Sterogum’s Month In Jazz May 2021

Source: Stereogum.

What he’s saying reveals a tremendous amount about how Black art is treated in American culture… even by Black artists. A mindset that consistently valorizes the new can all too easily turn into a deliberate washing away of the past. That’s when you see ideas like references to jazz as “America’s classical music” derided as corny and uncool. Or, worse yet, as an attempt to “gentrify” something that was (allegedly) meant to be vernacular music of the masses. (It wasn’t. Jazz musicians have always been either highly educated or brilliant autodidacts, studying and absorbing all they could and seeking to expand their work onto ever broader canvases. The history of this art form is a history of misunderstanding, mischaracterization, and disrespect… and of musical geniuses finding ways around every obstacle laid in their paths.) Like I said, I don’t love bebop myself; I don’t listen to it strictly for my own pleasure nearly as often as I listen to other jazz styles. But do I believe that a guy like Charles McPherson knows more about the music and its history and value than I ever will? And do I believe that younger musicians should absolutely study it, even if they choose not to play in that style themselves? Absolutely.