Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Egghead Declares Jazz Dead After Listening to Albums Played Backwards

My first reaction upon reading Washington Post Deputy Editor Justin Moyer's August 10 op-ed ('All That Jazz Isn't All That Great') was to write a point-by-point deconstruction.  Then I remembered jazz doesn't need a defense.

It's clear from his editorial Moyer doesn't particularly like jazz.  A better characterization is he doesn't like what he believes jazz to be, despite his admission to being clueless as to what is jazz music.  He made 5 points -- none of which I'll recite here -- as they're all irrelevant to assessing The State of Jazz Music in 2014.  I don't understand the motivation for making such pronouncements beyond a writer's compulsion to project themselves as the default yardstick by which the rest of us are to measure life's experiences. 

The disagreement I have with many pundits is their steadfast conceit aesthetic judgements have absolute value.  I can appreciate someone stating their like or dislike for a particular thing, even when their opinions are volunteered.  But in the case of aesthetics, which in theory encompasses all art to certainly include jazz, we're really talking about the expression of ideas.  Jazz for me represents self-expression through music.  Accordingly, jazz can both assimilate and be assimilated by other influences, events, places, and people.  A Night in Tunisia is bound to sound different to different sets of ears.  Imagine the infinite variations possible on one composition as it's performed by different artists.  As interpretations of this and many other concepts are continually performed by artists every day across the globe, the suggestion jazz is kaput doesn't hold up to reason.  Jazz as an idea lives on.  It's probably this phenomenon that explains the academy's embrace (and occasional romanticization) of jazz, leading nerd-priests like Moyer to qualify it according to pop marketing theory.      

Perhaps Moyer's intent was to provoke a reaction from readers, and therefore by reacting with this essay I've been punked.  OK... he got me.  But I think it's important that we recognize that an idea need not be popular, exclusive, novel, spontaneous, or have a purpose for it to exist.