R.D. Edwards Deciphering the Message: Hidden Meanings of Jazz
In 1969, a rumor circulated concerning the alleged death of Paul McCartney. The thing that caused the real frenzy of interest with this story was that the Beatles supposedly had placed clues in their albums hinting at Paul's death. At the time, this was unusual; since then, however, people have discovered hidden messages in other music. While some arguments are more effective than others, the bulk of hidden musical messages has been limited to rock and roll' until now.
With his latest book, Deciphering the Message: Hidden Meanings of Jazz, social critic, R.D. Edwards claims that jazz music is filled with hidden messages and secret meanings, which have never been fully exposed. Edwards is also the author of MTV: Minds Turning Vacant and What's New Age Music All About? Now, he shifts his focus to classic jazz.
Considering that the bulk of jazz is instrumental, it might seem far-fetched to assume that secret meanings exist at all. Edwards, on the other hand, makes interesting points to the contrary. As he states. 'The only thing jazz is instrumental in is undermining positive behavior patterns.' Edwards points out that jazz songs frequently carry more than just a melody. 'The opening notes of the guitar solo in this song are B-E-B-A-D. Most listeners would completely overlook the indicator involved here, 'Be Bad.' Who could deny this overt invitation for listener-based indulgence?'
One might question the exact type of indulgence Edwards has in mind. In a chapter entitled, "Blues and the Abscessed Tooth", however, the message becomes clear: disregard for healthy diets and encouragement of between-meal snacking. Take, for example, the Dizzy Gillespie song Manteca: 'Manteca is the Spanish word for lard. This song is a clear promotion of unhealthy eating habits.' He continues to say that Gillespie's classic song, Salt Peanuts encourages inter-meal snacking behavior.
Gillespie, though, is not the sole snack messenger; other artists have placed food-related messages in their work. Take this examination of Ella Fitzgerald: '[Fitzgerald] is one of the progenitors of scat singing. One would generally assume that scat vocals are nothing more than gibberish, but unfortunately this is not the case.' He goes on to say that certain scat progressions contain more than previously thought. 'When played backwards on a turntable set at 45 RPM, the voice clearly says 'fried foods taste really good, you should eat more of them.''
Deciphering the Message brings some interesting points to the table. According to Edwards, many artists chose nicknames specifically aimed at increased snacking activity. Harry 'Sweets' Edison, for one, led many to seek out sugary confections, solely based on name recognition. Likewise, Jelly Roll Morton caused fans to give in to the temptation of high-fat pastries.
There are others, though, involved in this dietary discourse. In a discussion of the notable drummer, Chico Hamilton, Edwards argues that 'Hamilton released two albums with 'El Chico' in the title. 'El Chico' is the name of a famous Mexican food restaurant. Clearly this indicates his promotion of 'south of the border' cuisine.'
Obviously, some will disagree with all of Edwards' assertions. However, one cannot deny that Deciphering the Message dishes up plenty of food for thought. Unfortunately, with its rather hefty price tag, the only problem some might have is forking out the bread to buy this title.