Thursday, July 29, 2021

The demon-haunted world: jazz snobs

Here's a desperation special. When I can't write much, I pull something not-that-great out of the drafts folder, like this: a few snippets of people battering their insecurities into submission by attacking a mythical demon, The Jazz Snob. I forget where I got these. They're probably YouTube comments, possibly forum comments.

First you'll notice that these people are all very successful, while the jazz musicians who torment them are losers, forced to do very shameful work:

“I wanted to make a living. I found I had many hard jazz heads talking down to me as I was making a good full-time living doing tv shows, movies, and pop recordings. They play great and work at Walmart.”

One man was scarred by an event decades ago: 

“...about 25 years ago I was taking a long lunch in downtown Everett, Washington and I noticed some jazz people setting up. So I casually walked over and asked what they were playing... 'Jazz' he said very snobbishly... That much was obvious ..... I was planning to hang out and listen top them, but instead I cut my lunch short and went back to work... You can abuse me to a point, but you are going to pay me to do it...”

“I have nurtured a decades-long grievance over a single word spoken to me, that was directly responsive to my question, which I interpreted as intolerably abusive.”

“When I was in music school, the group of drummers asked me- a freshman - what music I was listening to and who my favorite drummers were. I said “Rush - and Neil Peart, Vinnie, Stewart Copeland, Manu Katche...” the collective disdainful gasp is nothing I’ll forget soon”

This happened. People do make exaggerated, easily-readable expressions of shock when a drummer lives up to their expectations.

“There's nothing more ironic than a term like "jazz police"

A Music genre, that was forbidden, whose interpreters were prosecuted by a society in where they dared to be outlaws... Has a "police"

Elitism kills music scenes...” 

Note: “Jazz police” are not actual police. It is not some enforcement body created and named by jazz musicians to root out heretics and unbelievers and too-creative neophytes. A made up thing fulfilling the disparaging name you made up for it is not an irony-type situation.  

“Jazz has become an orthodoxy and anyone who truly challenges that orthodoxy will get rejected. Too many years of jazz being 'taught' has created a glut of jazz musicians who don't know how to work in the modern music world but will be able to have an opinion on how you should play jazz. There is a huge difference to what Ornette and Monk were doing compared to what most modern jazz musicians are doing today. And this can be heard in how similar modern jazz musicians sound.  This video really seems blind to the real problems that exist in the current jazz ideology; It can't cope with true iconoclasts anymore....”

...oh, I remember, these are comments from the 80/20 guy's  “authenticity” video, which I wrote about, to which he responded in another video, without naming this site or linking to it...   

“Jazz” didn't necessarily cope that well Ornette and Monk at first, either. Iconoclasts are never welcomed by everyone, and having iconoclasty be an expected thing is not necessarily good. You get a situation like in the art world— a certain attitude in it— where every new thing has to wipe out what came before it, and nothing gets developed. It becomes a form of commercialism. It would be great if people were more accepting of individual voices, and were more original in their creative work— we'll have to take that up with the human race. 

As for jazz being an orthodoxy— I think somebody probably was told to do some homework and didn't like it, and couldn't respond to that person at the time. Or the authority figure didn't validate the commenter's objections. 

“Jazz cats are among the most insufferable jackasses on the planet. And this is coming from someone who’s worked in two different music stores and attended three different schools of music. I once asked an unruly jazzer 'why are you knocking yourself out to make elevator music?'”

Note: I shall not comment on a music store guy calling other people insufferable. Equating jazz to elevator music is evidence of a thorough and deep understanding of a world wide field of music spanning a >100 year period.  

“Jazz is that ugly place where all the toxic mistakes of history ferment.”

This I could not have said better. Finally someone gets it. yeah. These are all basically the notes from a story-writing session for the movie Whiplash

My theory: I blame this type of thing on the South, and the southern diaspora. Sorry, South. There seems to be some kind tribal instinct to demonism and mob frenzy down there, where you identify an enemy, and then make things up about it, get good and mad about that, and everyone piles on more made up things, and everyone has a good homicidal wallow. There's also a particularly American kind of self-defeating belligerence towards moral, intellectual, scientific, professional and artistic authority— any non-violent authority— while being slavishly submissive/worshipful to the punishing kinds of authority. 

And there are a lot of very fragile egos. Many folks seem to be mostly concerned with building some kind of fraudulent appearance of status, and with cocooning themselves in self-delusion about their abilities, and they get very angry when someone doesn't help them with that project.  

Most jazz musicians I know, and I, are painfully aware of their/our real and imagined shortcomings, and spend many years learning to deal with that— not by BSing, but by working really hard at learning to play. So by the time we are done(?) being beaten up by our insecurities, we're pretty solid about what we know and do not know, and we don't concede points of music to just anyone who wants to disagree. This also makes some people very angry. 

The thing to do, instead of what these people did, is to get serious about learning. All that requires is to have some humility about the task ahead of you, to stop the BS, and to learn to listen and take in information— all the time, from any and all sources. And not get mad at people who outperform you, or that know more than you, or that don't stroke your ego and self-delusion. Those are all learning opportunities, and only the biggest losers in this game pass them up for the sake of their ego. 


Ed Pierce said...

I especially appreciate your last paragraph. Well put.

Scott said...

Great post. It reminds me of an article I read about Jimi Hendrix (OMG, like you actually listen to Hendrix?!). He was out at a club in London with friends and listening to a average guitar player. Everyone in his entourage figured Jimi would want to leave. He wanted to stay saying he could learn something new from any guitarist if he listened. I think the goal is to try to grow as an artist by best using the elements around you and to support those artists coming up.

"It (jazz) can't cope with true iconoclasts anymore....”

I disagree that jazz police is a unique phenomenon to contemporary performers. There has always snobbery in jazz music. Ornette Coleman was hardly embraced by the jazz community when he started. Especially when he first started. He was beat up by concertgoers who didn't like his 'harmolodic' approach. There was terrific disdain from the jazz community to bebop when it emerged. A young Parker had a cymbal thrown at him while he was soloing. Armstrong said bebop was noise. Ironically, purportedly, the beboppers played difficult chord changes to keep less developed musicians off the stage. Further, jazz has always had 'cutting sessions' where one musician tried to outdo another. I think the elitism has always been a part of Jazz music.

inmyoblivion said...

And of course there's "all these jazz drummers sound exactly the same" which, depending on the commenter's age, might be accompanied by "drummers in my day all had an individual sound."