Death of Jazz

I’m so disappointed in the way this whole Ken Burns film ended, so dismissive of everything that happened after the 70s. True, jazz lost its direction in the 70s and no longer counted for more than a fraction of total record sales — it wasn’t driving the heart of the nation. But it took off into so many exciting realms, so much exploration, so much inspiration, and they characterized it like it just petered out into nothingness. Sun Ra never even got mentioned. It was oddly respectful, even if it was dismissive and missed the mark so widely. Ugh. Makes me depressed on two counts — that people forgot how to listen to great music, and that the most important historical document ever made on the music got its final conclusions so wrong.

I blame Wynton Marsalis, both for embodying that “worship the retro, nevermind what’s happening today” atmosphere, and for being given too much creative control over the direction this film took. It would have been so much better if it had had more voices contributing perspectives.

3 Replies to “Death of Jazz”

  1. re your “death of jazz” comments from way back when.

    Just came across your comments by chance on a google search for something else (checking into the location of an excellent 1961 live recording by the Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet, actually).

    I could not agree more and hope you will enjoy knowing there are more of us out here who feel the same way.

    The paying audience for jazz has shrunk catastrophically since the 1960s but there are numbers of players who’ve continued to move the music forward since and many who grow in wisdom — I’m thinking of players like Shepp, Harold Mabern and others who have not stood still (while being ignored by US labels), as well as giants like Jarrett and Shorter, not to mention all the great players from the 70s.

    It is shameful of Burns, PBS, Marsalis and the rest of the NYC mafia to have tried to put this great art into a mausoleum.

    As a European, I also think it’s shameful not to have fully acknowledged the rest of the world’s enthusiasm for, and contribution to, this music. Personally I find players like Enrico Rava, Gianluigi Trovesi and Stefano Bollani among the best our music has today.

    End of rant. Best of luck.

  2. I am interested in this argument: ‘death of jazz’ as something that was discussed as early as the late fifties by the Ed Bland/Sun Ra group and explained in ‘The Cry of Jazz’. The argument proved positive in Ra practice (shaker is right to mention a shameful absence from Burn’s film). Death of jazz signified its changing: death of ‘the body’ and life of ‘the spirit’ of jazz.

    I share many of the arguments above, but (as an european too) I just cannot understand how is it possible to consider Enrico Rava, Trovesi & Bollani among the best of ‘our music’. These musicians are serializing ‘jazz-derivative products’ in the current fashion. They practice another sense of ‘death of jazz’, their music is so ‘middle’ to me. It’s not the question to dislike them, but the problem that a lot of the so-called jazz of today comes out from a fabric of pre-cooked food, from the same processes of the contemporary pop-music on a smaller scale but on the same line. I would not celebrate this just because the ‘spirit of jazz’ here is absent, in my opinion.

  3. Hi!I’ve been playing piano for a while, but only started playing jazz and blues about a year ago. Currently, i’m trying to learn bebop improvisation. I know how to improvise in blues well, and my teacher already taught some of the theoretical aspects of bebop improv, like the chordscale theory and modes, but i was wondering if you knew any exercises that would make my improvising flow better and feel more natural.
    Thanks a lot.

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