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Marty Khan Interview: About His Book "Straight Ahead"

By Published: March 22, 2005

MK: More understanding than sympathetic. Look, I've, always been on both sides here. I've experienced the mistrust of musicians; the lack of understanding of my role and even my job; the hustle of getting my butt smooched and then called a jive-assed MF behind my back within a few seconds by the same person. I've also watched musicians treat decent, well-intentioned and competent professionals like shit and then suck up to some of the sleaziest low-lifes imaginable. I've tried to wrestle shotguns out of the hands of some musicians who insist upon shooting off their big toes and I have stood up for managers and agents who deserve it when being unfairly treated or slandered.

I'm a 100% unadulterated advocate for the musician and a major proponent of artists' self-empowerment. But that demands that the artist attain a certain level of knowledge, understanding, sensitivity and objectivity. There is no easier prey than a willing victim. There is no greater respect that you can give to someone than to be honest and straightforward in dealing with them—with the proper courtesy and humanity of course.

But bullshit is bullshit, slimebags are slimebags and self-serving, thieving weasels need to be called just what they are.

SR: That sounds like a bit of a segué. (laughter)

MK: Yours or mine?

SR: Your call.

MK: Let's talk about the world of jazz advocacy. (laughter)

SR: OK. You're really hard on jazz advocates, funders and the fine arts world in general. You seem to despise them more than record execs and clubowners. Why?

MK: Because they should know better and they try to make it seem like they do, as if they act responsibly and for the general good of the musician and the art form. The worst part is that this area should offer the greatest hopes of the holistic and systemic change that is so essential to the jazz economy. Instead we just get a new variation on the same ol' same ol'.

Look, decade upon decade of empirical evidence tells us what to expect from record execs, clubowners, festival moguls, hustling managers, duplicitous agents and so forth. If I'm hiking in the desert and I'm not careful enough to notice a rattlesnake's warning, or how to avoid their likely hangouts, I deserve to get bit. But if I encounter a fellow hiker, out there because he loves the desert, I have a right to not expect to be held up at gunpoint. I also have a right to assume he's not going to be stupid enough to spill my water supply or lurch into me so I get thrown into a cactus or rattlesnake lair.

Too many folks posing as advocates are cheap hustlers or clueless muthas who can cause enormous damage with misinformation, misrepresentation or the willingness to lie shamelessly in order to promote themselves or pick up some funding money. We've had 15 years of misguided, poorly-conceived and myopic funding programs that have tossed millions of dollars of facility-based funding into trickle down programs for jazz artists who are too far down the line to get much trickle. They stroke the funders and fine arts denizens, call them visionaries, and toss around worthless ideas that supposedly enrich the music, but do nothing for those who've dedicated their lives to playing it.

SR: That's a pretty harsh assessment. You can't possibly believe that all activists and advocates are that way?

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