|Mission Theater in Portland|
If you have been following the drama surrounding my previous two posts, you might be aware that the firestorm surrounding Nicholas Payton's latest CD "Bitches" seems to still be burning. So many people have dropped by to leave comments(there were 137 comments on the first post entitled "Much Ado About Nicholas Payton"). And the conversation continues. Also, some people decided to comment on my Facebook page. There was a lengthy comment and lengthy thread regarding my defense of Payton's CD. A reader (someone whom I thought was a friend ! And not just a facebook friend! Some one I actually met in real life! I have actually gone out of my way to give advice and support to this person. Hopefully, when this thing blows over, we can get beyond this bone of contention) remarked:
....guys like George are simply playing 'follow the leader'; they don't want to offend their 'leader', so they become mere 'yes' men.
I’m just being true to me. I’m not trying to be original per se, just writing what I feel. I mean, all of these tunes are derived from real-life experiences. The songs here tell a story and they all represent a different aspect and manner of love. I put words and music to things that I really felt at one particular time so in that regard it was pretty easy to be original or different. Writing it was therapeutic, I put my energy and emotion into it.
Now, I also stated that I personally wouldn't call my CD "Bitches", but I'm not offended by the word on it's own, and I believe that this falls under the category of free speech. And because I believe that Payton is not motivated by purely capitalistic motives, I would defend it based on the idea that he should have the right to call the CD what he wants, as long as isn't being directly slanderous or libelous towards a specific person or group of people. OK, if the CD was called, "I Hate Women", and all the lyrics on the CD were elaborating that idea, then Payton would surely be on his own with that one!
Women are objectified and suffer various forms of disrespect, abuse, and oppression every day in America, and more so around the world. Whether is comes in the subtle form of stealth over-sexualization of advertising, or discrimination in the workplace, or being tortured, raped, mutilated and murdered because they disobeyed their husband, or being kidnapped and sold into slavery, women are being wronged. I don't believe this CD has anything to do with that! Furthermore, the idea that I'm enabling the oppression of black woman, or any women, in jazz and or in general, is absurd.
Regarding the idea that I am a "yes man" following a leader is also misguided. I only wrote these recent posts because I liked the CD and I liked what Payton said on his blog, and I felt that the critic who skewered the CD and Payton did so in a way which should be taken as a insult to all musicians. I have my own opinions, and while I happen to agree with much of what Payton says, I'm sure we won't agree on everything. I also respect him tremendously for his musical ability and his thoughtfulness in this ongoing discussion. But I have no agenda otherwise. Although I've worked with Payton in the past, I don't think Payton hires any musicians based on their blogging ability!
As I said the battle of words rages on; I intend to try to steer my blogship into different waters. Just a few last words. Payton has some new posts which continue the "discussion", shall we say. You can read them and decide for yourself. But one thing he posted was an "At Last!" moment, in terms of what my philosophy is:
What Pianist George Colligan http://jazztruth.blogspot.com/ (I wish he would call it BAMtruth lol) and myself are doing on our blogs is the wave of the future. We musicians are taking back control of the music. Fuck the New York Times. With all due respect, until I hear Nate Chinen and Ben Ratliff sit in at Smalls and rip everybody in the club to pieces, nothing they say matters.
I'll leave you with some further thoughts from Seth Ambramson, curator of the Jazz Standard in New York.
It's great to see a lot of passionate dialogue back and forth. What I find discouraging however is the vitriol that accompanies some of it. Likely we all can agree that "jazz" is an art form. It is a living and breathing art form that in order to maintain relevance and attract audiences generation after generation needs to respect its history while reflecting what is currently going on in our society. Therefore today we have the lineage of all that came before from James P. Johnson and Fats Waller to Louis Armstrong to Bird, Monk, Trane, Miles, Ornette, on up to today’s artists inclusive of Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire, Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Bad Plus, Nicholas Payton, Marcus Strickland, George Colligan, and the list goes on and on.
Rather than focusing a discussion on the merits of any one artist can we agree that, as an art form, jazz as Blakey used to say “washes away the dust of everyday life”.
Well I’d say we have an awful lot of dust to wash away these days. A lot of dust results in a lot of dirt. Here we have it in the form of mud slinging etc.
However, let’s step away form this undignified mudslinging and see that the anger and hostility present out there is very real and troubling in our society at large as we head into 2012. How sad then, as we enter this age, many of us old enough to consider “the future” when growing up in the 70’s,80’s and even 90’s, that we have such divide across so many segments of our society. This current back and forth discussion, be it what has emanated from Nicholas Payton’s blog or elsewhere here, is merely reflective of this and mirrors it.
I’d like to throw out now a lofty ideal to all of us in that as Burt Bacharach eloquently wrote about is that What The World Needs Now is Love. How corny that sounds Did I really just write that? But has it ever been more true than today?
Why are we not discussing in these “jazz” blogs that as of the past week the
homicide rate in the cradle of jazz, New Orleans, has reached an alarming 175
and counting in 2011? Even more tragic within this is that it’s brother killing brother.
What is there to celebrate as a society in this? How do we, as members of this society,not only address these issues but change them?
Most promising of late has been the Occupy movement. Finally, people are getting fed up enough to voice their collective wrath in a peaceful, non-violent way. And although politicians, on either side may hope this blows over, it is a very real movement that truly expresses the discontentment of the 99% of the population.
This makes our politicians uncomfortable. Suddenly, with the internet, it’s not so simple
to just clear out the parks and “let ‘em eat cake” This is truly a winter of discontent.
What’s beautiful about this music and this art form we can call “jazz”, “BAM” or whatever is most apt, is that is has the power to heal, it has the power to bridge divides be it racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic or other. Weren’t these the very ideals sought long ago by Dizzy Gillespie forming his United Nations Band?
If Dizzy were alive today what would he have to say about the back and forth rancor in these blogs for example?
Why is jazz not as relevant today as hip-hop and rap? Hip-hop and rap
address these issues in society do they not? Thus, the younger generations relate to it. It speaks to them and addresses some real issues. I'm speaking in general terms and I don't claim any expertise in the multitudes of the genre. Like it or not it has real cultural relevance. Jazz at one point was the Hip Hop of its day when it emerged as Be Bop for example. It had to Be before it could Bop!
Where’s Dizzy when we need him? We need the leaders of this art form commonly called jazz to help our culture heal and overcome it’s paralysis. We need them to put their energies towards positive change.
This takes a hell of a lot more discipline and commitment than sounding off about who can play the most happening solo over a given set of changes quickly flying through various time signatures. The general listening audience couldn't care less about that.
Addressing sincere and current cultural and societal issues in the music gives this music the power and the relevance it has earned and deserves today, tomorrow and beyond! BAM :-)