OK, there's no reason George Bush should be able to properly pronounce Marsalis.
At a White House reception a couple of weeks ago, to celebrate Black History Month, several National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters were invited to participate, including Billy Taylor
, James Moody
and Chico Hamiltion. When GW read his speech, obviously for the first time, he made what he was told was going to be a joke:
"Though an older generation leaves us, their legacy lives on in many talented, young African American musicians of today. Gospel singers like Kirk Franklin and Yolanda Adams I might add, both from Texas (laughter) bright jazz talents like Roy Hargrove, Mark Turner, Joshua Redman. Pop artists like Alicia Keys. And, of course, there's a Marsalis brother for just about every instrument. (laughter)"
Except GW, a man who wears loafers with tassels, pronounced it "Mar-say-is," much to the discomfort of the audience, full of politically appropriate bureaucrats and government employees, as well as several notables from the world of Jazz, including IAJE Director Bill McFarlin
and publicity honcho Don Lucoff.
No big deal here folks. Our President isn't exactly a musical sophisticate. His taste in music starts at Nashville and ends up in Branson. Visit the White House site and watch/listen to GW's Jazz rant
Mispronunciation aside, the reception was a good thing. Although the present administration doesn't include Jazz performances very often in their social agenda, the opportunity was utilized successfully by Dr. Taylor, who brought along a group of young musicians from his "Jazz and the New Generation" program at Kennedy. And Bush's speech, mentioned the recent passing of our beloved Elvin.
How wierd to hear these words coming out of the mouth of man who, soon after he is re-elected, is going to tear up the Bill of Rights, once and for all. One minute he's praising Jazz musicians, whose chosen medium is one where freedom reigns, and the next, his Attorney General is breaking down doors without a search warrant to fight terrorism.
"Last month, the celebrated jazz drummer Elvin Jones passed away. He was the fiery pulse of John Coltrane's Quartet. Elvin Jones
loved music so much that rather than spend his last days in the hospital, he brought an oxygen tank on stage with him, so he could keep amazing his audiences until the very end."
I know several people who attended, and enjoyed the event very much. Thanks to Laura Bush (a closet Julie London enthusiast?), the NEA spearheaded the event. The NEA has promoted its Jazz Masters
awards to Pulitzer Prize status, and that's a great thing. Billy Taylor, James Moody, Chico Hamilton, and many many other musicians deserve to be honored at the White House, and recognized for their artistry.
A shout-out to Dana Gioia, the poet who now directs the NEA. They need our support. Imagine if Vice President Dick Cheney's wife Lynn was still running the NEA?
Hey, Duke Ellington played at the White House and Nixon played Happy Birthday for him on the piano! In fact, after four years of Bush, Nixon doesn't look that bad. He may have been a liar, and a thief, but at least he wasn't a murderer. And Nixon did start the NEA.
What will a Kerry administration do for Jazz? Mmmmm, I seem to recall reading that John Kerry's favorite record is Abbey Road, and that he used to play in a rock band.
Why am I less than optimistic about this?
Wait a minute, isn't this blog supposed to be about Jazz and the Net? Yeah, well most of the time. But...I don't wanna take away Nat Hentoff's gig, so I'l try and stay on topic. I promise.