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19 March 2007

Comments

mwanji
1.

Thanks for linking, Darcy.

I think I am actually a little darker than before I left!

Dan
2.

I find Matana's blog and the responses particularly informative, if only because they're the only African-American voices in the discussion, which can be disconcerting at times. I just wish there were more people of varied backgrounds participating in the dialog. Obviously it's of interest and enough importance for the community of bloggers who are (all? mostly? Please correct me if I'm wrong) of the caucasian persuasion. I think George Lewis' upcoming book on the AACM will be highly informative, for a variety of reasons, but largely because he has no interest in de-racializing the history of jazz, and if his previous writing is any indication, he'll be dealing largely with the social and cultural issues that gave birth to the organization and the music.

DJA
3.

Obviously it's of interest and enough importance for the community of bloggers who are (all? mostly? Please correct me if I'm wrong) of the caucasian persuasion.

Mwanji is black.

So is Matt Durutti of Los Amigos de Durutti. Taylor Ho Bynum isn't white.

There are also the pseudonymous bloggers -- like, say, The Improvising Guitarist. I don't know if he's "out" racially, but I try not to presume that people are white by default.

andrea
4.

here's what leroy jenkins says on the matter:
Leroy Jenkins: ...Alvin Singleton's a very interesting example, because he is on the other side. He is, for lack of a better word, a "classical" composer not a jazz composer, and he's one of the only ones, yet if he had an instrument and was going to be at the airport he would probably be called a jazz musician. But he wouldn't mind! He likes the idea. You know he's classical, he likes the idea because he looks at jazz as being a free thing so he doesn't have to worry about it.

"Blue" Gene Tyranny: Creative musicians don't necessarily do the same music, but they're interested in each other's music.

Leroy Jenkins: They respect each other. But the inside thing is that when we talk I think, "Man, the stuff he's doing, the pieces that he's written, he should be rich and famous." Guys make jokes about me, if I had been white, I'd been rich and famous too. Now here's the reason we know it's not going to change until the whole thing changes—black African American composers don't have the same infrastructure, we don't have people we can go to, patrons of the arts who are black, to ask for money. Everything we get is from white patrons. There's not one black person that's given to any of the organizations I know or me or anybody else. So there it is. That means right there when we show up, we're almost automatically second-class. Even if we're better and the guy going to give us money knows it, and I walk in at the same time with a white guy, he goes first. It's perfectly natural if the guy's white. I think it would be perfectly natural if the guy was black he would chose me first, right? Give the brother a break, you know? So that's where we are, we're second-class in that way. When we walk in the room where all the power and the money is everybody turns toward us, 'cause we're the only ones there. I'm not kidding you. This happens to me all the time. Sometimes I'm in a room where I'm the only black guy there.

from:
http://www.newmusicbox.org/article.nmbx?id=2496

andrea
5.

oh man, and it keeps going! obviously, i can't post the whole article here, but it's worth the read and ties in very, very nicely.

Dan
6.

DJA, thanks for the info. I guess Mwanji was somewhat of an exception in my mind because I was thinking about African-American voices in the discussion. All perspectives other than white-males are welcome, but I was really lamenting the lack of African-American voices in a discussion about their role in the music, which was why I found Matana Roberts, Corey Wilkes, and Jaleel Shaw's perspectives so valuable.

DJA
7.

I was really lamenting the lack of African-American voices in a discussion about their role in the music, which was why I found Matana Roberts, Corey Wilkes, and Jaleel Shaw's perspectives so valuable.

No doubt. One thing to keep in mind is that whenever these "jazz and race" discussions come around, the views of the artists themselves are frequently not very thoroughly or accurately represented. That's what makes the interviews in Notes and Tones so fascinating. (As an aside, as a white suburban Canadian kid enrolled in a music school where all my peers were other white suburban Canadian kids, that book was a real eye-opener.)

DJA
8.

Meant to add that I would love to see more jazz musicians (of all stripes) blogging. I know Ethan has tried to persuade Jason Moran to get into blogging -- how great would that be?

Dan
9.

I'd love to read a Jason Moran blog...didn't he say that Artists Ought To Be Writing? I should try and convince some Chicagoans to blog. I'd love to get Nicole Mitchell going but she's busy enough as it is. I'll bring it up next time I see her.

tig
10.

I don't know if he's "out" racially, but I try not to presume that people are white by default.

But you presume my gender…? ;-)

S, tig

DJA
11.

Touché.

mwanji
12.

I'd like to read a Greg Osby or Steve Coleman blog (sounds like an M-Base collective blog). Kenny Werner? But there are probably a lot of unknown (to me) musicians who'd make great bloggers. I mean, I didn't know I wanted to read a Darcy James Argue blog before I started reading it!

Jaleel Shaw
13.

I guess I never posted a response to this... And it looks like no one has in a while... but it's something that's still on my mind. I actually just did an online interview at uncensoredinterviews.com and one of the questions that was thrown at me dealt with racism within my field. I decided to talk to more of my peer about the topic and one of the first musicians I spoke with reminded me that it was too long ago that musicians weren't allowed to use the front door to the venues they performed in. Many clubs (and restaurants, stores, bathrooms) were segregated for years. And this was maybe not even 50 years ago... which to me is not very long ago at all. I think we've come a decent way from those times, but it's not over...
Another topic that arose was the topic of segregated bands. How some leaders still have all white groups or all black groups... When I really thought about it and looked online at different group configurations, I realized this is MORE than true... To that the only thing I could answer was that maybe some leaders relate to people of their own culture more than other cultures. And maybe they feel as though the artist of their own culture/race can bring out different aspects of their music better than those of another culture/race... Or... Maybe these artist really do want to have all white or black bands... What do you you guys think?

Jaleel Shaw
14.

Ooops... I meant not too long ago... - "one of the first musicians I spoke with reminded me that it was too long ago that musicians weren't allowed to use the front door to the venues they performed in."

DJA
15.

Hey Jaleel,

Thanks so much for your comment. Sorry I didn't respond sooner, I've had my hands full with the tour.

You are absolutely right that the scars of slavery and racism are still fresh and raw in the relative scheme of things -- remember when Al Sharpton found out his great-grandfather was a slave owned by a relative of Strom Thurmond? And then there's this post by a blogger named Lower Manhattanite, which brought a perspective to Obama's Iowa victory I hadn't really considered, having been born long after all the high-profile political assassinations of the 1960's. It's hard to imagine what might happen to the country if, god forbid, someone were able to get through Obama's Secret Service escort. I guess it betrays my naivité that I hadn't even really considered the possibility of something like that happening, when for people like LM it's a real visceral fear.

The topic of the racial makeup of jazz groups is a thorny one, to say the least. I will say that one aspect of it is that white jazz musicians sometimes still have a significant amount of anxiety about their place in the jazz world at large, and so approaching black musicians that they don't already know socially and asking them to play a session or a gig can be intimidating for some. There's maybe a sense that because of the importance of jazz to African-American culture writ large, talented black musicians have an additional, very personal stake in the music that white players can never have.

Jaleel Shaw
16.

Sorry I'm over two years late replying to this.. But I just came across a link to a Willard Jenkins topic and thought remembered this forum. Darcy, I just read your reply and wanted to comment on your last paragraph about white jazz musicians asking black musicians to play...
For one. I think your comment about white jazz musicians sometimes having anxiety in the jazz world at large goes both ways. I've spoken to many black jazz musicians that have told me that they feel under - appreciated in this jazz world today. And they feel that the contributions that African Americans make to jazz are not equal or as important as what others are doing in the jazz world today. Actually a very popular musician that is not black recently sent me an email and basically said that he feels uncomfortable that he's getting so much attention and that so many African American artists are being overlooked. He said it feels like a trend today... I was honestly surprised to read it and have been thinking about it ever since...
As for the importance of jazz to the African American culture. Yes, it's very important to SOME of us. And I say some because sadly I don't think many African Americans today are exposed to Jazz music or educated about it as much as white people. I think if that was the case, we'd see more African Americans at Jazz shows.
But yes, I think it's important to us. But I don't think (and correct me if I'm wrong) that there's a vibe from the all of the African American players that we're the only ones that are allowed to play this music. And that we all want this music to be exclusive to African American. I can tell you I don't feel that way or know anyone that does...

Jaleel Shaw
17.

I would like to add to that.. Because it's been on my mind all day... I think and understand that you may feel that African Americans have a personal stake in Jazz music. But I think that's purely based on the fact that there are some that feel that the history/roots of this music are sometimes forgotten/ignored today...

DJA
18.

Hey Jaleel,

Thanks so much for your comments! It is really great to have your perspective here. I should say that my thinking has continued to evolve (I hope) on these issues, and my tossed-off, poorly-thought-out comments from two and half years ago don't necessarily reflect my current views. (And I definitely regret using that Ben Folds lyric in the post title -- the perils of blogging, I guess... )

I should say that I absolutely agree with you that there are a great many African American jazz artists doing very strong work who are seriously under-appreciated on today's scene -- that is undeniable. And I have personally never gotten anything even remotely resembling a "we're the only ones that are allowed to play this music" vibe from any black musician, ever.

I also hear you on the music's roots being neglected -- that is a huge, if unspoken, part of the subtext for the Jason Marsalis Jazz Nerds International thing that is causing so much controversy lately...

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