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  • Dom Minasi wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    Coming up as a young jazz player, I watched black and white musicians working together. There was camaraderie among them. If you played jazz and were really good, you were accepted, no matter what color you were. I played along side some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world and it didn’t matter what my color was, but in the last twenty years that has changed. Instead of working together to keep a unity between jazz musicians, there has become a divide that has hurt the jazz community.

    There’s a segment of musician out there who tell us what jazz is and should be and that it shouldn’t be called jazz anymore. They have become the pinnacle of information and no matter how well you play, it doesn’t matter unless you are rooted in the black experience. Too bad that Stan Getz (Trane’s favorite sax player), Gerry Mulligan, George Shearing and many more didn’t know this or they may have become wedding musicians.

    I am proud to be called a jazz musician. For in doing so, I honor those who came before and will come after me, but according to Payton anyone who does so is a racist. I guess this means Sonny Rollins and many black artists are racists and are denigrating the art form.

    I understand as a young black man he is angry. There are many things to be angry about. I as a white man am angry over the same things except the word Jazz. You can even say to me," what right do you have to say anything since you have no idea what it is to be black in America and to face racism and bigotry all your life. You would be right, except, I can have empathy and having many black friends and working with back musicians and playing jazz gives me an understanding that some non musicians might not have.

    All I am saying here is that this whole thing has gotten out of hand and has started a wind storm the jazz community doesn't need.

    Jazz isn't dead, but keep this up and it soon might be.

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    Dear Dom,

    There's a lot of pain, resentment, bitterness and anger that's underneath much of this controversy, and it boils to the surface.

    I acknowledge how you feel.

    Yet I'm not sure if you're characterizing Nicholas's view point accurately (ie., he's acknowledged that there have been brilliant white players). Nonetheless, here's the chance for a teaching moment, if you'll allow for that expression.

    As a man, I don't know what it feels like to be a woman or experience sexism to anywhere near the same degree as a woman. But my having seen and experienced racism allows me a window of empathy re: sexism that I might not have otherwise.

    So I appreciate how your proximity to and friendship with black musicians gives you insights that others may not have.

    Race is one of the most troubling and sensitive topics because, for one, it's the original sin of the nation, two, because of the sordid history of slavery, Jim Crow and racism, and, three, because of how power and life chances play out due to the (fallacy of) race.

    So if I point a finger at you and call you, Dom, a racist without even knowing you, and obviously because of the color of your skin, what does that make me? A racist, at least attitudinally, whether or not I have the "power" to impact your actual life.

    Some members of my tribe have allowed themselves to be infected in this way. I'm not referring to Nicholas in this instance. From what I know of him, he selects his band mates not based on race, and gets along with too many so-called "white" people for that charge to be true, in my opinion. I happen to have met a talented young lady of European-American origin who was to have played in his big band at Birdland last week. But based on some of the social media interactions I've seen, he could be more careful in waving around certain terms (racist, colonial mentality are two that come to mind).

    I don't agree that airing these issues, though they bring up hurtful emotions, will kill the music, so I'll have to disagree with you there. In the same way that bottling up negativity can raise blood pressure, and be harmful to one's personal health, not discussing these issues can do the same to the collective body of the jazz community, so to speak.

    And that's one of the reasons I began this column: to air these issues, and discuss them in a way in which it's not about accusations and finger-pointing, but about historical truth, and gaining cultural clarity over the lies of race (an illusion, if there ever was one.) It's hard to move beyond race without going through a process of facing up to what race has wrought.

    Lastly, whoever would say "what right do you have to say anything since you have no idea what it is to be black in America and to face racism and bigotry all your life," is not politically astute, because in any battle of any large scale, one needs allies beyond one's immediate family or group.

    So, thanks for being (at least from what you say above) an ally.


    PS: The issue of race in jazz goes way beyond the last 20 years, though I understand that you're speaking of your own experience and perception. So, starting 20 years ago, did you stop playing aside some of the greatest black jazz musicians, or vice-versa? If so, why?

  • Scott Yanow wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    BAM means nothing. I assume that stands for Black American Music, which in my mind would be soul and r&b. Jazz is neither exclusively black nor American. It belongs to any listener in the world who has the ears for it, and any musician skilled and creative enough to play it. I'm sorry that Nicholas Payton seems to be bitter. He's one of the best trumpeters of the past 20 years. - Scott Yanow

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    If BAM stands for Black American Music, Scott, and you equate that with soul and r&b, but say BAM "means nothing," you run the risk of appearing to mean that soul and r&b are nothing. But I presume you don't mean that. But it's clear you don't like the term BAM as used by its advocates.

    Your statement that jazz is neither exclusively black nor American aligns with Duke's statement in the piece, though I'd add that in terms of the cultural and historical origins, it is both black and American.

    But once something of beauty is created, and released into the world, all should be able to enjoy and identify with, and play and do it, I agree wholeheartedly.

  • James Keepnews wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    I love Dom -- and Nicholas! -- but if we're honest, discomfort with the term "jazz" goes back a long way. Possibly before Bird, though Bird himself insisted to Down Beat in '49: "Bop is no love-child of jazz...bop is something entirely separate and apart." ( Mingus and countless others have taken similar lines, largely responding to the sense of the term as a racist catch-all.

    Race has never been much of an issue for me where this here music called jazz for a century or more is concerned -- it is clearly a music developed and innovated primary by African-Americans. But it is also very much a global music now with great players from seemingly every background on earth, much as Italianate opera has practitioners who may never set foot in Italy at any point in their lives.

    But does that '59 cutoff mean "BAM" cannot include Sonny Rollins' The Bridge? Herbie's Dolphin Dance? Miles' Nefertiti? World Saxophone Quartet's Live in Zurich? Ornette & Pat's Song X (I know Pat's not the "blackest" guy I've ever met, but then, neither's Charlie...)? Et bleeding cetera?

    We'd be wise to follow Greg's suggestion to recognize the provocative nature of Mr. Payton's post, and further recognize the issue of what BAMs vs. what does not will still rage within the ever-shrinking circle of jazz fans, and in odd ways. I note with more amusement than dismay that in the last year alone guitarist Russell Malone -- as straight-ahead a cat as one could point to, as well as simply a gifted player -- recently gave a strong defense of Mary Halvorson's work in Jazz Times, about as not-straight-ahead a guitarist as can be found on the planet. Meantime, the equally fine pianist Eric Reed gives Cecil Taylor "no jazz stars" in his Blindfold Test in Down Beat because of what for Reed "doesn't bring to mind anything that resembles jazz from Jelly Roll Morton on, in feel or vocabulary. It's not doing a thing for (him)". The struggle continues, but I want to believe a multiplicity of perspectives on current musical practices demonstrates that music's vitality, no matter whether it is or is not one thing or another. Something tells me, for all of this, this problematic term "jazz" isn't going away in the near-future -- nor is this publication/website going to change its name soon.

    But most important of all where "BAM" is concerned: if it does catch on, will the Brooklyn Academy of Music bring suit?

  • Gerard Cox wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    Great column Greg. Very thoughtful and considered piece.

    I have to wonder if part of the frustration Payton and other black musicians feel is not just about whites re-defining jazz, but the very fact that white people make up the vast majority of the audience. I think it's a real shame that jazz no longer has any real appeal within the black community, and I'm sure it is alienating and even a bit sad as a black musician to have to play for white audiences night in and night out.

    It seems to me then that trying to reclaim ownership of the definition of jazz may be beside the point on one level. Don't get me wrong- I think having influence on how "jazz" is perceived is a powerful thing. At the same time though, most people want something real and tangible before they want something abstract. I think that what these musicians may want more than anything else is for jazz to go home again. If jazz could be reinstated as part of the fabric of black American life, then I don't think black musicians would find themselves in this position of constantly trying to keep white writers and fans honest. A lot of things would just sort themselves out in the wash. Until then, we're going to have this awkward relationship and tension between black musicians and white writers..... supported mostly (in this country at least) by white audience members.

  • Maxim Micheliov wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    I agree with opinions/ideas expressed in the article and following
    comments. Just want to add a few words from a non-american prospect.
    For all of us, Europeans, "Jazz" is a music. That's it. There is no
    strings of racial context attached. It sounds weird to think of color
    when you listen to music, any music. Well, even gender of a musician
    propels my curiousity more than his/her race :)

    Jazz has grown up of being that "BA" thing decades ago. This is the
    music of today namely through efforts of many outstanding musicians,
    who come from all sorts of backgrounds and communities around the
    world. Jazz is too big to belong to one country, one race, one nation.

    Also about "dead or alive" and all that terminology debates. Some
    musicians say, that the word is "just a label". It imposes limits on
    what they do or describes it incorrectly... "We play music" - you hear
    from an avant-garde corner. And preservists repeat "They play
    whatever, but not Jazz".

    These are only words. And no words ever communicated a concept (any
    concept) without distortion. If I say "cheese", we most probably
    imagine different types of cheese. If I say "Jazz"... That's why
    there's nothing to discuss really. We use terms for our convenience,
    to talk about things. But terms do not replace objects or ideas, and
    work just fine as long as we loosely understand each other. If we
    don't, the new term comes up naturally.

    When I say "Jazz", I think of 100 years long history with its
    highlights and bright moments. I instantly imagine faces - great
    musicians, whose art represents jazz in all its diversity much better
    than any words can possibly do. Louis Armstrong and Bill Dixon, Lester
    Young and Joe McPhee, Jelly Roll Morton and Howard Riley, Duke, Monk,
    Trane, Miles but also Barry Guy, Fred Anderson, Billy Bang, Peter
    Brötzmann... and many many others.

    If jazz was "that music before 1960" I most likely wouldn't be

    If Mats Gustafsson (as a bright example) was disconnected from Jazz,
    I'd say the genre was beheaded.

    The historical name "Jazz" is a great term to pin down all the weird,
    beautiful, full of passion and imagination music that i listen to
    daily. Let's call jazz "jazz" :)

  • Nora McCarthy wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    Well there is more than enough anger to go around from everybody about everything - no one owns or corners the market on that one. However, to take the higher ground of enlightenment requires that anger must be transformed into understanding, compassion, acceptance, advancement and higher purpose aka evolution.

    To hold onto anger, stifles the NOW and NEGATES the promise of the future - it prevents expansion and can only extinguish itself and all it comes in contact with. Anger is not new. It has nothing to do with discovery. That is what the music means to me - discovery. If you hold on to the past then you are anchored to something that no longer exists and that sounds like the essence of futility - I'm more attracted to fertility and what can advance the human race collectively, spiritually, and creatively. That's the focus, I really don't care what words are used to describe the music, all music, matters little, language falls short of describing something anyway that can only come from a higher place where anger cannot exist...the light cannot exist in darkness.

    Music is pure love, the strongest vibration in the universe, which embodies all colors. Ascribing anything else to it lacks intellectual substance. So, if it isn't about the truth, which is love, which is music, I can't hear it, it's just more of the same, nothing new.

    Nora McCarthy

  • Danny Barrett wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    To, All, May the Music never End. If music and all Art are a reflection of our society,than, what is the reflection we are looking at?..Unrest and anger, is at hand. Please don't be distracted by, names, classification of music..its a distraction...the unrest and anger is being transferred into the entitlement of mine, yours and yours is not mine...I believe with the unrest and anger within our society, rears the head of Race, once again...all and white being the most popular, put it all down, look in the mirror ...listen to your favorite music, play great music and stop trying to Burn the food that feeds one's soul. Try to be a little kinder to each other...its tough enough, out there....kindly, Danny Barrett

  • Dom Minasi wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    "PS: The issue of race in jazz goes way beyond the last 20 years, though I understand that you're speaking of your own experience and perception. So, starting 20 years ago, did you stop playing aside some of the greatest black jazz musicians, or vice-versa? If so, why?"

    Actually, I play with more black musicians now than before, but not because they are black, but because they are great.


  • Joe Giardullo wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    Here's a quote from Nicholas Payton's website:

    "As a musician, as an artist, you're always trying to zero in on the bull's eye as a means of becoming a better version of yourself. I've been able to find the kind of music that's more inclusive of all of my life. The approach and the ideas of my music have become more singular, more cohesive. I have no agenda in terms of a specific genre or style, only to be true to who I am."

    I don't think it can be said any better than that.

    Payton plays music and his musical ideas are expressed with determination, elegance and eloquence.

    His half-baked "thoughts", and there are, unfortunately, many more on the record, are just as bad as those of Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin. Maybe worse, because a musician has an obligation to his community. I suspect that Payton learned about that in New Orleans a long time ago. I hope he doesn't forget it.

    I'd rather listen to his music and recall his words as shown at the beginning of my post.

  • Kermit Driscoll wrote on January 12, 2012 report

    Mr. Payton is just simply out of his mind. None of this stuff matters. I can't tell, simply by listening, if a musician is black or white, male or female. To me jazz is the tradition of trying to come up some new stuff. That's what Bird, Trane, Miles and Monk did. They were improvisors and they heard some other stuff. Talking about it is absurd to the one who can hear.

  • Alan Kaye wrote on January 13, 2012 report

    Dear Greg, I enjoy reading your work here and in the Daily News. You sure got some thoughtful responses. See you again at the njmh.

  • Ron Smith wrote on January 13, 2012 report

    I am sad to hear all the problems with a music that has survived so much turmoil in this country. We first called it Jass then we changed it to Jazz and Duke Ellington did us all a great service by dismissing this problem and just playing the music with a feeling that has been respected throughout the whole planet.

    When I was a student at the then Berklee School of Music in Boston in the 1960's I played bass at a celebration at Boston University for Black Pride week. I was on a program of up and coming Jazz players who didn't represent any particular music schools but just loved this music and supported anyone from that point of view.

    I had an interesting experience my "biggest audition". As it turned out I was playing bass behind a vocalist and a pianist and a flutist on a well known composition, His Eyes Are On The Sparrow. In the audience a drummer who was a black musician was asked by a representative of the Black Panthers why "Whitey" was playing bass. My Friend told him I was a good player and had "Blue Eyed Soul". This did nothing to help me and they informed him that if I didn't play like a brother they would beat me up at least or possibly kill me.
    I was playing bass and knew nothing of this conversation or I would have had a heart attack. When this segment of the concert took place the Panthers thanked me and only later did I find out how close I had come to my end.

    A few months later an early mentor of mine John Neves the great Boston Jazz bassist introduced me to Elvin Jones and my good fortune gave me the chance to play tuba this time with him. In his trio was the great Jazz bassist Jimmy Garrison who took me under his wing and encouraged me as did Elvin to play Jazz on tuba. Another incident took place in which a bari player who was a black player was angered that Elvin used me in his group. Elvin explained to him that I was his friend. He then told me "Ron we have to play him out of the club". This was in Boston, if I remember the name it was the Jazz Workshop.

    The point I'm trying to make is we didn't use the word Jazz but we played it.

    My mentioning this is to point out that the power of the music is of more direct importance then the label.

    When I taught at the LaGuardia H.S. of Music & Art and Performing Arts in NYC.

    I mentioned these events to the young students and reminded them how we all must live together in "Harmony".

    My firm belief in Reincarnation informs me that we live many lives some as PEOPLE OF COLOR, and of all RACES, and SEXES. There are many colors in the human rainbow and we are a flawed population or there wouldn't be all these problems.

    The great hope is that we all embrace each other with 'UNDERSTANDING' and get on with the work, taking occasional breaks to remember that we can all do the best to forgive our anger due to the frustrations of everyday life.

    My feeling is that more people of all colors of the rainbow get into the positive business of starting Jazz clubs that offer affordable prices in what I call the "INNER CITY" and the "OUTER CITY" and have this music played and let people listen to it and also dance to it. We can even play melodies that are from the GREAT AMERICAN SONG BOOK, mixed with new exciting music from up and coming Jazz composers.

  • Jeffrey Smith wrote on January 14, 2012 report

    Isn't this somewhat about trying to reconnect the black audience to it's black american music? Maybe calling this music jazz is actually a barrier that keeps them away. Artists want to connect with the community that they come from, because their art is a reflection of that environment.

    It seems at this point that only the enlightened and initiated can understand the full spectrum that the term jazz can define. For the rest, they think jazz is something that doesn't relate to them, and not worth exploring or supporting.

    Simply put, if the black audience could embrace jazz again as the hippest form of music, their music, the rest of the population would follow suit. The word jazz does not seem to be an effective term to get the job done, or it would have happened already. This is assuming you agree that this music is the coolest and hippest on the planet....BAM is a term about origins, but it is music for all to make and enjoy.

  • John Kelman wrote on January 14, 2012 report

    An interesting article published in The Philly post, with Orrin Evans jumping on the BAM bandwagon:

    It also includes a link to a video of the BAM session at APAP, which is long - 90 mins - but skimming through it may be of interest. I gave up after 20 mins, to be honest.

  • Dom Minasi wrote on January 14, 2012 report

    I firmly believe you're not going to bring back Black audiences to jazz by changing its' name to BAM or whatever you want to call it. I think the best way is education. Since Jazz is American Classical Music, it needs to be part of the curriculum in grade schools, even pre-schools. All of us should be working towards this goal. There are many teaching artist working in the public school systems throughout the USA. We need to encourage them to teach about jazz as part of their program. We need to get school boards and legislators to encourage teachers to teach about jazz in their music appreciation programs and if there aren't any music appreciation programs, start them. Don't wait for Black Appreciation Month to let kids know who Duke Ellington was. One week out of one month doesn't cut it.

    I was a teaching artist in the NYC public schools from 1995-2001. I taught Literacy through song writing. I started with the Blues and moved on till I got to Jazz. The kids not only learned to appreciate and enjoy the music, some of them actually learned to scat sing.

    As I stated earlier, changing the name won't do it but education will.

  • Willis Wilson wrote on January 14, 2012 report

    Greg, Good Discussion. I believe it is a timely one as Wynton Marsalis was just named CBS Cultural correspondent the other day. I read Peyton’s piece and was proud to read it as an artist who has and is struggling with many issues in the industry of “Jazz Music“. The unfortunate fact is that blacks in America don’t own much when it comes to the media, banking, industrial, technology, agricultural as these entities are owned and controlled by others. What we do own is our experience and of course our legacy of creating not just jazz but all forms of American music. I think this is why Peyton called it Black American Music. The modern musician of today has the vantage point that the musicians that came before us did not have. That vantage point is that the music has been developed to a great degree and in many different capacities then ever before.

    In addition, the music has evolved in every direction since the original folk’s music of the blues and gospel and has been expressed from everyone from Louis Armstrong to Prince and even the Hip Hoppers such as The Notorious B.I.G., Mary J Bilge to name a few. These artist have found a way to incorporate the blues idiom in their music because the blues is so integral to the lack experience that you cannot escape it. The profound difference I believe in what some others believe is a racist or “Angry Black man's” view is that to borrow Peyton’s term “Post modern New Orleans musician“ or otherwise we hear the link between all of the music and want to add to the story with our version of what’s next... To keep it moving and alive.

    I have been an artist for over ten years in this for lack of a better term “Market“ and you can imagine the type of things I have encountered from all race. With exception of the great trumpeter Tom Browne I firmly believe that my first CD entitled “Revelations“ was the first of its kind to Fuse Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Hip Hop styled beats in the 1990’s featuring the trumpet. I did this not because I believed that it was a great marketing idea but it represented what I as an artist felt and was my story coming from hearing a lot of great music from Louis Armstrong, Dizzy, Bird, Trane, Miles. James brown, Motown, R&B, and Hip Hop. It also lent to the technology and the colors that were available to me in my time that I wanted to use to paint my picture, with the trumpet as the “star” or focal point.

    Many wonderful works such as, Roy Hargrove‘s RH Factor and some great offerings work by Russell Gunn, Terence Blanchard and of course Nick Peyton just to name a few also spoke to out in this style. When Wynton came on the scene he was a blessing and a curse. A blessing because he put away the myth of the lazy drug addicted “Jazz Musician” forever secondly because for the first time as a young musician (I think I was around 18-19 yrs old) He opened doors that would have otherwise would have been closed. The bad side of things was that the older musicians who had been out there for some time and witnessed the so called” death of jazz “felt they were overlooked and resented him and the star power that he now wielded. Wynton received awards and was portrayed as the savior of jazz a sort of “Jesus“ who resurrected Lazarus. Once Wynton decided that he was going to revive the legacy of Jazz and focus on its classic period all new music was over at that time He classified all other forms of black music as inferior and his “ opinion “ became the standard . I believe he has softened this stance today. Today’s Black Musicians are just that Black Musicians Just like they were in 1910, 20 and in 2012 the music we create whether you are a traditionalist or a post modernist comes from your experience in this country as a Black person This is why with today’s technology ( Pandora) I can Listen to Duke Ellington , Louis Armstrong , James Brown Biggie Smalls , Prince just to name a few and hear the reference of the blues , the field Holler . The call and refrain cadence, The Gospel or (spiritual element) the cool the Hot fives all of it... black music.

    This is our legacy. It is what we own. Some may misunderstand our pride in the fact that we are claiming this, However, if we don’t it will surely be stolen. Just look at rock ‘n roll. Who are the top rock 'n roll artist that are black American in 2012? The last band was Vernon Reid group in the 1980’s If you took a poll of your average non musician American they would be amazed that blacks had anything to do with that music. What we do not claim curtails the music’s ability to grow and be alive and have meaning to our community and our voice today . This is why I believe that Peyton declares jazz “dead” when you look at the charts for jazz music today you will see a list of the top selling jazz artist are Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Diana Krall, Chris Botti, Kurt Elling, Kenny G, Boney James to name a few. We are a minority in something that our people have created. In addition when you look at the amount of money paid to the aforementioned artists. The African American artist wonders what they have that we do not have. Nicholas Peyton, Orrin Evans as many on this have pointed out are masters at their craft.

    However, economically they are not getting the return on investment or at least an even return on their contribution to the evolution of this music in a economic platform . What some are asking them to do in addition to mastering the craft of music is to be able to Market, Produce and build an audience from a marketplace that is controlled by powerful forces that have very deep pockets. We as a people do not have the industry to book shows on a large scale, we do not have the ownership of the media in print, radio, T.V, Cable to influence the public perception of this music. Miles Davis is Jazz music’s best selling artist however Columbia the powerhouse label is firmly committed to Chris Botti and no other trumpet player for the last 5-7 years and has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars if not at least a million dollars promoting his music. Of course this is their right as a business, but what does this do to a Roy Hargrove a fine Player, Nick Peyton, Terence Blanchard, Terrell Stanford, Sean Bell just to name a few.

    In conclusion, it matters not what we call it or what others call our Music as you pointed out in you essay “Of course, it is true that for most of the history of jazz, "white" people dominated the discourse about the music, and that the musicians took a literary backseat.” This comment itself displays the inherent problem. Not only did we take a back seat in a literary sense but also the marketing, publishing the branding, and ownership of the music were taken. These barriers still exist today. But more importantly it creates a divide between artists of all races due to the obvious lack of the African American artist.

    I respect your writing and your views and your overall mission to further this music. It would be a great opportunity for you to explore the not so famous stories and the challenges that we as artist face today creating music and developing an audience. Wynton is an Industry all to his own. However New York is filled with Also rans around every the corner.

    I believe Peyton and Evans are speaking about what the challenges are for people like us.

    I applaud their courage to speak of these issues. If we won’t speak up who will?

  • Michael Ricci wrote on January 15, 2012 report

    Slightly off topic... but re: Dom's comment about ways to successfully connect jazz with audiences through education... I attended the Central Bucks HS Music Department's presentation of saxophonist Ed Palermo's big band arrangements of Frank Zappa's music this past Wednesday. Three High School jazz bands performed three Zappa tunes each with Ed soloing along with select students. The auditorium was near capacity and it was an incredibly positive and memorable experience for all.

    It's a creative idea that certainly has potential and could be explored on a much larger scale. The Zappa name may have drawn people to the performance, but the music was never compromised.

  • Chris Sampson wrote on January 15, 2012 report

    I accept the notion that there is a need to discuss (and hopefully advance, if not settle) grievances; that this is a healthy undertaking (assuming discussion remains civil and thoughtful).

    I accept what I take to be the obvious fact that racism is a destructive force that has existed since time immemorial and that it manifests in so many obvious and subtle venues; political, cultural, personal.

    I would posit, however, that some of what's being discussed here, while not wrong-headed or overtly or intentionally destructive, is more-or-less besides the point. Put another way; I agree that Nicholas Payton is expressing the truth as he sees it, but I humbly suggest that the argument is more of a distraction than an urgent issue.

    The word, and more importantly the music called by that name, has a troubling pedigree; coming as it does from suggestions of decidedly 'low' roots (brothels and bodily fluids, synonyms for 'nonsense'). We could debate the relative merits for keeping it or replacing it, but again, this is distraction.

    People are going to buy (or not buy) the music; attend the shows; teach it in schools, etc, regardless of what we or anyone else call it. And even the vigilant among us, upon offering this or that coinage, will probably refer to it as 'jazz' for simplicity's sake (maybe we'll quip that we're talking about "the music formerly known as jazz").

    Meanwhile white, black, latin, asian, and other culturally-based musicians (including Misters Minasi and Driscoll) will simply continue to play it as they see fit; the hallmark of its democratic, egalitarian roots (at least as regards its composition and practice... remuneration is another story; on this we're all agreed). And, in so doing, each will elevate the entire human experience, even if only incrementally. They will transcend such limitations, and in so doing, will permit us all to transcend quotidian existence (yes, I too believe this music has that power).

    No... this particular argument (and others, such as, "is free improvisation really jazz?") are distractions, and our collective purpose is sabotaged by the more tyrannical suggestion that someone else (Terry Teachout, anyone?) –even someone as august as Mr. Payton– should be permitted to frame the argument or tell any individual what it is that he or she is practicing (or writing about or publishing).

    It's not the bars that make the prison.

  • Dom Minasi wrote on January 16, 2012 report

    Hi Willis,
    "Tony Bennett, Michael Buble, Chris Botti, Kenny G, Boney James" are not considered 'jazz artists' not in my book and many musicians of all color. If there is a black trumpet player or soprano sax player willing to play the same crap as Chris Botti & Kenny G they would be recording for Columbia too.Fortunately there isn't. Renaming Jazz to BAM will not bring in a larger black audience it is only causing more of a divide. We are better off working together to bring in audiences of all color period.

  • Michael Ricci wrote on January 17, 2012 report

    Dom, Kurt Elling is not a jazz artist? Is this a copy/paste error?

  • Dom Minasi wrote on January 17, 2012 report

    Yes, sorry about that.

  • Willis Wilson wrote on January 18, 2012 report

    I agree Dom We need a bigger Audience of all people . A lot of this has to considered in the argument as well, But the discussion is a starting point.

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 21, 2012 report

    Many ethnicities combine their ethnicity with the J word to describe what their culture brings to the table. Its all in the name: Italian "j", Polish "j", etc...

    To call our music Black American "J" is redundant. That's why the need to change the "J" word to Black American Music. Very simple, and it doesn't exclude anyone in my opinion.

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 21, 2012 report

    Just because you "feel" a certain way doesn't necessarily make it true. We haven't excluded anybody in any way by renaming it Black American Music. The people who created it did not have the rights that we have now, so that is why there has been this ever-growing disdain for the word J***. The word itself has allowed many to add their culture's claim without ever being descriptive of ours. The word Brazilian describes who made the music, the word J*** does not. The word Polish describes who made your brand of J***, but J*** does not. Black American Music. Facts are facts!

  • Andrew Homzy wrote on January 21, 2012 report

    I understand what causes Nicholas pain. But he has lashed-out in the wrong direction.

    There is a crisis regarding sustainability for trained musicians - jazz and classical. It is near impossible for all but a few to pay the rent on their earnings as a trained musical artist.

    Amateurs - those who earn their living by other means - play "jazz" for next-to-nothing, if not for free. The public will pay $30 for a meal in a restaurant, but are reluctant to pay $5 to hear a 10-piece band.

    There are several solutions - but they will all take time. Here are but a few possibilities:

    #1. The prime mission of college & university Music departments/faculties should be: Create audiences. The Music departments/faculties should work to ensure that every student enrolled in the institution be required to take at least one Music course during their program. It would be great if the required course could be jazz or classical music - and not pop or rock. In other words, art music - not entertainment music or folk music.

    #2. Subsidies. The United States government has a problem subsidizing jazz - or any art music. Yet it has no problem subsidizing banks and sports. So, go after banks & sports to subsidize jazz. Again, it has to focus on the artistic aspect not the entertainment aspect. And this does not mean that art can't be entertaining. It's all a matter of where it comes from aesthetically.

    #3. Give away recordings. Recordings of music are like photographs of paintings. They have little value when placed next to the real thing. Trained musicians should flood the community with free recordings - so when they show-up to play, people will be interested in going to hear them.

    #4. Forget about making $25k per gig. Don't play huge venues - don't play any place that holds more than 600 people. Play every day in a small venue rather than 12 times a year in a mega fesival.

    #5. Engage the audience. Make them feel special. Create an environment which draws them into your music - rather than trying to grind it into them with loud amplification.

    I hope Nicholas reads my comment.

    Cheers - Andrew Homzy

    p.s. I think that Wynton & his team at Lincoln Center are doing much of the above - but it is very NYCentric.

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 22, 2012 report

    Marcus, specify to whom you're addressing your remarks. There are many comments above, so not sure who exactly you're responding to.

    The examples you use are examples of nationalities. Brazil and Poland are nations. Brazilian music includes stylistic variants such as samba, bossa nova, lambada.

    Jazz is a stylistic variant of the United States as a nation. So the analogy, based on your point, would be to called it "American music" (thinking of the U.S. as representing North America, which itself isn't as inclusive as needed, but I'll use to follow your logic.)

    "Black American" includes nationality with an ethnic and cultural overlay. If you were to say that jazz fits under that umbrella, in terms of the ethnic and cultural origins, as does gospel and r&b, for instance, I'd agree. But you want to trash the word jazz all together, which, as I say in the essay above, is throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Furthermore, as I also say in the piece, without clarifying the distinction between race and culture, too much confusion reigns.

    Opera has Italian origins. Italian in both national and cultural terms. But it is now embraced by those who love that form of artistic creation no matter the background.

    Can you imagine anyone arguing that the word "opera" be trashed to be just called "Italian music"? These analogies are food for thought, not one-to-one correspondences, I realize. I also realize that no one denies the Italian roots of opera, whereas some would rather look at the universality of jazz without owning up to the particular cultural origins (which itself is a combination of Africa, Europe and the Caribbean--via Cuba) of the music.

    But once it is agreed upon that the cultural group called "black Americans" were the main founders and innovators of jazz, a point I've made over and over in this column (check the other pieces to confirm), where do we go from there?

    I work and write from a perspective that takes the black American origins as a grounding and founding premise, but then I also try to expound on the CULTURAL dynamics at play so that not only other groups are recognized as contributors, as they certainly are, but to help move us away from the illusion and idiocy of the concept of race.

    Without clarifying the distinction between race and culture, if we use a loaded signifier like black, expect more confusion and division rather than light and union. But if you can make the distinction clear, namely that by "black American you mean culture not race," we can advance the discussion and become more unified. That's my hope, at least.

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 22, 2012 report

    By the way, I appreciate all those who have weighed in above, and will particularly agree with the point that one of the underlying frustrations this whole discussion is based on is the lack of a consistent representation of black folks in audiences to see "jazz."

    And a special thanks to Andrew Homzy for laying out a solution-oriented response, one that is excellent food for thought, and a basis for action by musicians and the teams who work on their behalf.

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 22, 2012 report

    As we all know, this music (J***, which I now call Black American Music) was born from the Black American experience. The sound and execution of the blues is a product of Black Americans who had very limited ways of communicating to each other - partly out of need for discreteness around their oppressors, and partly because many people were divided from their original tribes which shared common dialects. From the Black American experience rose a culture, which is indeed the origin of Black American Music.

    To call this music Black American music is to simply give descriptive credit to whom it is due. Nobody has been excluded, no more so than anybody being excluded with the title Brazilian Music. This is why I used Brazilian for an analogy. By the way, Black American Music has many variants and styles just like Brazilian Music. If one says Black American Music excludes the rest of America, they might as well say Brazilian excludes the rest of South America. Brazilian refers to nationality, Black American refers to ethnicity - but that is not what the analogy was based on. So far I do not see how the label Black American Music means that no one else can play, listen or learn the music. No one has been excluded, and if they "feel" they have been excluded, it is only because they are not yet adjusted to the new descriptive label. That feeling, of course, will change over time - it is an adjustment, not an exclusion.

    If one were to call the music Black Music, that is where the accusation of racism or exclusion can only be applied. However, this movement is called Black American Music, and the two words "Black American" refer to ethnicity, culture, ancestry and/ or citizenship. The word Italian does the same thing. The word American is used within Black American Music, and the word Black is used to be more specific, and this is a necessity because the music came from the Black American experience which was shared by no other than Black people in America. There have been many musicians of other cultures, race, relgions, etc... that have made contributions over the years, and nobody has taken that away from them by calling the music Black American Music. The people who created it were Black Americans, hence the name Black American Music. Very simple.

    The word J*** is a made up word that is non-descriptive. It is with this word that many get the chance to apply their cultures findings of the music without being descriptive of the fact that the music does indeed come from a culture. The result: Writers and American musicians have used ridiculous terms such as "straighahead", "post-bop", "neo-traditional" all because the word J*** does not describe anything about their music. My music is not just swing, not just straight-eights, not just hip-hop or funk grooves, not just blues, but it is actually all of the above at any point in time. My music is Black American Music. As far as those who need to have a sub-genre that adds to the other subs like r&b, soul, hip-hop, etc... creating one other than the non-descriptive word J*** would be very useful to get away from the horrible "straightahed", etc... terms.

    Again, no one has been excluded at all. Making a descriptive name for music does far more good than latching on to a name that has been proven a horrible marketing scheme. We need labels to describe what we do or don't want or refer to. Making the label more descriptive is a nothing but a positive change, and some positive changes require adjustment.


  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 22, 2012 report

    ...Oh, and might I add there are many who are extremely married to the word J*** and that of course is their prerogative. If someone feels that word accurately describes what they are playing, they of course have the right to use it. However, if a musician wants others to refer to their brand of music as Black American Music rather than J***, its only customary to respectfully comply. I want to get out of the habit of using the word J*** to describe my music simply because it does not describe it. That's my prerogative. And might I add yet again, nobody has been excluded. Black American Music is for all to enjoy, it just has an accurate description now. I'm off to Thailand in a few hours to play the extremely inclusive Black American Music. Peace!

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 22, 2012 report

    Not sure why the great emphasis on exclusion vs. inclusion in response to my comments, Marcus. That's not my kick.

    Interesting that you don't mention "race" in your two responses above, but many of the responses and confusion have to do with folks not understanding the distinction between the two; hence the need to drive home the difference over and over, until clarity is achieved.

    So the umbrella term, Black American Music, is the big tent phrase for you. And you say: "My music is not just swing, not just straight-eights, not just hip-hop or funk grooves, not just blues, but it is actually all of the above at any point in time."

    So, it's hip hop, funk, and blues at times. And swing sometimes, which is a key component to what I call jazz (as is the blues.)You're cool with those other genre descriptions, but want to trash the word jazz.

    Sounds penny wise and pound foolish to me. Especially since the word jazz isn't going anywhere; it's been in use too long. And it doesn't just have negative connotations, as implied or stated directly by some BAM proponents.

    I look forward to those using the phrase BAM responding to the concept of the "blues idiom" as described by Albert Murray. It's not just a reference to the blues as music; it's a philosophical and aesthetic dynamic rich in application, with far-reaching implications.

    Have you read any of Albert Murray's work, Marcus?

    Hope your trip to Thailand is fruitful, and that what you play--whatever you call it--will touch those folks emotionally and spiritually in ways that these debates over terminology never will.

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 23, 2012 report

    Yes Greg, I am cool with the other genre descriptions because those words actually describe something about the music. Even Hip-Hop, combines the slang word that means 'informed' with the word hop which is an actual word. However the "j" word is not anywhere near as descriptive. If I were to adhere to the meaning of that slang word, I would just make sure the music is 'lively'. This is the whole point behind getting rid of that word in my vocabulary, especially when describing my music. Those who can describe what is special about their brand of music are the ones whose music is easiest to sell. In my opinion, this is actually a very lucrative ability to have. I can now describe my product. I am no fool, nor is anyone one from the Black American Music movement. Neither is what I said foolish. I have my own label, and I sell more records and make more per unit than ever before. I understand a lil' somethin' somethin' about how to market myself.

    Peace! Can't post anymore because I have to catch this plane...

    - Marcus

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 23, 2012 report

    PS: Thanks for pulling my coat to Albert Murray, I will check out his works. But, might I stress that his works do not validate anyone's point here. Seminal thought is encouraged if a society is to grow...

  • Ben Wolfe wrote on January 23, 2012 report

    I'm getting tired of hearing, over and over again, that my brothers on the panel at the BAM convention are racists or coming from a point of view of exclusion--nothing like non-black musicians or fans of the music calling black musicians racists--that shit is absurd, and reeks of jealousy and insecurity.

    So I ask again:

    If Nicholas Payton feels that non-black musicians can't play or should be excluded from this music, why was I invited to be on the panel and why does he call me for gigs?

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 23, 2012 report

    Marcus, by using the expression "penny wise and pound foolish" I didn't mean to imply you were being "foolish" literally. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater is the better expression, and I should emphasize that phrase because I think that while the word "jazz" has negative baggage, I celebrate the positive associations I put in my essay.

    Regarding jazz not being descriptive enough, I hear you, but how descriptive is "bluegrass," or "rock"? Once a term is associated with an art form, the term evokes certain associations. But I won't beat a dead horse. (Please understand that as a writer, metaphors are my stock in trade, so take certain things figuratively, not literally.)

    Without reading Murray's works, there's no way for you to know if his works do or don't validate anyone's points. And yes: "Seminal thought is encouraged if a society is to grow..." I fully agree! That's why I suggest that you check his work, man. Murray's body of work is seminal. You might want to start with "Stomping the Blues," then check out "The Hero and the Blues," and then dip into his first book, "The Omni-Americans: Some Alternatives to the Folklore of White Supremacy." Check out Ralph Ellison's essays on the music too, if you haven't.

    To your point about using BAM as an expression to better market your music . . . we'll see if that works for you. But since you play so damn well, can swing so hard, and come out of an instrumental tradition that presenters, promoters, and audiences associate with what's called jazz, it might leave some scratching their heads when you claim all of the music from the black American music tree but leave to the side of the road, jazz, the music they associate with you.

    I hope you and your fellow BAM supporters are getting advice from some brilliant marketers, because the kind of re-branding initiative you're engaging in is a tall order.

    And to Ben, I made the very same point about Payton including folks other than those from his immediate cultural group in one of my first responses above. I've never accused him of such exclusionary behavior because I know that's not true.

  • Michael Ricci wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    The origin of the word jazz from Wikipedia:

    The origin of the word jazz is one of the most sought-after word origins in modern American English. The word's intrinsic interest--the American Dialect Society named it the Word of the Twentieth Century--has resulted in considerable research and its history is well documented. As discussed in more detail below, jazz began as a West Coast slang term around 1912, the meaning of which varied but it did not initially refer to music. Jazz came to mean jazz music in Chicago around 1915. Earl Hines, one of jazz's most influential musicians, said that he was playing piano around his native Pittsburgh "before the word 'jazz' was even invented".


  • Michael Ricci wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    IMO, Jazz needs a rebranding initiative to enhance its vitality and cultural relevance. In case you missed this announcement, here is a project that the Jazz Forward Commission is facilitating:

    Celebrate Jazz Day On April 13th and Expand the Cultural and Economic Impact in Your Community!

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    I know what the idiom penny wise pound foolish means, and that is what I was responding to. It isn't changing a small matter into something that will bring many undesirable consequences, not in my opinion. I must ask, Greg, do you yourself understand the motives of the title change to Black American Music according to how I explained it above? If so, others can too.

    Regarding my references to Albert Murray's work, I was just making the point that a title from his findings "Blues Idiom" is not necessarily the best way to describe someone's music - especially mine. Seminal thought doesn't have to just come from our heroes, it can also come from us - that is also a point I was making. If I looked to my heroes for all of the answers, it would discourage me to take paths which they did not take. A lot of what has helped me is finding an answer that suits me and my situation. I make all of these postings in haste, so excuse any loose ends...

    Anything worth having is hard to get. Imagine the first person in NYC who had the audacity to think Gay Marriage should be legal - I bet that person had the thought well outside 2 decades prior to the ruling in July, 2011. Trying to discourage artists from doing something just because it is a hard and daunting task is actually a hard and daunting task, LOL. Black American Music is a must. Everyone else has the privilege to add their culture's findings to the word J*** as a marketing scheme except the ones who created it. This link is an example:

    Then when Black Americans want to name our brand of music Black American Music, it is seen as exclusionary. That is hypocrisy at its finest. And to name our brand Black American J*** is redundant. Many try to cover up the hypocrisy with stuff like: the word Black makes them feel excluded. That is nonsense, and an excuse not to face the truth about themselves. All of what I am saying here is totally logical, so any scratching of the head only indicates a failure to acknowledge the truth of this matter. Once people get honest with themselves, which does not happen over night and with ease, the title will be seen for what it is - the truth, and a descriptive one at that.


  • Trent Gilles wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    Marcus Strickland:

    A few questions for you here at AAJ, since when I write to your personal blog on your FAQ of BAM on your website and try and share dialogue with you, you continue to censor me.

    1. You say that calling jazz Black American Jazz is redundant (Needlessly wordy or repetitive in expression). This to me implies that you accept that 'Jazz' currently equates with black created music, and therefore what everyone already thinks when they are asked what 'Jazz' is; thus, there is no need to say it twice (as in BLACK american JAZZ) as you state.
    So why not just leave it 'jazz' if you accept it's already known as a black created music?

    2. Am I correct in saying you didn't even support this movement until recently? I believe it was you who spoke against some of Payton's views on your facebook, which then prompted an angry rebuttal by him, but then after a very public social media display of back and forth arguing, all of a sudden you're the new front runner it seems. Are you REALLY in favor of this name change for the reasons that Nicholas states (it equates to the n***** word) or are you just trying to not look bad now because Nicholas bullied you into this in public? Because one reading of Payton's blogs and one can see that if you disagree with him at all, it's either because you're racist, or of a colonialist brainwashed mentality. And we all know that Nicholas Payton as a musician commands a lot of respect and many believe he's using this respect to push this name change agenda. I ask this because as I read your responses to Greg, it seems to me that you are skirting around some of his more finer points here and aren't offering anything too concrete, maybe even 'making' it up as you go along...??

    3. You claim that if people 'can't' accept to call it BAM, they have some sort of problem within, or cannot accept that blacks should take ownership of something, etc., which I assume you are drawing from one of Nicholas Payton's blogs. How can you paint everyone with the same brush? How can you just assume THAT would be the ONLY reason people wouldn't want to support this name change? What if people just thought Jazz was already a perfectly great descriptor of a music that was invented by Black Americans, and that there is no reason given yet to change it. I have read all of Payton's posts, and I have yet to be convinced that the word jazz is synonymous to 'n*****', which is one of the biggest negative claims he states as truth in his blogs.

    4. You write about Nicholas Paytons' posts on your blog, therefore I would like to find out your opinion on the following. Recent articles that have re surfaced of Nicholas Payton giving interviews (one on Ted Panken's blog from 2001) clearly showing Nicholas using the word 'jazz' all over the place, and not at all is he using it in a bad way. In fact, on some of his earlier posts on his website, he uses the word jazz in sentences where he is saying affectionate things about other jazz musicians. Then all of a sudden Jazz is this horrible word from the white man forced on the blacks, etc. So, as I or anyone else might deduce, Payton has obviously changed his opinion on the word jazz, and as it looks, fairly recently.
    Now, here's my question to you, and you don't have to be Nicholas Payton to answer it. If Nicholas Payton (or anyone) can change the way he looks and and feels about a word, then how come the rest of us can't? In other words, IF jazz was a derogatory term that whites used against blacks back in the day (I still haven't seen any evidence of this but let's just assume you're right judging on the status of blacks in american society when this music started developing), isn't it possible that by today in 2012 the meaning has completely changed to one of total endearment and praise of black music amongst the masses? Because I challenge both you and Nicholas Payton to find 1 non black person in the world who when asked point black "what is jazz" they wouldn't give props of 'creator status' to black americans. This I believe is what Jazz means to people all over the world. And I believe that if it was originally a bad meaning, the meaning has definitely changed, and for the better.

    5. If 'jazz' is equated to the same meaning as 'n*****' firstly, why does the word appear all over your website, and also, why are you playing at jazz clubs and also jazz festivals? Do you honestly think that black people would play at a festival that was called 'Detroit N***** Festival? And if you all are saying jazz is the same then how could you be doing this?

    6. One thing I've wanted to know since I saw this. If one claimed to play BAM for a living, would they have to say: 'I am a Black American Musician Musician? And then if they are non black, and a layperson says "no you're not, your white!" then they have to sit there and explain all of this? I think naming a music based on race is divisive whether your sentiments are good or bad, the way the world works today anyway. Like Greg mentioned, Opera was invented in Italy, but there is American Opera, Black Opera, German Opera, etc. and the italians haven't called for all of these offshoots to only refer to it as Italian Opera.

    Bottom line as I read all of this, I believe fundamentally across the board that jazz is already known as black american music, and is a celebration of that around the world. Seems pointless to change it. Sure, it's a lousy descriptor of all the different styles, especially nowadays, but BAM in my opinion (and I'm not being racist here) would confuse this even more and would be no better a descriptor.

    Would be great to hear what you thought about all of this.


  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    Hey Marcus, I'm cool with agreeing to disagree about this matter. At least you're engaging in a rational way, defending your position without the poison of personal insult. I appreciate that, and, as always, will greet you like we do, bruh, when we see each other again.

    A few final points, though.

    Sure, seminal thought can most certainly come from one's own generation, and even from oneself (and younger folks than we as well). No doubt. I'm inspired by my heroes and use what wisdom and knowledge I can from their example, but strive to synthesize all my study and life experiences into an intellectual statement applicable today, with my own particular voice.

    Just as musicians who play Complex Afro-American Improvisational Music--one of the antecedent terms to BAM, and a more descriptive one, in my estimation--learn from the masters of the idiom, incorporate aspects of their stylistic genius into their own playing, all while striving to develop their own voice. Developing one's own sound used to be a foundation principle of jazz but too many schools are producing cookie-cutter cats. (That's a topic for another day.)

    Based on my study, I find "blues idiom" very useful. Once you check out the concept as authored by Murray you might also. The only way to know fo' sho is to check it out.

    Regarding the example of another group using jazz as a marketing scheme, if I were Italian, and playing this great music, I too would be proud of those from my ethnic/cultural group who have played it well, and who do so today. I see nothing wrong with an organization--the Italian Cultural Institute--creating a series of jazz events with Italian musicians. As long as they don't try to lay claim to having ORIGINATED the art form, cool.

    But you're right, it would be redundant to call it Black American Jazz. Jazz, as with any great art form, is now in the world, played and beloved by folks of all backgrounds. If we can accept the premise--one that you'll find time and time again in my writings--that black Americans originated and innovated what we call jazz, then we don't have to be defensive or insecure about that. And if others are defensive or insecure about that reality, so be it, but let's always try to bring the light of understanding as well as the heat of passion, so that growth and learning results, not just bitterness and resentment.

    But we don't live in a perfect world, I know. The combination of black folks not supporting the music (jazz) in large numbers coupled with black folks not being significant enough players on the business and media side complicates matters. The history of jazz is littered with examples of non-black musical groups and non-black musicians getting a heap of press and heaps of money that the black musicians who influenced them didn't. This isn't just true for jazz, of course, but other genres of music too.

    These are historical facts, and it continues to today, though not to the same degree.

    Such disparities occur because of systemic racial hierarchies as they play out in social power and money dynamics. That's why I stomp on the concept of race, and clarify, as often as necessary, why culture is the better basis for human understanding and interaction.

    I think I feel about the word "race" as some of you BAM cats say you feel about "jazz." (But claiming that jazz is as insulting as the word "nigger" is just plain silly. I really could've blasted that idea even more than I did, but wanted to cut your boy Nic some slack, even though he was being slack in his thinking about that.)

    Lastly, I hope that the disavowal of the word "jazz" won't backfire when it comes to playing in "jazz" clubs, "jazz" festivals, and being covered in the "jazz" press and publicity apparatus. Some might call the implicit bluff and say, hey, if you don't want have anything to do with jazz, we who do celebrate "jazz" don't want anything to do with you. I truly hope not because, as master drummer Michael Carvin says, I don't want to take food off of any man's table.

    I just don't yet get why the point can't be that jazz is a branch of BAM; to completely diss the word as if it only has bad connotations goes too far for me. And, man, you know good and well the word jazz is here to stay.

    But whatever you call your music, I look forward to hearing you in person soon, 'cause you can play!

    And be on the lookout for the Race and Jazz columns to come; they'll give some important historical perspective that I hope will be useful for all who care enough about these issues to engage and think about the discourse we've been engaging in.



  • Jeffrey Smith wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    If I present a show called "An Evening of Black American Music with the Jeff Smith Group", is it going to cause concern, confusion, or hard feelings, when people show up and find out I'm white? Is it honest? I'm not misrepresenting the music, because it originated and was pioneered by the black community, I'm just part of the continuum. Is BAM big enough to include me, because I don't want to just play music, I want to own it.

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 24, 2012 report

    By "own" what do you mean, Jeff?

  • Jeffrey Smith wrote on January 25, 2012 report

    I mean "own" in the sense of being responsible for my art, without making excuses. I'm sure you understand the concept I'm referring to. I acknowledge and pay respect to my influences, but as an artist, I need to find my personal voice or codex to use to make it mine.

    I have no problem with the fact that "jazz", groove, r&b, funk, or hip-hop has black roots. I'm afraid that a black audience might have a problem if I called myself a BAM artist. Would it be considered authentic? If not, then the term BAM isn't going to help unify the whole community that lives to play this music.

  • Greg Thomas wrote on January 25, 2012 report

    Since I'm not an advocate of the use of BAM in place of the word jazz, I'm not the best one to answer this question. But if the idea isn't based on "race," I don't see why you couldn't do that. Payton has outlined several non-black musicians that he considers as playing BAM as he conceives of it.

    The question is whether or not it would serve one's purpose as an artist, from a marketing and promotional perspective, to do so. You'll have to make that decision for yourself.

  • Trent Gilles wrote on January 25, 2012 report

    I just found this online:

    It's called Black Music America. Here's their mission statement:

    Black Music America is dedicated to promoting, preserving and recognizing Black music, artists and industry. The site is designed to be an information resource for consumers of Black music arts.

    Just thought this was interesting, because Payton describes himself as the creator of BAM, and there's already something pretty similar to what he's saying. I realize that this BMA site is not a 'genre' name like BAM.

  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 25, 2012 report

    Thanks for your time Greg, and also thanks for responding to me in a respectful manner. FYI: There is a particular person by the name of Trent Gilles who is posting on this forum - he sent me hate mail, and I of course have no intrest in those who have no other purpose than to spread hate. So again, thanks for respectfully disagreeing with me.

    I leave with one last statement: the link to the Italian Jazz Festival was not at all to show that I disapprove of such a thing. It was to make the undeniable point that many other cultures celebrate their findings within this idiom, yet Black Americans ironically encounter much resistance when we simply want to change the idiom's name to one that describes where it comes from and what it is. This, as illustrated in detail from my above postings, is a incredibly valuable marketing tool that would have positive results for those who want a more precise description of their music than J***, which if it has any meaning is "lively". The value is all in the name, customers shouldn't have to do a research on etymology in order to find out what the name of the product means. And even after doing such a search, one will most likely still be confused as to what J*** actually means. Black American Music is a must! The word J*** has failed, and it shows when you see that most J*** festivals have more Pop Stars than J*** musicians. The word J*** is non-descriptive, and evokes very confusing images in our youth. Frank Sinatra and John Coltrane are not similar by a long shot, yet people born in at least 1990 have no idea which one they would like the most - all because of the name J***. Going by what you yourself think when you hear the word J*** will not at all link you to how someone born in 1990 thinks of the word J***. It's all in the name brotha!


  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 25, 2012 report

    Ah, another thought to leave you with:

    There have been countless young couples of all races that have come up to me after my shows and said something along the lines of this:

    "Gee, I wanted to take my lady out for an evening of nice mellow J*** and then head to a dance club afterwards. We ended up staying here because your music is so energetic, modern, danceable and catchy. I had no idea that J*** sounds like this."

    You wouldn't believe how many people have said that to me in one form or another. The word J*** does not evoke the same image that you have in the mind of someone who is now 25 yrs old and younger. I know this for a fact. Black American Music is a must - no etymology or reading of Albert Murray (as I said, I will check him out) is required to understand what it is! The title is simple and straight to the point, it is exactly what label is needed to steer today's young customers to one's product. Kind of Blue was released a decade before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, if the J*** market keeps thinking like then how can it possibly be in tune w today's youth?

    - M

  • Trent Gilles wrote on January 26, 2012 report


    I never sent you hate mail. Feel free to re post any of the message I tried sending you on this forum and let's see if they equate to hate mail. Hardly so. What I did was ask you the exact same questions that I have posted here, but just not in question format. I also then gave you some opinions on why I thought using race as a label is divisive in the world we live in and therefore why I didn't agree with the name BAM. In no way did I ever send you hate mail.

    I believe you are not answering my questions because you are afraid of the answers, or that I make good points that you don't want to admit because you have not thoroughly thought this through.

    In your most recent post, you seem to have shifted your attention to using BAM as a marketing tool to try and connect with youth. Is this all about you reclaiming jazz for you race, or is this about marketing? I'm not sure I even know your true points for renaming it now? Is the word jazz racist or is it just a bad descriptor?

    And if it's just a bad descriptor (in your opinion) how come rock, blues, and all of these don't need to be changed?

    Jazz is a niche music, it's never going to be pop, and why should it?

    Marcus, I have all of the posts that I send you saved in my 'sent' folder, if you accuse me of hate mail again, I will happily repost them to the public. Don't just make things up because someone is challenging your views, this is insulting and I know you are smart enough to know this.


  • Trent Gilles wrote on January 26, 2012 report

    FYI Marcus,


    Is exactly what I sent you, but then asked you your opinion on what I wrote. I asked you this because I have recently seen you join forces with N Payton after disagreeing with him. And on your BAM blog you defend his positions and also quote exact phrases from his blog in places, so I shared my thoughts about Nicholas Payton with you.

    In no way is this hate mail. I invite anyone to read it.


  • Marcus Strickland wrote on January 26, 2012 report

    Hey Trent,

    I went back and actually saw that your post at my B.A.M. F.A.Q. came in shortly after another person's extremely hateful post - it was indeed hate mail. That person's alias name is too vulgar to repost. So my apologies for any false accusation. First of all, I am not scared of answering any of your questions at ALL. I have to navigate many posts on my blog, FB, Twitter, my inbox, etc... so when I get to your extremely long post I will address it, just like I did every other one. And will be concise and to the point too. Outside of all this I am actually a touring musician, CEO of my own record company, web designer of my site, etc... So if I choose to post here on Greg's piece about Greg's piece, it doesn't make sense for you to post your long-winded posts yet again. I will address it, and the answers will be the honest truth. It's coming bruh! Just exercise a lil' patience... You obviously don't know me very well, but you will soon! LOL

    - M

  • John Kelman wrote on January 26, 2012 report

    Hey Marcus,
    Just went over to your site to check out the FAQ, and as an All About Jazz back-ender, can I make a constructive suggestion? Change the font, or make it something a little clearer. Now, admittedly, as I approach 56 (gulp) next month, the eyes ain't what they used to be. But I'd like to read what's there, but I find the font a little hard to read. I'm gonna give it a go, but just thought I'd pass along a piece of completely subject-unrelated feedback... :)


  • Michael Ricci wrote on January 27, 2012 report

    Slightly off topic, but worth reading...

    L.A. Jazz Clubs Need More Loud Drunks

  • Mark Elliot wrote on February 01, 2012 report

    While I appreciate the need - even the imperative - to reestablish ownership by the African American community of its cultural achievements, I think we're not seeing the forest here. The name issue is a distraction, IMO.

    For some, the complexity of the music, the heterogeneity of styles, and the enduring importance of the statement stands regardless of what you call it. For others like Kermit I guess, why label it at all; it's just about the music and the innovation - the "new stuff," he says.

    It's helpful that Peyton has accelerated the conversation with some bombs and barbs calculated to attract attention (despite his protestations!). As a messenger, though, the theatrics detract from the thrust of his own argument. Irrelevant boasts of prowess "on the bandstand or off" don't explore the nuances of re-appropriation of the music & mantle, as advanced by Roach and other cooler heads.

    Yet this discussion is enlightening for how it reflects and refracts the many tensions (mostly healthy) that is inherent in the concept, performance, and the selling of what we've been calling 'Jazz.' (I'll use the term because it's a recognized handle. At the same time, it doesn't get us very far given the heterogeneity of the music.)

    The music has remained dynamic and vigorous precisely because it's been long marginalized; it remains so today. For me, that makes business-side tales of struggle and entrepreneurialism all the more interesting, much more so than the banal corporatism that is the mainstream pop industry. Like in the music itself, the scrappiness is key. It's the defining texture of creativity in expression, and it's the necessary trait among practitioners called for given the turbulence today.

    Unlike Kermit, I think it's a discussion worth having, and I'd like to see it folded into a larger re-appropriation argument. Jazz and its contributory styles deserve a permanent home in the African American cultural community, whatever the contribution of white guys.

    In that regard, I wince when I see it paid tribute in brass-plated venues in DC. Or lionized at Lincoln Center. I feel it's patronizing - a pat on the head, like, "You're welcome to come in the front door." Jazz has long entered in through the back door. So venues like the Smithsonian or the National Gallery or the Rose Theater, these are not the place for it for all the right reasons).

    Leave those places to white musics and the folks standing behind the institutional push for jazz, the jazz canon, and the condescending tip of the hat that is the ceremonial award and commemoration. Those folks love that crap.

    But the Jazz legacy, its practitioners, and the larger community of enthusiasts stand apart from it, and should. We are the ones slumming when we're 'allowed' into those hallowed halls, free to look around a bit at the polished brass but not without some adult supervision.

    On that much, I resonate with Peyton's stridency. But let's move the discussion forward without silly taunts, defensive boasts and the like. The music is so much better than that.

  • Killer Joe wrote on February 03, 2012 report

    Amen Greg. Great response, and I agree with your comments 100 percent. You are a sound mind in this debate. Thank you. Jazz is a respected word and a great, proud tradition in America. I see no reason why we can't educate everyone on why it is indeed great and just be done with that. Who cares how the term was established at this point in time, let's look at the here and now, examine it, and grow, break down barriers and make a better world, not the opposite.

  • Killer Joe wrote on February 03, 2012 report

    I can tell you one thing, I used to look at the music as something I purely respected and admired (as a HUGE fan of the genre), and the greats I idolize. Now I look at the same music and those same people, and because of all this BAM talk, I suddenly associate it all with racial divide, and black folks that are bitter and angry at me for the color of my skin.. that's really unfortunate. That's what BAM has done for me. A shame.

  • Trent Gilles wrote on February 09, 2012 report

    well I knew Marcus would never get back to anything I asked him, because he knows the answers.

    Anyway, check out what Nicholas USED to think about the word jazz:

    Doesn't seem like he's equating it to the word N***** here does it? !!

    Someone's had a change of heart. Which proves my point. People, or society in general, can change the way they use or view a word, or the meanings of words change over time.

    He's one contradiction after another.

  • Mort Weiss wrote on September 15, 2012 report

    I just happened stumble on to this boullabise of hysterical so called jazz experts-wannabees -9-5rs who play an occassional barmitzvah and sneak in a few BAM TUNES in when the cat thats paying them is engaged in a conversation etc etc----NO DOM NOT YOU !! you've been and are on the playing field-not sitting in the stands as most of these musicaly ignorant phucks are--I'll tell you all who has the right to call them selves a jazz musician-that being some one that has paid the rent-put food on the table-got braces for their kids teeth was able to provide their family with all of the nececcities of life--BY PLAYING JAZZ MUSIC- AND NOT COMPROMISING THEIR CORE MUSICAL VALUES BY PLAYING ANY THING ELSE!!!!!! Hell I guess that I shouldent even be reading these forkacta articles -man, I started woking clubs in 1948 and---IF YOU WERE GOOD, AND COULD MAKE and PLAY THROUGH THE CHANGES AT ANY TEMPO F**k--every one was freakin color blind! All this s**t comes from the the class of 65 et el.

    No my black brothers--it's not that i'm so f**kin old that im thinking --ahh well the negros (the good ones) knew their place---although---NO NO FREAKIN KIDDING!!! Some dude said it in L A 1992 " Can't we all get along" gotta go practice my ax now -might have a bar mitzvah gig commin up.

    i remain, MORT WEISS