30 June 2010

Yes, Yes, A Thousand Times Yes

I never wrote that promised response to the latest volleys in the jazz wars, but Will Layman touched a nerve in an essay for PopMatters this week, so I may yet chime in. In a review of Icons Among Us (which I'll be reviewing as soon as I can get a copy from NetFlix), Layman lays out the problem facing jazz with elegant simplicity:
For most people, jazz is a dead man's music. This just might be the problem in making jazz a sustainable art form.
The whole article is here. It is worth your time this morning. Layman takes a detached stance from the argument that contemporary musicians should break free from the past and even eschew the word jazz, but I am all for it. As Nicholas Payton puts it in the film, "In order to find the way, you must leave the way. You have to be open." I know my view is still in the minority, but regardless, the word "jazz" retains a large amount of cultural baggage which skews most people's perception of the music. If a label is getting in the way of the music, then it may be time to simply invent a new label and move on.

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