If jazz is dead, then why are the would-be hipsters trying so hard to kill it?
Last week, the New Yorker ran an unfunny and rather mean-spirited “satire” of Sonny Rollins, titled “In His Own Words.” Rather than offering a genuine interview with the 84-year-old jazz legend, the publication wasted space on a humor piece that didn’t even touch on several of the key episodes in the saxophonist’s career.
And now, another major publication, the Washington Post, hammers on jazz with a piece that reads like satire but, sadly, is not.
“Jazz has run out of ideas, and yet it’s still getting applause,” someone named Justin Moyer writes, in a column titled “All that jazz isn’t all that great.”
Right up front, Moyer admits that, while he studied with the likes of Anthony Braxton, Pheeroan akLaff and Jay Hoggard at Wesleyan, he found jazz “hard to grasp.” In his humble opinion, he has decided that jazz is “insubstantia.” and “hard to grasp.”
So, really, Washington Post, you assign someone who admittedly is clueless about jazz … to write about jazz? Smart thinking.
And why doesn’t poor Justin like jazz? Well, gosh, jazz is instrumental music, so it doesn’t have lyrics. Imagine the guy trying to come to terms with classical music. If only those loser composers had written lyrics …
And also, Johnny Hates Jazz, I mean, Moyer doesn’t like jazz because improvisation is involved — undoubtedly an art that’s far inferior to, you know, playing a tune exactly the way it was played on hit radio. Moyer has decided — all by himself — that the great and influential jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery was “serviceable, forgettable.” How astonishingly ignorant can one writer be? Also: Eric Dolphy played “an atonal bass-clarinet solo” on the Charles Mingus Sextet’s version of “Take the ‘A’ Train.”
Moyer has also concluded that “jazz stopped evolving,” “jazz is mushy” (commercial) and “jazz let itself be co-opted.” In other words, Moyer hasn’t bothered to listen to any jazz since his college days, when he made a noble but failed attempt to understand the music. File under: a perfectly good jazz education wasted on youth.
“Jazz is plastic,” Moyer writes. “It’s a genre loosely defined by little more than improvisation, sunglasses and berets.”
Berets? does Moyer imagine that he’s still living in the Beat era? Somebody give the guy some bongos, and call it a day.
Here in 2014, during a time when more forward-thinking jazz is being played, recorded and distributed (online) than ever before, a click-baiting column like Moyer’s is loosely defined by little more than smoke and mirrors.
Next time, maybe the Post will assign a jazz column to a writer with jazz knowledge and experience, rather than a know-nothing simply looking to provoke a reaction. Unless, of course, the paper doesn’t care if and when its credibility is damaged.