You might as well complain about “The Problem with Natural Selection” for all it’s worth. Jazz as a living art adapts, mutates, accumlates junk DNA, is subject to environmental influences, all the while unable to care about what the critics, cats, pedagogues, and wannabe hipsters think it “should” be. Efforts to even define the music, classify it, nail it down, have proven likewise elusive, although not necessarily unworthy of serious discussion.
Like some other living organisms, jazz has acquired its own symbiotic relationship with a certain form “criticism” that is really more a parasite than a helpful small intestinal bacteria. It isn’t always clear what the purpose of this type of writing is, it often seems to function, on at least one level, as a narcissistic and halfhearted effort to “Save Jazz” or at least to”tell it like it really is.” And so it has come to pass that the “The Problem with Jazz” rant, social media post, or blog is effectively the barnacle on the ass of the art form. It’s important to recognize this genre for what it really is – WHINING.
Just replace the words “The problem with” with the words “Blah, blah, blah” in a third grade whiney voice and you can save yourself some serious time and heartache. Let’s examine a few common themes:
• The problem with how someone else does their thing and why they should do it more like you think they should do it.
• Blah, blah, blah…. how this school or that school should teach more/less jazz vocabulary, or isn’t preparing students for the “real world.”
• Blah, blah, blah…. someone who is more successful….than you are…..
• Blah, blah, blah….how someone else runs their band, books their club, selects winners for their award ceremony, hires people for their gig(s) etc.
• Blah, blah, blah….can’t pay my rent and/or health insurance on what jazz gigs pay…
• Blah, blah, blah….the current generation’s failure to connect deeply with the “real” jazz/music that so influenced ME when “I was their age.”
The “Problem with Jazz” long form complaining is the musical and critical equivalent of the self-righteous and self-interested “Save the Planet” plea which George Carlin dissects so eloquently. To illustrate, just insert the word Jazz for “the planet” in the sentences below and replace the words “us” and “plastic” with “Kenny G” or any other artistic or educational condition and you’ll catch the gist.
“Save the planet? The Planet is fine…..The people are f#@%^ed…….the planet has been through a lot worse than us……The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas. The planet will be here long after we are all long gone….Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place, it wanted plastic for itself.”
Could it be that the planet allowed Jazz to spawn because it wanted Kenny G for itself? Regardless, “Jazz” is just fine. It’s the people who are f#@%*ed. Long live jazz, or whatever you call it these days.
** Author’s note: the above is not intended to represent the author’s aesthetic views on the merits of the music of Kenny Gorelick who’s name and likeness are intended for demonstration purposes only and not affiliated with the Trumpet Shed blog or its affiliates.