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A Fireside Chat With Taylor Ho Bynum

By Published: March 14, 2003

THB: Yeah, I think it is not a music that is there to be consumed, to be an easy product to sell. That has always been one of the joys of the music. As our society has become more and more consumerist, I think that becomes a more difficult thing for jazz to come to grips with. As you said, the other thing that people have to realize is that they are so busy fetishizing the jazz of the past and the historical periods of the past to realize that we are at an incredibly, radical, transitional period in our country's history and the world's history right now. I think it is imperative that the artists deal with that and try to cope with that and translate that and figure out what is going on. We are in totally uncharted waters right now. Our country's foreign policy has changed to a really frightening degree. Our standing in the world has changed. Our relationship with different countries of the world has changed.

Now, more than ever, the artist has to go in there and figure out how to make sense of all this, or try to make sense of all this. One of the things is to look back at the history and be inspired about how they did that. Be inspired by how Ellington's music dealt with Jim Crow and racism and the history of the African-American in America, the same ways that Bird's music dealt with some of those issues and the same way that Jimmy Giuffre's music could deal with his experiences. That is what we have to do and not say that we want to play this because Miles, who I love, played like this. No, I want to play this music because Miles had this urge to deal with the reality that he is presented with. I have a totally different reality. I'm a Euro-Asian, grew up in Boston in the late Twentieth Century. I can't pretend to have had the experiences Miles Davis had and play the music he did. But the experiences that I have had are as valid and I have to deal with that.

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