera Carmen ³The Habañera.² the rhythm eventually became
> the basis for the tango.
> let¹s get back to that diaspora thing. all African slave ships did not land en
> masse in one place. some were sent to Argentina, where the music fused and
> became the tango. others went to Colombia where it became cumbia. in Brasil,
> the samba, then bossa nova. the Dominican Republic gave us the merenge. yes, i
> know i¹m over simplifying.
> the most important landings were in the Caribbean where it eventually became
> reggae and, most importantly in Cuba where African-Latin percussion fusion was
> born. but why and when did this jazz combine with Afro-Latin music? to my mind
> the West-supported Trujillo dictatorship in Cuba and the entertainment Mecca
> that it became encouraged jazz bands to play there. remember, jazz was the
> popular music of this country right through the Swing era. Al Capone was a big
> trad jazz fan and his successors ­there is no such thing as the Mafia, right?­
> loved to use Cuba as their playground, if you believe what you read and see in
> the movies and on television.
> flash ahead to 52nd St. in the late ¹40s & ¹50s. the original Birdland was on
> Broadway near the corner of W. 52nd with its sign reading ³Through these
> portals pass the most.² one block north was the legendary Palladium Ballroom
> featuring Latin dance bands with names like Tito Puente, Machito, Jose
> Curbello, both Tito & Arsenio Rodriguez (not related), Eddie & Charlie
> Palmieri (brothers), Chico O¹Farrill, Perez Prado. during set breaks the
> jazzers from Birdland would walk the block to hear what this rhythm was all
> about. (according to Dizzy Gillespie most jazz players couldn¹t figure out
> where ³one² was.) the dancers were inventing ³breaks² and wanted something
> more so the bandleaders went down the stairs to Birdland to hear what the
> improvisers were saying. love at first phrase!
> marriages are hastiy arranged (pun intended). Machito records with jazz
> musicians such as Charlie Parker. O¹Farrill writes for Gillepie who also
> records with Machito as his brother-in-law Mario Bauza arranges things. Woody
> Herman partners with Puente. on the westcoast Stan Kenton hires latin
> percussionists and his brother-in-law Johnny Richards to write Cuban-tinged
> music for his band after he has a hit with a Cuban street song called ³Peanut
> Vendor.² (El Manisero²)
> meanwhile back in the Apple Dizzy discovers congero Chano Pozo in Havana,
> brings him to New York and, voila! Latin Jazz spreads like a brush fire in a
> drought. soon every jazz group ³needs² Latin percussion. (not-yet-Dr.) Billy
> Taylor steals Candido Camero from under Dizzy¹s nose and expands his Birdland
> house band; cool and tight George Shearing adds Armando Perazza; percussive
> pianist Erroll Garner hires Jose Manguel; the Nat¹King¹ Cole Trio becomes a
> quartet with the addition of Jack Costanza; and congero Ray Barretto becomes a
> ubiquitous presence on many contemporary jazz recordings, having already
> become a star in the Latin community. (Ray¹s love for jazz was so deep that he
> was also a walking jazz encyclopedia.) in fact, if you took away the latter
> from those recordings they would sound hollow, something missing. and i have
> only just scratched the conga skin: Herbie Mann¹s groups, Willie Bobo, Cal
> Tjader (on red vinyl no less), the surprise praising and acceptance of the
> Brazilian flick ³Black Orpheus,² which catapulted bossa nova never to look
> back.
> i¹ve omitted more than i¹ve included so in my next posting, say in a
> fortnight, i¹ll include commentary by drummer, educator, bandleader Bobby
> Sanabria who is spearheading a grass roots movement ­and a law suit­ to bring
> the NARAS Latin Jazz category back to the Grammys. also, why has the Jazz
> Journalists Association removed the category from their awards? i¹ll also show
> how young artists proudly continue to use the phrase ³Latin Jazz² in their
> bands¹ names and their songs¹ titles. it must carry some caché. your
> assignment for next time remonstrate on this: isn¹t the Recoding Academy
> supposed to expand the understanding and exposition of all music? why do they
> spend money on full page ads denigrating someone¹s art simply because of the
> lack of crass financial gains? (i refer to the New York Times ad on last
> year¹s Best New Artist Esperanza Spalding ­boo hoo Justin­ which also included
> insulting remarks about Herbie Hancock.) btw, that ad just spurred more
> interest in Spalding proving once again that there is no such thing as bad pr;
> just spell the name correctly.
> later!
> - arnold jay smith
> January 2012

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