|Nicholas Payton, whom I think can sing!|
but not expecting anything earth-shattering.
|Am I drunk or are there 130 comments on jazztruth?|
Overall, most people have been supportive. There's still some conflicts to be resolved, and I hope that they will be, because jazztruth most of the time is a lover and not a fighter! I think it's time to move on to a different topic for a while. I have many interviews, tour diaries, and so forth to share. But I will leave you with something sent to me by Anders Chan-Tideman, who is a booking agent for Kurt Rosenwinkel and many others:
I first met Nicholas Payton in 1991, when he came through the Montmartre club in Copenhagen which I was booking. He was part of Elvin Jones band. Nicholas was very young, barely in his twenties, but he not only looked like a classic trumpeter, he played like one. Big, huge, warm tone, great lines, rootsy when he wanted it to be, advanced bebop when he felt that. Cue to about 10 years later, I saw Nicholas on stage at the Blue Note here in NYC. He was then performing in Roy Haynes band that also featured Kenny Garrett, David Kikoski and Chris McBride. Nicholas impressed me just as much again, he played with all the same qualities as when he was with Elvin, but now with even more maturity. I find it deeply offensive that anyone who can carry himself like that on bandstands like these should find himself put on some silly-ass scale like "not even among the 5 best trumpeters" or "have you heard Enrico Rava" (not to take anything away from him). To have been on the bandstand with folks like Elvin and Roy and played like THAT is to embody the very core of the spirit of this music, at it's most exalted, and there is no question that someone like that has some lessons to teach anybody who has NOT been there or might not even have an idea of what that means.
I also find it off-putting, to say the least, that somehow tearing Larry Carlton apart should justify doing it to any other musician. Sure, I do not listen much to Larry Carlton's music myself these days, but here's a guy who has contributed enormously to many culturally and historically highly significant albums, who can definitely play the shit out of the music he chooses to perform, and who, as a musician that has lasted 40+ years in this incredibly difficult business, has shown himself to be a dedicated and highly professional musician. Does he not deserve respect, or is it the job of some hack to come in and tear him apart because, for some reason, his music does not appeal to that persons aesthetic?
In my years in the business I don't think any profession has heaped more shit on this music than the so-called critics. It's not just writers. When we also hosted one Mr. Dizzy Gillespie at the Montmartre club in 1991, 2 radio people from an independent station called Radio Jazz showed up at Dizzy's hotel to try and interview him. Dizzy had had very little rest, was 73 years old and needed to play 2 sets that evening. I told them to not show up unannounced at our artists hotels without first consulting with the club. Dizzy chose to go eat at a restaurant right next to the venue about an hour later, I was running around a bit, then came into the restaurant only to find the same 2 radio people sitting in front of Dizzy, while he was trying to eat, with a microphone up his nose. As I was walking toward the table I heard one of them ask Dizzy: "How did you feel when Miles Davis died"? This was about 1 month after Miles had passed away. I think I nearly got violent with them. The level of disrespect that they showed to a Dizzy Gillespie was just unfathomable to me, one of the greatest creators that this music has ever seen. And the weird part is these guys thought that somehow Dizzy OWED it to them, because, hey, they were working for very little compensation and trying to promote so-called jazz, and so all the rest of us in the biz, and most of all the musicians, had some kind of debt to them that they could cash in whenever they pleased.
I have detested that attitude ever since. I have practiced saxophone for just long enough to know that getting good at this music is requiring almost super-human effort. I am not talking about getting great. Good! But let me take that back. Being able to play this music with any kind of proficiency is a serious, serious accomplishment, one which ought to make anybody who professes to love (this) music show some serious respect.
That's not to say that a critic can't or shouldn't be critical of an artists creation. That's part of their job. However, as a professional they should always leave room for the potential audience to discover their own opinion about a piece of music, unless it is so badly executed and below any kind of professional standard that it simply doesn't deserve that. I have not yet listened to "Bitches", which I will be sure to do now, but it is unfathomable to me that Nicholas would be capable of anything but a super-high level in whatever he chooses to put out. He's too great of an artist.
As for the title "Bitches". Now, speaking as someone who loves Notorious B.I.G, who loves "Bitches Brew", I find that anybody that takes serious offense at a title like that to be in the lineage of Tipper Gore's reaction to rap/hip-hop. I remember in Tupac's movie "Resurrection" that he spoke about bringing "images" into peoples minds that was as powerful as Vietnam war photographers images that created the opposition to the war. Only this time it was the war on poor people in the ghetto's all over the United States. That resonates with me. Black artists transformation of language through the art form of hip-hop, but dating back to coded language when slavery was still a "sacred institution", has been well publicized and has become a world-wide movement just like jazz was in the 20ties and 30ties still resonating to this day. I don't think there's any question that all of that comes from the same source, namely a black source unique to America. So "Bitches" as well as "Nigga" are words that are used differently inside that community than when spoken by a white person inside THEIR community, and thus the same standard cannot be applied to it. A black person calling another person "nigga" doesn't have the same connotation as a white person calling a black person that.
That said, it's a loaded term, and it is true that using it causes controversy. Even inside the black community. Just the other day I was at an eMusic event where parts of Robert Glasper's new album "Black Radio", out in 2012, was played for a select group of people. The "N-word" was part of the lyrics of one track, and when the audience was given a chance to ask Robert some questions, there was one black man, in his 50ties, who was quite upset the word was even in there. Robert defended it by saying that in the context of the song and the lyric, the word wasn't used but rather "looked at" as if under a magnifying glass. I don't think that really satisfied the gentleman though.
But part of what artist do and SHOULD do is to provoke. Controversy is part of any leap forward, whether it's Darwin or the arts. Witness the reaction of the 1st audience that heard Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring". A riot almost broke out. I don't even know how a term like "Bitches" can provoke ANYTHING in this day and age, when the age of any kind of innocence is so clearly long gone, and with the abject ugliness that constitutes American politics - especially on the right-wing/Republican side of things. The shit THEY say day in and day out on TV is so profane that a word like "Bitches" PALES (pardon the pun) in comparison. Perhaps Nicholas title refers to them, and if it does then it's a mild term and I guess a function of his retiring nature and the fact that "fascist shitheads" would have sounded even worse.
One last thing Mr. Brent Black (hilarious that this is your last name given this debate). How did Miles Davis "fail" in making his music in the 80/90ties? You go pick up the Miles Davis DVD from 1985 from Montreal. Miles plays his ASS off with John Scofield, Darryl Jones etc. "Star People" is a hidden gem. "Tutu" was a seminal album for many of us, and definitely helped pull me into the jazz-sphere back then. And Miles playing is beautiful on it - as always. Perhaps I didn't love Amandla quite as much, it was a little too slick for my taste...and I think for Miles taste too. So he wanted to go raw with Doo-bop, didn't get to finish the album, but was definitely onto a new direction that it would have been great to see him pursue. Look at him playing "Human Nature" with his band live in Paris in 1991 (on Youtube), 2 months before he passed away. Here is this wonderful, fantastic icon of this music, a true heavy-weight champion of the world, playing so hauntingly beautiful and people are loving it. Yeah, he's not playing "Cherokee" like Clifford Brown at this point, but so what (been there, done that): He's communicating real beauty to real people, and the history of HIS music - black music - is all the way up in there in every note he plays. The critics have never stopped giving Miles Davis shit, even to this day with you only being one example. Us music lovers can't get enough of him.
In the final analysis I do agree with the person that suggests that it's sad that we always have to discuss race. It makes all of us squirm a little, I think (and hope), and I do believe we are all the same. But given the fact that black people have been cheated out of so much in this country, and even inside their own music (Paul Whiteman the "King of Jazz", Dave Brubeck and Chet Baker over Bud Powell and Miles Davis etc etc), it's natural that there's weariness in that community and a desire to at least reclaim what they feel is legitimately "theirs". I do believe it's futile to try and rename "jazz" now, because among most fans it's a term of endearment and doesn't have any negative connotations. It's just the critics and the industry, with it's penchant for segmentation, that makes it that way, using "jazz" to sideline their efforts on it's behalf.
But having said that I do miss more attempts - like Nicholas and Robert's - to make jazz music for more people. Back in the 70ties there were all kinds of people that did that with integrity: People like Grover Washington Jr., The Crusaders, Herbie's Headhunters and bands like that. I read an interview with Dizzy Gillespie from 1948 in which he said: "When jazz loses it's dancebeat, it loses it's audience". Primarily white critics have snubbed any attempt by jazz musicians to heed that call. Nooo, every jazz musician has a duty to up the ante on Live At The Plugged Knickel and A Love Supreme, or else he/she is a failure and is selling out. That's just ridiculous and by the way - it's not going to happen. I applaud Nicholas and Robert's attempts at bringing their and this music to a wider group of people than just intellectual snob's...another group that may well have been who Nicholas meant when he called his album "Bitches".
All the best,