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All That Jazz!!

Last night I was watching "Blue Note: A Story Of Modern Jazz" on the Encore - Drama channel. Known for superior quality recordings, Blue Note was the famous independent record label formed by German immigrants Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff in 1939. The label produced a majority of the jazz recordings in America from its inception until 1965, when it was sold to Liberty Records. Blue Note, now a division of Capitol Records has changed over the years. While reissuing many of the great jazz recordings of the past, its current roster of artists includes not only great jazz instrumentalists such as Wynton Marsalis and Greg Osby, but contemporary vocalists like Norah Jones, Al Green, Van Morrison and Anita Baker as well.

If you have read my bio you know I live in Las Vegas which is not really known as a jazz mecca. However, Las Vegas has had a few pretty good jazz venues over the years, and when they opened, I usually went a few times. I also have a few jazz albums (CD's) but, for the most part, they remain unplayed. It seems I just don't have a great appreciation for jazz.

In the Blue Note documentary, former basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who also happens to be a huge (no pun intended) jazz aficionado, explained Americans' appreciation for jazz as follows:

The reason that Europeans could see something in jazz and Americans couldn't is the fact that anything that blacks in America have created or tried to offer to the culture at large has always been minimized and ridiculed. White people in America, they could only see jazz as bordello music because that is the only time they ever encountered it and that image stuck. So people from Europe who did not have the racist bias of Americans could come and see something that was incredibly creative and artistic, and they saw an opportunity to exploit it commercially and in doing so, helped a lot of these artists survive. If it was not for them, it might have always been thought of as bordello music.

As I listened to this it seemed that his comments could be interpreted a few different ways: 1) You have no appreciation of jazz because you haven't been to enough bordellos. 2) Europeans have been to a lot more bordellos and that is why they have a greater appreciation of jazz. 3) The Europeans were merely exploiting the black jazz musicians. 4) You are a racist and, because you are a racist, decided not to buy any jazz records in an effort to keep the black musicians from succeeding.

I may be naive (that, in and of itself, may explain why I don't like jazz) but, I don't believe that any of the above explanations really apply to me. It could be I am just not sophisticated enough to appreciate jazz, but what it really boils down to is: I just don't get it. And, if you want to know a secret, I don't get Picasso either.

Posted by Rick | April 21, 2005 02:34 AM

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