60 Comments
Jun 7, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

I've never been a fan of smooth crew cut. I like bop crewcut and there's nothing like a good old standard crew cut. But give me good old straight ahead crew cut every time. That's the sound for me. I'm having to admit that I'm struggling with the concept of an afro-cuban crew cut. I guess downbeat will have to figure that out.

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Jun 8, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Ted gets it right. Let’s support music we love, and if it is called jazz, celebrate it! I can hardly wait to go into town next week to see and hear Christian McBride and his current ensemble at…Jazz Alley!

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Jun 8, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

This is the funniest post you've made since I've been reading you. No one word can adequately cover all the music thought to fall under it. Is "In My Life" rock? I spent my career as a classical-music host and producer (public radio, of course). There are those who think that the standard Bach-through-Stravinsky repertoire would be a lot more appealing if we could call it something else. "Serious" music has been floated. My reaction: Are YOU serious? Offenbach, "Carnival of the Animals". "Young Person's Guide", Beethoven's Symphony #8? "Serious" is more off-putting than "classical"! And how about country, folk, gospel, etc.? The minute you try to contain music within a one-word category, it starts jumping fences--like wild horses in a corral that's too small. Are Gershwin's Piano Preludes classical? Jazz? Miles Davis' take on Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez"--classical, or jazz? Bernstein's "Candide"--opera or Broadway show? Ellington's fave phrase "beyond category" comes to mind.

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Jun 7, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

In the 1970s I was program director at a commercial jazz FM station in New York (WRVR). We were under new ownership and trying to build a broader audience beyond the hardcore jazz fans. Someone in upper management asked whether we could just play the music but never actually say the j-word. That idea lasted only a few seconds. What persisted, of course, was the question of whether some particular record was or was not jazz.

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Its the sophisticated guys version of the two stupidest questions in rock and roll. "But is it TRUE punk?" and "But is it TRUE heavy metal?".

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Nothing will turn off someone new to the music faster than inadvertently falling in with a group of jazz snobs.

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I was referring to a group of fans; I've met very few snobbish players.

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Jun 8, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Great, as usual, Ted. I laughed out loud at "opening the envelop" and finding . . . crewcut? Bonkers.

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Jun 8, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Here's my "funny" story about the word "jazz".

Few years back I was playing in this band of 90's rock: our music style was a blend of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Foo Fighters. In a song we were working on, I suggested the guitar player to, instead of the chord he was playing, play it like Hendrix: a dominant 7 #9 chord. The guitar player was giving me a skeptical look and then I added: "It will sound more jazzy :)" ... And that was it. The reply I got was: "Jazz? F*** jazz!"

Perhaps I should I have used the words: Jarb, Mop, or Crewcut instead. The true is that, outside the jazz buble, people associate the word jazz with "elitist" and "snob". In a certain way, the more traditional forms of jazz have become the "new" classical music. Middle-high and high class families will put their children to study jazz. Jazz musicians will play jazz tunes, sometimes of high complexity, with the charts in front of them. Like Pat Metheny said in an interview he gave to Rick Beato recently, there was a time that jazz musicians stopped trying to impress their peers, and instead started to play for their families.

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At that point of time, "Grunge" (An awful marketing derived term, but the one that stuck) still considered itself as a flavour of punk, and like a lot of punk, it had disdain for prog rock and by extension fusion jazz. That wasn't universal. In my local scene the biggest heavy alt rock band, Cinema Prague had a huge influence, and Chilli Peppers fusion of punk and funk heavily relied on jazz chords, or at least jazz extensions of rock and roll chords. In many respects 'grunge' got displaced in the alt rock world by post rock and post punk, and these genres have no such hangups about importing ideas from prog rock and jazz.

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Jun 7, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

I owe much of my musical education to my mother who was a pretty good singer, a decent pianist and an overall lover of anything musical. She played a lot of New Orleans jazz in our house on the record player. But in all the varied genres she exposed me to, and there were many, she never once, that I can recall, actually put a name to what we were listening to. She either loved it and played it, or it wasn't in the house (until I started bringing home the Beatles, etc...). I still can't define, for someone else, many of the genres of today. It's all music to me. I either love it or....don't understand it.

It seems that putting something as creative as music, or any art for that matter, into a genre hole is mainly a marketing problem. Hard to sell product if you can't say what it is, or describe it somehow.

Jazz? what a perfect name.....

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Jun 7, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Ted, this was your best article yet! Truth and humor packaged together. Thanks.

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Jun 7, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Brilliant.

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Jun 7, 2022Liked by Ted Gioia

Fascinating!

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Crewcut and the Funky Butts!

Bandname!

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$1000 is probably more than

Downbeat ever paid a writer for a story, any story! (And of course you needed to be a subscriber to participate: oof.) The business of jazz, no matter where it is handled is a big part of the problem, not the music itself. Aside from that, musicians don’t like to be categorized. I am sure you’ve heard Gary Bartz rail about jazz: “don’t call me a jazz musician,” he has opined for years. The idea of categorization is anathema. It’s limiting. I was a guest at a seminar one day in which Branford Marsalis and a famous (jazz) producer whose name I cannot recall were the main speakers. This was at Columbia University, and the audience was composed mainly of scholars. During the conversation, the subject turned to Frank Sinatra. Branford said: “Frank Sinatra was a great singer, but he was not a musician.“ Since I was a guest rather than a recognized expert, I had to be silent. It killed me! Frank Sinatra, whom I had the pleasure of hearing in person, was an outstanding musician. I repeated Branford’s comment to the great Harold Mabern when I next saw him. ‘WHAT??’ he exclaimed! I knew I would find a sympathizer ear, because in a sidebar on Sinatra for a (jazz) magazine, Harold and I both picked the same album as our favorite.

I don’t think we need a new name for Jazz, but I think we need to recognize that labeling a piece of music, a body of music, a particular musician as ‘a jazz artist’ is limiting.

Thanks for this piece, Ted! You are prolific and excellent.

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How can one be a great singer without being a great musician? Sinatra revolutionized phrasing. My guess is, on another day Branford might have proffered another opinion on Sinatra but wasn't feeling so charitable.

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Actually, I believe he said, “Sinatra was not a musician.” Which is even worse.

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Downbeat never paid me $1,000 for any of the articles I wrote for them!

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There will always be some daft buggers trying to fix something that isn't broken.

"Finding solutions for problems that don't exist."

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Always been the question, What jazz is and isn’t. Is Grammy winning “jazz group” Snarky Puppy Jazz? Not to me, but I’m old and bitter.

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If things go the way of the past, we have music styles named according to the era of their writing... Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, Popular music, 12 Tone, etc etc. Within each are many sub styles/categories. Now with Popular Music, we have Jazz, Rock, etc etc and within each we have sub-sub styles like Jazz Rock, Jazz Fusion, Bebop, Dixieland, etc etc. Probably a lot of people would like to see Popular music broken down without the overarching umbrella, but that is more of an artifact of how close we are to it, and not so close to fugues, concerto grossos, canons etc.

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