Blue: The Murder of Jazz

Overview

Once a thriving body of innovative and fluid music, jazz is now the victim of destructive professional and artistic forces, says Eric Nisenson. Corruption by marketers, appropriation by the mainstream, superficial media portrayal, and sheer lack of skill have all contributed to the demise of this venerable art form. Nisenson persuasively describes how the entire jazz ”industry” is controlled by a select cadre with a choke hold on the most vital components of the music. As the listening culture has changed, have ...

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Overview

Once a thriving body of innovative and fluid music, jazz is now the victim of destructive professional and artistic forces, says Eric Nisenson. Corruption by marketers, appropriation by the mainstream, superficial media portrayal, and sheer lack of skill have all contributed to the demise of this venerable art form. Nisenson persuasively describes how the entire jazz ”industry” is controlled by a select cadre with a choke hold on the most vital components of the music. As the listening culture has changed, have spontaneity and improvisation been sacrificed? You can agree or disagree with Nisenson’s thesis and arguments, but as Booklist says, ”his passion is engrossing.”

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Nisenson (Ascension: John Coltrane and His Quest, 1993, etc.) adds another voice to the increasingly shrill debate on the future of jazz and the role of Wynton Marsalis and his friends in that future.

Tom Piazza's Blues Up and Down (p. 1443) denounced critics who rejected the neoclassicism of the young musicians around Marsalis, hinting that those critics' emphasis on emotional statement and innovation had an unspoken racism underlying it. Nisenson has written a virtual manifesto for the opposing view. He jumps into the fray with both feet, accusing the "revivalists," as he calls Marsalis and his coterie, of "smothering the heart and soul of jazz with their love." He repeats the often-made accusations against Marsalis, his primary mouthpiece, Stanley Crouch, and their mentor Albert Murray, that there is implicit racism in their insistence that only African-Americans can truly play jazz, that jazz has its roots exclusively in the African-American experience. He also repeats the claim that Marsalis's hiring practices at Lincoln Center, where he directs the jazz program, have been both racist (few white musicians hired, only one—Gerry Mulligan—feted) and ageist. Then he offers a canned history of the music, designed to provide evidence for his own understanding of jazz a view that is no less essentialist and no less limited than the one he assails. The basic problem with this book, indeed, with this entire debate, is that nobody is offering a definition of jazz, based solely on musical analysis. Rather, as in Nisenson's book, what we are getting is a potted mix of half-understood sociology, half-digested musicology, and half-baked mythology. Nisenson compounds the felony with a writing style that is drenched in clichés.

Will someone please step back from this fight and offer a dispassionate assessment of the state of jazz, the history of jazz, and the future of jazz? This book certainly isn't it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306809255
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 1/14/2000
  • Edition description: 1 DA CAPO
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,328,359
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Nisenson is the author of several jazz books, including The Making of Kind of Blue. He lives in Malden, Massachusetts.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1. The Case for Murder 11
2. Young Man's Blues: Racism and Ageism in Jazz 28
3. The Jazz Age Revolution 47
4. Genius: The Triumph and Tragedy of Louis Armstrong 60
5. Deja Vu All Over Again 70
6. Swing and Its Discontents 79
7. Jazz Redefined: The Bop Revolution 104
8. The 1950s, Part One: Out of the Cool 125
9. The 1950s, Part Two: Into the Hot 146
10. Free at Last 170
11. Dancing in Your Head 188
12. The Virtual Jazz Age 213
13. Lighting Out for the Territory 234
Discography 249
Notes 253
Bibliography 257
Index 259
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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

THE CASE FOR MURDER

In a recent edition of the New York Times Magazine, there was a whole section devoted to jazz, a rare event for this usually ignored music (at least by the mainstream press). On the cover was the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, and in the section itself were lengthy laudatory articles about Marsalis and the bassist Christian McBride and a photo display of a group of young up-and-coming jazz musicians with the title "The Next Miles Davis Is on This Page." To anyone unfamiliar with the current contretemps in jazz, these pieces might not seem like the grist for anger and fierce argument. After all, an article extolling the brilliance of Marsalis as a player and composer and another one doing the same for McBride hardly seem the stuff of controversy. But jazz has become so polarized at this point that the Times section is viewed by many solely in terms of cultural politics. For it is Marsalis and his mentors and acolytes who have been at the heart of the current uproar in jazz.

The thrust of the entire section is that this current era is a "golden age" for jazz. The author of the Marsalis piece, novelist and occasional jazz writer Frank Conroy, points to the plethora of young jazz musicians who have emerged in the last ten years or so. And Conroy believes that successful programs like that of Jazz at Lincoln Center are encouraging the composition of large-scale works. These long works, Conroy believes, will finally make jazz a truly important form of art. According to Conroy, jazz has at last begun to earn the respect of the cultural elite, thanks to these new long-form pieces (most of those that have been performed at Lincoln Center have been composed by Marsalis).

As we shall see, there are many others who feel the way Conroy does. And then there are those who feel quite the opposite. Because once one leaves New York, the true sorry state of jazz is obvious. Outside of Manhattan, there are very few clubs that feature name jazz musicians anymore. It is true that festivals are well attended--but they are once-a-year events that attract jazz fans from all over the world.

And jazz radio? It is virtually dead. One of the last commercial jazz stations, KJAZ in San Francisco, recently (as I write in mid-1996) gave up its struggle and went out of business. The only way to hear jazz--true jazz--on the radio, even in New York, is on college stations. It is true that stations that play what is called "lite jazz" have become increasingly popular. But that in itself is a signal of what is happening to jazz. For lite jazz--such as the music of Kenny G., Grover Washington, Jr., and Bob James--is so diluted and soft-edged that it is closer in depth of feeling to elevator music than to "heavy" jazz. I am old enough to remember WRVR, a wonderful New York all-jazz station that played the best of the music. It is long gone. And it was not the only station in New York that regularly broadcast jazz. They are all gone.

Record sales? It is ironic that in the same section in the New York Times Magazine that extols the glories of today's "golden era" there is a listing of the top ten jazz albums: The first two were Tony Bennett albums, which were followed by a Harry Connick, Jr., funk album. Other albums were from such "lite jazz" acts as Spyro Gyra. A Joshua Redman album was the only straight-ahead jazz CD on the list.

Before the advent of this golden era, jazz albums consisted of about 5 percent of all albums sold. Now in the midst of this glorious "golden age," jazz records account for about 3 percent. Even albums by this era's biggest star, Wynton Marsalis, the most famous jazz musician of his generation, have not been faring very well. A used-record-store owner who specializes in jazz was once so inundated with returned Marsalis albums that he refused to buy up any more.

Marsalis--considered by many as being the equal of Miles Davis or John Coltrane in his influence on the jazz scene--has had trouble, for that matter, even filling a small jazz club. During a recent performance at Manhattan's Village Vanguard, New York Times critic Peter Watrous was astonished that Marsalis was able to fill only half of the place.

Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, a current favorite, has been doing better than Marsalis. Redman is a talented saxophonist, although, like most of his generation of jazz musicians, he lacks originality and that adventurous spirit we associate with the best jazz musicians (his father is Dewey Redman, also a tenor saxophonist, who is a far more idiosyncratic and innovative player). Perhaps Redman is aware of his limitations as a jazz player; maybe to make up for them he has apparently begun to pander to his audience. A critic of one of his recent performances noted that he got the crowd into an uproar by holding notes and by honking and wailing. The critic seemed to believe that both this sort of playing and the reaction of the audience were unprecedented. He should have gone back and listened to Jazz at the Philharmonic records from the 1940s and 1950s, when this style of pandering to the crowd was commonplace and the crowd reacted with predictable loud, unruly enthusiasm. Redman's antics prove once again that bad taste is timeless in its appeal.

However, the clearest indication that jazz is fading as an art form is the increasing diminution of genuine creative vitality. Indeed, there seems to be a wholesale avoidance of the kind of fresh inventiveness and risk-taking that had always kept jazz a vital and continually stimulating art form. At times there seems to be a conscious attempt to prevent jazz from being as fiercely creative and innovative is it has been in the past. This violence to the driving motor of jazz is what I, and a number of other longtime lovers of this music, consider to be nothing less than tile murder of this one-time feverishly fecund and innovative art form.

Conroy's, and others', insistence that this is a golden age is really based on two phenomena. One is the Lincoln Center jazz program, called Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC), which admittedly is a critical and popular success. The other is this large crop of young jazz musicians who have emerged in recent years--new, fresh, talented musicians seem to appear almost on a monthly basis. One has to wonder how Miles Davis would have reacted to that two-page-wide photo layout of about thirty of these musicians (most latter-day boppers with little new to add to the music) in the New York Times Magazine. He was angrily outspoken in his denunciation of the current "back to bop" movement. Upon hearing young musicians playing hard bop or post-bop, he would rhetorically ask, "Didn't we do it good the first time?"

Both of these phenomena are directly related to Wynton Marsalis and his mentors; they are the producers and artistic directors of the Lincoln Center program and many, if not most, of this current generation of jazz musicians are admitted acolytes of Marsalis. There is no avoiding him if one wants to come to terms seriously with the current state of jazz.

Wynton Marsalis is usually described as "the leading musician of his generation." Partly this is due to his indisputable ability as a trumpet player, but much of it is also due to his ideas about jazz, ideas he has tirelessly proclaimed since he was a novice jazzman in the 1980s. His influence on an entire generation of jazz musicians is as widespread as that of Charlie Parker or John Coltrane, but it is very different in kind. While Parker and Coltrane and the other great jazz innovators, such as Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, and Ornette Coleman, pointed to new directions for musicians to explore, Marsalis has done just the contrary. His concern has been with the "jazz tradition" and playing music based on his great knowledge of jazz of the past, particularly post-bop of the 1950s and early 1960s.

Marsalis believes that the free jazz of the sixties and the fusion of the seventies removed jazz too far from that "tradition." He continually insists on bringing jazz back to swing and blues, which to him are the essence of jazz, although he has never really defined those terms; this I will try to do later on in this book. Lately, he has also exhibited the influence of Duke Ellington in his composing and arranging, creating large-scale works for jazz orchestra that have received, at best, a mixed reception. And in order to expand his style, Marsalis has once again moved backwards rather than forward, unmistakably attempting to graft elements of Louis Armstrong's style to his own. Those young musicians who follow in his footsteps have been labeled neoclassicists by critic Gary Giddins. The term comes from the description of some critics of 1950s hard bop as being a "classic" jazz style. These young imitators of that style in the 1980s and 1990s are therefore neoclassicists. But as we shall see, there is a more accurate term for them based in jazz history.

In addition to being one of the producers of the Lincoln Center program, Marsalis has written some lengthy Ellington-esque "suites" for the program, which has a working band of some of the best jazz musicians in New York. There is a strong didactic nature to virtually everything Marsalis does; his love of and commitment to this supposed jazz tradition is not unlike a fundamentalist's view of the Gospels, and Jazz at Lincoln Center constantly reflects his beliefs.

Marsalis's main mentors in terms of his jazz "philosophy" are the writers and social critics Stanley Crouch and Albert Murray. Crouch began his involvement in jazz as a free jazz drummer whose style was based on that of avant-gardists Sunny Murray and Milford Graves. He also wrote poetry; one of his more notable poems was a eulogy for Albert Ayler, who became famous for playing the sort of white noise on his saxophone that Crouch--and Marsalis--now spurn as not really being part of the jazz tradition. In the 1970s he began to write jazz criticism, especially boosting players in the free jazz community. But over the years, Crouch's musical outlook began to change drastically, and that change reflected his slide to the right politically. He gave up playing the drums altogether, joined the staff of the Village Voice, and increasingly began to write about mainstream, hard-bop musicians and less about free players. His nonjazz writing often involved harsh criticism of black militants and separatists like Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones) who had been closely associated with the free jazz movement. Eventually Crouch moved so far from his past positions that former close colleagues, like the saxophonist David Murray (who had been especially close to Crouch until he was apparently replaced by Wynton Marsalis), would openly wonder what had caused such a sea change in their former associate and booster.

It was Crouch and especially Murray who developed what could be called a theory of jazz and its so-called tradition. Basically the theory is this: Jazz has developed over the years certain techniques and aspects of music-making that constitute an important part of its tradition, a tradition that arises directly out of African-American life and the "blues philosophy" that Murray and Crouch perceive in that life. Playing within this tradition gives a musician a kind of legitimacy, placing him within a community that supports and understands his music, while playing outside this tradition is simply amorphous music-making. Music played outside the tradition was music in a vacuum, unconnected to people's lives, particularly black people's lives, which is basically what jazz is, and always had been, about--at least according to this theory.

What are these techniques? Possibly the most concrete and succinct statement of what this tradition is all about is in Tom Piazza's Guide to Classic Recorded Jazz. Piazza is a vociferous supporter of both Marsalis and Crouch and the neoclassicist movement. He states in his book: ". . . Stanley Crouch has made a short but useful list of the essential musical elements that jazz musicians deal with: the blues, the romantic ballad, Afro-Hispanic rhythms, and the attitude toward the passage of time (at slow, medium, and fast tempos) that is called swing. To these I would add that jazz always demonstrates a call-and-response sensibility derived originally from the African-American church and which is present in the music's most basic structures."

This is, I suppose, as close as one can get to a succinct statement of the principles or elements of the jazz tradition according to the neoclassicists. But it is not very well thought out, and worse, it severely limits the imaginative parameters of this art form. Having a list that includes the blues, ballads, "Afro-Hispanic" rhythms, and the concept of swing is very confusing to say the least; the first three items in the list are musical forms that are, according to Crouch/Piazza, used by jazz musicians, but the fourth, the element of swing, is not a musical form at all but refers to the supposed rhythmic attack of all "true" jazz performances. Another major problem is that most jazz performances are neither blues nor ballads nor Latin numbers (and do Latin numbers really swing, in the strict definition of swing employed by Crouch and Marsalis?); they are usually pop songs or original tunes often with a harmonic base borrowed from a pop tune. And, as we shall see, the concept of swing is at best an amorphous one. I have no idea what Piazza means when he says he hears "call and response" in most jazz performances. Does he mean that all soloing and accompaniment is essentially call and response? It does sound good to mention a quality associated with the black church, since several elements of the black church were quite influential on the development of jazz and the early musical consciousness of a slew of important jazz musicians. But stating that call and response can--and therefore must--be heard in every "authentic" jazz performance is a great exaggeration, and again it limits rather than frees the musician: in order to create "authentic" jazz, according to Piazza, a musician has to make sure his music includes that quality that can be called call and response. There are numerous examples where call and response has been used by jazz musicians, and it can be an effective musical device--Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie" comes to mind--but declaring that it is an essential quality for the performance of jazz is quite an overstatement, to say the least.

The whole problem with this concept of the jazz "tradition" is that the truth is, the only real tradition in jazz has been no tradition at all, or rather, the tradition of individual expression and constant change and growth. Those who disagree with this neoclassicist concept of the jazz tradition believe that not only is there no real jazz tradition (except the continual breaking down of the perimeters of that supposed tradition), but that jazz itself is almost impossible to define in any narrow, dogmatic fashion. Piazza writes, "Many of the people who use the word most vociferously insist on a usage for it that is so broad as to be, in my mind, meaningless." Well, maybe the word jazz has finally lost its meaning, because there is no definition that really embraces the music--or at least the music that is generally perceived as jazz--in all its complex variety.

For instance, does the blues have to be part of a jazz performance? Of course not. There are even some undeniably great jazz performers, such as Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, and Coleman Hawkins, who, although they could play within the blues form, nevertheless had little affinity for the blues. Jazz musicians are diverse in the music that has influenced their style, and reducing it all to blues is greatly simplistic. For example, Hawkins listened almost exclusively to opera, and certainly its influence can be heard in his dramatic, bravura style much more than that of the blues. As we shall see, this insistence on the primacy of "blues expression" in jazz is part of a particular agenda rather than a clearly thought out principle.

The more we study jazz, the greater its possibilities and the fewer its limitations. Andre Hodeir has pointed out that jazz does not even have to involve improvisation. He gives as an example, a tune played by the Basie band that does not include any solos; it is still indisputably jazz. However, I do believe that both the feeling of improvisation, which is essential for the creation of jazz, and the musical philosophy that lies behind improvisation are essential factors that make jazz both unique and relevant to our time.

And where does the concept of swing fit into the basic definition of jazz? Well, that depends on your definition of swing. The neos are always insisting on the primacy of swing in a jazz performance--"It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing"; to them, music without swing simply is not jazz. But what is swing? I usually take swing to mean music played in the straight-ahead 4/4 meter that conveys a sense of linear movement forward. Most jazz performances do swing in this fashion, but what about other meters, such as 3/4 or 6/8 or 5/4? Are pieces played in these meters not jazz? This would mean that Coltrane's version of "My Favorite Things," Miles Davis's "All Blues," Sonny Rollins's "Valse Hot," and Paul Desmond's "Take Five" are not jazz, an absurd premise. And what about jazz played with funk or Latin rhythms? Such performances do not swing in the traditional manner--which would mean that everything from Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" to all bossa nova pieces are not jazz, which is ridiculous. Everyone from Coleman Hawkins to Archie Shepp has recorded bossa novas--what an absurdity to suggest these are not jazz.

Beyond these examples, there are certain musicians who play jazz and do not swing in the manner demanded by the neos. For example, Cecil Taylor does not swing, at least not in the narrow definition of swing upheld by Crouch and Marsalis. Anthony Braxton's solo performances also don't swing. And it should not be forgotten that many critics insisted that Coltrane did not swing in the late 1950s, mainly because his style at the time was based on glissandos played over the beat. Interestingly enough, Crouch insists that Coltrane's bandmate in Miles Davis's magnificent late 1950s sextet, Bill Evans, could not swing because (like Trane) he had an unusual but personal and legitimate rhythmic approach. And even if, according to somebody's code, these brilliant and tremendously influential musicians did not swing, so what? Their rhythmic approach was the right one for their particular conception.

How do we know that the above examples are jazz? Because they feel like jazz; they are players of improvised music created with a sensibility obviously derived from that unique jazz conception--that is as close as I can come to answering such a question.

It is at least partly because of the insistence of many of the leading musicians in the jazz mainstream today--that is, the leading musicians of this new young generation of jazz musicians--to define both swing and jazz itself in a narrow, parochial fashion that is causing so much of the formerly vibrant creativity of jazz to diminish so greatly.

I think that there would be better understanding of the music of Wynton Marsalis's young acolytes who have been dominating the jazz mainstream if they were given a better descriptive rubric. I believe "revivalist" perfectly fits the bill. As I noted earlier, the first jazz record I ever heard was by the Dukes of Dixieland. They were among the original revivalists. In the 1950s and 1960s, they, too, played jazz in a style that had dominated the music forty years earlier. There were several other bands that followed in their wake; the Firehouse Five was almost as popular. The difference between those earlier groups and this group of neoclassicists is that nobody considered the earlier musicians to be part of an important movement in jazz history, and none of those who played in these bands were taken very seriously.

The young musicians of the day, at least the bulk of them, paid little or no attention to such revivalists. They were too involved in investigating the new areas for musical exploration opened up by the bop revolution of the 1940s. Occasionally important jazz musicians did make nods toward earlier jazz styles and players, like when Coltrane recorded "Blues to Bechet" or Charles Mingus played half-humorous pieces like "My Jelly Roll Soul" based on his fondness for Jelly Roll Morton's music. But both of these pieces were put in a modern context, and of course nobody would ever brand the music of Coltrane and Mingus as being revivalist (or neoclassicist, for that matter).

This current generation seems so transfixed by jazz's magnificent past that they are as paralyzed as deer standing on a highway staring into the headlights. They seem unable to move ahead, unwilling to create music made out of the grist of their own time and place. And unfortunately, there are a number of critics who proclaim their music as being important and equal to any music created in the history of jazz. Record companies have been signing up the "neos" with the hope that the flak these young musicians have attracted will translate into big CD dollars.

Actually, the record companies are more at fault than probably any other single party for this sick situation. Most of them have gotten on the neo bandwagon, signing young players to large contracts despite the fact that most of these youngsters have not found an individual voice or discovered an innovative way to express their own lives in music based in the here and now.

Wynton Marsalis was made a victim of his own success. Given unprecedented public relations marketing, the record companies created the illusion that a talented young player was actually one of the all-time jazz greats. Much of his immediate fame was due to the fact that he had a separate career as a classical trumpet player. To the cultural elite, this meant that Marsalis was a "real" musician who could play "real" music and of course also that jazz stuff. Marsalis was immediately acceptable in the higher strata of America's cultural construct.

And his attitude toward jazz was not dissimilar to his attitude toward playing Bach or Handel: He studied the "tradition," learned all about it, and played within the sanctity of the music's past without challenging listeners through musical exploration and innovation. No one had to worry about Marsalis jarring his audience with the shock of the new as, say, Mingus had with The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady or George Russell had with Living Time or Coltrane had with Meditations or Miles with Bitches Brew. The enclaves of Lincoln Center were safe for the ladies and gentlemen who had built that cultural museum.

If Wynton Marsalis's own career is any indication, there is little hope that his generation will develop into genuine innovators, and by that I mean musicians who will reinvent jazz in reflection of their own lives in their own time. For years he and his supporters have entreated his critics to be patient; he was quite young and his important innovative work would come with time. But now, as I write, Marsalis is thirty-four years old. That is the same age Charlie Parker was when he died. Parker had done his most innovative work while in his twenties, like most great jazz innovators. Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Ornette Coleman, Coleman Hawkins, Earl Hines, and Dizzy Gillespie all did their most innovative work in their twenties or early thirties. By the time they were thirty-four, Miles Davis had recorded Kind of Blue and Porgy and Bess, and Coltrane had developed most of the elements of his style and, at age thirty-four, would form his classic quartet and record My Favorite Things. If anything, Marsalis has become even more of a revivalist the older he has become, reaching back to Duke Ellington for his long-form compositions and suites and to Louis Armstrong as a direct influence on his trumpet style.

I do not want to attack Marsalis as a musician; that would be silly. And his ambition is admirable. I especially admire his work with kids--going to schools, especially inner-city schools, and demonstrating for them and teaching them about this magnificent legacy of jazz, trying to inculcate in his young audience self-esteem, respect for values, and the idea that leading a decent, clean life is "hip." And one more thing: I think his knowledge of all jazz history and his insistence that those of his generation study the entire gamut of jazz's history, not just the immediate past, is important in itself and has helped develop interest in the entirety of jazz's musical riches. Most young musicians have usually ignored the earlier music and only focused on the players of the recent past. Encouraging musicians--and jazz fans, too--to listen to and know the entire jazz legacy is in itself something that Marsalis should be applauded for.

What disturbs me about Marsalis is that he seems to believe he has the right to dictate to the jazz world a very strict set of principles that define jazz and its so-called tradition. In many ways, one cannot blame Wynton Marsalis. He is surrounded by those who continue to extol his supposed genius, and because he became so famous while so young, he has, I believe, lost touch with the reality of his own talent. A while back I saw him on Charlie Rose's PBS nightly interview show. Rose began his interview by asking Marsalis what it was that made him the greatest trumpet player of all time, greater than Armstrong, Gillespie, or Miles. To his credit, Marsalis demurred, telling Rose that he did not consider himself equal to those geniuses. But Rose's ludicrous question reflects the way Marsalis is viewed by the cultural elite.

Why? Part of the reason--a very important part--is that Marsalis has a separate career as a classical-music trumpet player. As I pointed out earlier, his ability to play Bach and Haydn legitimizes him as a musician--beyond anything a musician who "just plays jazz" could even dream of--to those in the cultural establishment. This had a great deal to do with his being made the principal producer, the auteur if you will, of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Since Lincoln Center is primarily a museum for music rather than a center for the creation of a living art, Marsalis's revivalism and backward-looking musical philosophy fit right into its cultural design. When Paul Whiteman performed George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in 1924, the critics raved that Gershwin had "made a lady out of jazz." Of course, "Rhapsody in Blue" is hardly a work of jazz at all. It has little of the most revolutionary aspects of jazz, most importantly any semblance of improvisation. But the idea of making jazz "safe" and "proper" for the sake of a supposedly "cultured" audience (read: middle--and upper-class white people) is still obviously a successful one. The only difference now is that middle- and upper-class black people are now part of this supposedly cultured audience. Treating jazz like classical music is not a new idea, but it has never been as widely accepted as it is now.

Don't confuse this new trend with the supposed "Third Stream" music that became a trend in the late 1950s. The Third Stream was an attempt to fuse elements of European classical music with elements of jazz, including improvisation and jazz rhythm. Third Stream was, if anything, an attempt at bringing a new kind of innovation to jazz, not simply treating jazz as if it were classical music. In other words, it was a step, albeit a very small step, in jazz's evolution and continuing forward progress. It was not universally applauded, however. John Coltrane had no use for it, and Miles Davis compared it to "looking at a naked woman that you don't like."

Jazz repertory is an attempt to give the great works and musicians of jazz the same kind of treatment as the great works of classical music. These are good intentions, but they are of little interest to most jazz musicians and have virtually no effect on the evolution of the music. And one has to wonder about the idea of repertory for a type of music based on spontaneity and the inspiration of the moment. Perhaps it can serve an important purpose if it is done well by really giving listeners, whether jazz fans or not, a perspective on the history of this music. The Cooper Union repertory, the American Jazz Orchestra now defunct, was repertory at its best because the producer, critic Gary Giddins, and John Lewis, who was Giddins's musical director, found imaginative ways of presenting older jazz from a contemporary viewpoint. It was repertory that could serve as an aid to young musicians wishing to push on with fresh innovation. And it gave to its audience a real understanding of the dynamics of jazz's evolution. Despite its artistic success, it failed commercially and, sadly, it did not survive.

But generally, repertory is a very slippery idea in jazz. When Gary Giddins first began exploring the idea of jazz repertory, he asked the question, If works of jazz are as great as those of classical music, why should they not be performed in repertory? But asking this question ignores the profound differences between classical music and jazz. And once again, it is an example of trying to put the square peg of jazz through the round hole of European classical music. Perhaps there is a way to present jazz in a cultural institution like Lincoln Center. But using the model that works for classical music is missing several essential elements that make jazz unique.

Perhaps the best example are the works of Duke Ellington. Ellington is generally conceded to be the greatest of all jazz composer/arrangers. If his music cannot fit into the repertory--at least most of the great body of his music--that in itself brings into question the entire concept of jazz repertory. And as we shall see in Chapter 6, the authentic presentation of Ellington's music is simply not possible in repertory. Not in any way that represents his music the way he intended it to be heard. And that is because Duke Ellington was a genuine jazz composer in the most profound sense. He understood early on the very special properties of jazz and must have realized that composing for a jazz big band was profoundly different from composing for a classical symphony orchestra.

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