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  • James Cusimano wrote on August 17, 2009 report

    "Barbara Streisand is no Aretha Franklin"?? You better think-think, think about what you're tryin' to say to me.

    Streisand is an entertainment phenom. She has worked her way into the hearts and minds of generations, and not with just her music; you know all the hyphenates, no need to list them.

    But lets just forget all that and strip it down to the music, Streisand has been ignored by your elite jazz minded writers and DJ's her whole career. When I listened to a jazz station here in NY called CD101.9,
    I would yearn for them to throw on a copy of "Lazy Afternoon" or something similar.

    Yes, most of the records she made were pop and show, but there have always been some marvelous big band records as well as beautiful jazzy ballads. Two that come to mind immediately are "Where is That Rainbow" and If I Love Again." She is a wonderful jazz singer, always in the pocket, always expressive, always in the moment.

    I really can not address the racism issues because I don't think in those terms, but millions were made by Streisand, yes, but I'm sure Aretha is not crying at the bank. Amiri Baraka, imagine if you put all the energy comparing the amount of white films to black films, comparing white singers to black, you could have actually gotten one of those projects off the ground.

    And now, full circle, for me at least, Streisand will release a jazz minded album with Diana Krall as producer next month, I'm confident she will quiet her critics and maybe a jazz DJ will start to look at her past treasures as well.

    And by the way, it is Barbra, not Barbara. Thanks for listening.

    James Cusimano

  • Luke Stewart wrote on September 06, 2009 report

    I'm in the process of reading this article, have only read the first page, but I am already intrigued by a particular statement, namely the 21st century music industry analysis. The fact is, the racism of the 20th century, though not as prevalent, has persisted in the 21st century. There is no way a person can watch MTV or "B"ET ('B'lack in quotes) without viewing the legacy that is institutional racism and ignorance. That is the face of racism today. It is not necessarily among individuals, but it is definitely among the organizations, corporations, industry, in not only music, but entertainment in general. Though 20th century examples, illustrates my point. Denzel Washington can act in the most important role of his career as Malcolm X, then get an Academy Award for his portrayal of a crooked cop. Halle Berry is Dorothy Dandridge, but he receives the award for playing a poor little old black woman. Immortal Technique raps about the poor in Harlem and elsewhere, but Lil' Wayne gets album of the year rapping about lollipops.

    I'll keep reading....

  • Luke Stewart wrote on September 06, 2009 report

    Amiri Baraka's dilemma is similar to many African American males who came of age during or before the civil rights era. These are people who lived through true racism in America. For Baraka and others, they cannot seem to shake off the past, but can you blame him? Now that Obama is president, it is people like this who need to come up more than ever to provide the perspective of the past, which we do not want to repeat.

    As far as jazz goes, I feel that Baraka's main problem with the scene is the attention given to white artists as opposed to black artists (The Lincoln Center thing brings up a whole other discussion about 'black bourgeiousie'). For instance, I have heard more than a few white teachers say that Michael Brecker has more influence than John Coltrane. Look at the jazz faculty at UNT, known as the best jazz educational program in the nation, how many black faces? It is a similar situation in most music schools teaching jazz. This again, is the result of the institutional and somewhat personal racism that has persisted. Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman receiving the accolades and royalties for performing the music that Duke Ellington pioneered, Dave Brubeck for Bud Powell, Gerry Mulligan for Sahib Shihab, Chet Baker for Miles Davis, the list goes on.

    The article is a great one, and hopefully will spark a plethora of intelligent posts about a topic so important.

  • Samuel Chell wrote on September 08, 2009 report

    Baraka's (or, Leroi Jones, when he wrote it) "Blues People" is easily recommended for its history of the blues (some may not be aware, even, of the form's post-emancipation status) and provocative insights (especially to readers and musicians who seem surprised that jazz would ever be termed "black music"). But it seems misleading to characterize the book as "comprehensive." Baraka's essay is reflective of its time (1963), a period when African-American artists were struggling to define an authentic black voice, more consciously and publicly than was the case during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, and the author's criteria--especially of the music scene following Parker-Gillespie and "bebop"--are stringent and selective. To his credit, he's not merely "dismissive" of many white musicians but "critical" of the commercialization or over-intellectualization of an authentic, living African-American tradition. And his criticism extends to black musicians, characterizing Horace Silver and much of "hard bop," for example, as emotionally limited music located outside the authentic tradition. (Here's where the relative brevity of the book and its sweeping generalizations might be seen as problematic, failing to take into account the different phases of a single musician's career--in Silver's case, the inspired, even Ellington-like, orchestrations of much of his work before "Song for My Father").

    For those who found fault with the Ken Burns series on jazz (I'm sure I'm not the only one to hear the displeasure of other viewers, especially musicians, some even contending that Burns was "brainwashed' by Wynton), not only are the books of Baraka essential reading but so too are numerous other jazz history texts--those by Gunther Schuller, as well as early, pioneering studies by Stearns, Hentoff, Berendt, Hodeir, and Williams. Though recognized as "non-political" and "scholarly" studies, practically all of them support Baraka's positions--especially about the origins and originators of this indigenous African-American art form--more completely than they take a different course.

    Discussion, argumentation, dissenting views can all be healthy signs of the continuing vitality of an art form, which by necessity must have a tradition, a past, a direction to have relevance in the present let alone a future. (Goodman wasn't Basie, but for what he did accomplish for the music-- obliterating distinctions between "legit" and "dance hall" music, defying color lines, inspiring the birth of "Downbeat")-- is Goodman's centenary this year being over-hyped? or, is he in some respects, deserving of inclusion in Baraka's pantheon of true artist-radicals?) Let the arguments begin, but first let's all do our homework--beginning, but certainly not ending, with Baraka's contributions to the precious literature about a form deserving more readers of every stripe and, perhaps as a direct result, more knowing listeners who, even to a greater degree than the music makers themselves, are the best hope that this music may never end.

  • Samuel Chell wrote on September 16, 2009 report

    " I have heard more than a few white teachers say that Michael Brecker has more influence than John Coltrane."

    The above statement is simply astounding and, if true, profoundly ignorant and sad. These certainly are not "teachers," or enablers, but ignorant, lazy, and arrogant "opinion disseminators"--too pleased with themselves to check out the history, read the research, learn the legacy, respect the scholarship and even stop to weigh the relevance of what they're spouting in terms of the understanding not only of jazz but of any "art form." Even before 1960 and the "academization and institutionalization" of jazz, there was abundant evidence about the proper birthright of the music and the contributions of its seminal, influential practitioners. Contrary to much current myopia in the music community, the view of the "jazz tradition" that has become "controversial" was not first espoused and professed by Wynton Marsalis. He was merely an "A" student, someone who had done his homework, acquired knowledge, and moreover had an undeniable gift for articulating it in clear, coherent, and even charismatic terms. We can all be grateful that his abilities extended beyond merely playing an instrument. Especially with the nation currently in the grip of an ignorance rivaling that of the public mood in 1915 (the year of the release of D. W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation"), if those who profess to know something about this African-American indigenous art form called "jazz" behave no more responsibly than some of our cretinous lawmakers in the halls of Congress, we have wasted, to paraphrase Obama, the most "teachable" moment of all.