We already know that jazz is increasingly considered passe by young American audiences. But did you know that the very word "jazz" is becoming a scarlet letter? I recently received an email from a smart acquaintance who is promoting a lounge-chill web-based radio show. When I clicked on the link to listen to the show's SoundCloud demo, the on-air announcer said he would be playing a wide range of chill recordings, including tracks by Miles Davis and Stan Getz. [Pictured above: Untitled (Coit Tower), by Arthur Tress, 1964]
Shut the door! When I emailed my pal to say that calling Davis and Getz "chill" was probably a first, his answer was rather startling: "Funny, but we have been told not to use the word jazz. It's a shame the current point of view sees 'jazz' as a dirty word. That said, we are playing jazz and are calling it lounge."
So the word "jazz" has finally become the kiss of death—code for "you're going to hate this music." Wow, what a mind-blower. Then again, I suppose it's not too surprising. Jazz in the U.S. has been promoting itself as "not jazz" for some time—from festival lineups to "after midnight" album compilations. And when the word jazz is used in the media—as it was last week in a New York Times headline—the story once again was about an artist who "overcame heroin and prison." I guess jazz musicians who raised four kids, paid their taxes and were kind to others just don't fit the stereotype. [Pictured above: Masked Children 110th Street, New York, Arthur Tress, 1969]
I'm not sure what the solution is for our beloved music, but jazz certainly needs an image change. The tired drugs-and-jail storyline, though dramatic, isn't helping, nor is the arrogant position held by many fans that jazz and jazz musicians are superior to everything and everyone else in the room. (You wouldn't believe the vitriolic emails I receive when I write about rock, R&B, soul, pop or disco.) [Cover photo above by Herb Snitzer]
For jazz to survive—both the word and the music—someone had better teach young people how to listen to it, and fast. We also need to do more to educate people on why jazz history is American history, and why it's an enormously exciting story. I attempt to do this in my forthcoming book, Why Jazz Happened (University of California Press).
Once kids are introduced to the dramatic and courageous story of jazz, the music should be able to sell itself. Otherwise, it won't be long before Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington become known as Legends of Lounge.
Shirley Scott radio. On Sunday (June 10), my boy "Symphony Sid" Gribetz will host a five-hour radio broadcast celebrating the career of jazz organist Shirley Scott as part of WKCR's Jazz Profiles series. Sid's winning, spinning show will air from 2 to 7 p.m. Again, that's five hours of Shirley Scott at the organ. You can access the show from anywhere in the world on your computer by going here.
Marty Napoleon, live on Sunday. The 91-year-old piano legend Marty Napoleon [pictured] will be sitting in at New York's Feinstein's on Sunday (June 10) at 7 p.m. Harry Allen's quartet consisting of Rossano Sportiello, Joel Forbes and Chuck Riggs will be there along with guest Joe Temperley. For more information, go here.
Bill Kirchner, live. Saxophonist Bill Kirchner will be appearing at Saint Peter's Church on 54th St. and Lexington Ave. in New York on June 27 at 1 p.m. He'll be playing soprano and will be joined by singer Holli Ross and accordionist Eddie Monteiro. Donation admission is $10. The event will be hosted by Ronny Whyte. For more information, go here.
Toni Arden (1924-2012), a pure pop singer with solid intonation whose solo career began in 1946 and lasted until the late 1950s, died on June 3. She was 88. Born Antoinette Ardizzone, Arden had a string of hits for Columbia in the pre-rock era, including I Can Dream, Can't I?; Too Young; Kiss of Fire and I'm Yours. Her biggest hit, Padre, was recorded for Decca in 1958. She also sang frequently at New York's Copacabana (for more information on the famed club, go here).
Here's Arden with Frankie Laine in the early '50s (move the time bar to 4:55) singing I Think You're Wonderful...
As for World War II reality v. the movies, Uwe Zänisch sent along links to footage of servicemen dancing to a big band in Paris near the end of the war in Europe. Interesting to note how much older these soldiers look compared to those we often see in film. A time of shared sacrifice. Go here and here.
Now that you've seen Paris, how about London—Julie London, and the Hi-Lo's. I found this one while scouring YouTube last week. Priceless! What a shame they didn't record a full album together...
Handful of stars. Dig this video from 1977 that Dick LaPalm sent along illustrating the history of jazz. Joe Williams and Dionne Warwick, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan Max Roach and on and on...
Ellington in the house. Fuze The Mc sent along his hip-hop video that samples Duke Ellington's In a Sentimental Mood...
Oddball album cover of the week. Hey, I love a good movie-song album as much as the next guy or gal. And while I'm not a huge Enoch Light fan, I suppose the Light Brigade should do as good a job as any on such fare. But why use Mr. and Mrs. Naked on the cover? And what's with the naked kid? He must still be in analysis. More important, however, what film could our bare family possibly be watching—and illustrating?