Play Your Own Thing: A Story of Jazz in Europe
Tomasz Stanko Quartet Recording Lontano
Watching clips of contemporary artists whose music seems far removed from the tradition, juxtaposed with archival clips of American artists working with others in a more traditional context, simply brings focus to a clear and unmistakable fact: it's not that these artists can't work in the tradition; it's that they choose not to. Instead, finding their own voice, or way to contribute to a music that is unmistakable in its American origins but is now truly a music of the world, is essential to keeping it alive and well: if jazz is to survive, it has to be allowed to adapt and incorporate. Jazz has been a form of fusion from the very beginning, and if there's a single premise in Play Your Own Thing, it's that jazz's position as a uniquely inclusive rather than exclusive form is what has made it such a consistently fascinating art for nearly a century.
In a time when political divisiveness is creating so much trouble and strife, the message of freedom that underscores Play Your Own Thing, one that has been at the heart of the music from its earliest days, could well be applied to disciplines extending beyond the arts. From a strictly musical perspective, the documentary is exciting if only for its wealth of interview and performance footage. But if its main premise causes even a small percentage of those fans possessing a proprietary view of jazz as an American-owned art form to rethink that position, then it would no doubt be considered a resounding success by the artists who participated in its making.