Blaming the word "jazz" for the current sad state of the music, in terms of cultural relevance to most Americans, is ridiculous. Mr. Payton stated, in the panel discussion at Birdland, that the image the word jazz portrays is, to most people, of a drug-induced, negative stereotype of a musician (along with other negative attributes). I assume he bases this image from the reference point of the 1940s/'50s/'60s, when heroin ravaged many of our great talents.
But today? Most jazz musicians today will talk to you about being on a macrobiotic diet, how [well] their kids are doing in school, and how they're thinking about becoming vegans or Buddhists. Who in f**k's name is he talking to, hangin' with? That is a stereotype based on ignorance. And trust me, you have those stereotypes in all styles of music...Besides, jazz musicians have already done the research. Drugs like heroin don't make you play better. No one today on the scene is into hard drugs. Not to say there aren't some, but I would say it is smaller percentage than the national average.
Where I come from (the South Bronx) the image of the jazz musician was always one of a person devoted to a majestic art form. Why? Because it took years of devotion, study, and dedication to play the music. If you said you were a jazz musician it meant that you were serious, an intellectual, a person to be looked up to because you were Worldly.
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