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So Cal Jazz 2013: Highlights and a Serious Low

Chuck Koton By

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And yet, that was not the end of the story. Because in the United States, in 2013, no victory for the people, no matter how small, can survive the greed of the 1%ers. And every cloud contains not a silver lining but a torrential downpour.

Slowly but surely, mysterious and troubling signs began to appear. Leimert Park's small businesses began to have their leases terminated. Real estate began to change hands, but the identity of these acquisitive "land sharks" was shrouded in secrecy. In anticipation of the economic boost expected to result from the completion of the Crenshaw light rail line, greedy and cowardly realtors have been buying up the neighborhood. "Going out of business" signs have already appeared on many store front.

At present, the World Stage continues fundraising and community outreach as it seeks to continue its mission of "Seeking light through sound." For anyone who would like to support the World Stage, plan to visit or just want to learn more about this unique community landmark, check out their web site: http://theworldstage.org/

Angel City Jazz Festival
John Anson Ford Amphitheater
Los Angeles, CA
Oct 6, 2013

Much gratitude also goes out to stalwart jazz lovers, Rocco Somazzi and Jeff Gauthier, who labor in the face of nearly insurmountable obstacles to present the kind of jazz that is rarely heard here in Los Angeles. This year, the 6th annual Angel City Jazz Festival culminated in an all day affair in October at the John Anson Ford Amphitheater. Prior to the musical proceedings, the first episode of a four part jazz documentary, "Icons Among Us: A Quiet Revolution," was screened. This segment presented a varied and, at times, provocative discussion about the nature of jazz. One particularly outspoken contemporary voice is that of trumpeterNicholas Payton, who has attacked the very name "jazz," insisting that the music he plays be labeled Black American Music, BAM. Peyton's resentment stems from the historical origin of the word "jazz," which has been traced to its use, at the turn of the century, as a vulgar substitute for te word "sex" in Storyville, the "red light" district of New Orleans. Mr. Peyton has unequivocably demonstrated his own intimate knowledge of the music and its glorious history, and if he feels insulted by the label, so be it, BAM it is!

Fellow NOLA native, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, speaks eloquently about the music and asks, quite appropriately, "If you don't know the tradition, how can you move forward?" Harrison's words were directed at those musical new comers who, in their drive to be relevant to today's youthful listeners, may ignore the vital musical foundation built by masters of the "language," jazz icons like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. The failure to first hone these musical tools is akin to painters who may try to break with artistic tradition by spilling paint on a canvas while blindfolded and standing on their heads, without ever learning how to draw a simple human figure.

Yet the worst was still to come. And come it did, in the words of the angry young man (actually, no longer so young), keyboardist Robert Glasper, who, at the last minute, cancelled his performance at Angel City. Glasper, through interviews like the one in this film, has come to epitomize the arrogance of those musicians who, ostensibly, are striving to escape the musical chains of the past by playing 21st century music. Yet Glasper crosses over from creative freedom to rude displays of his own insecurities when, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times (3/22/12), he bleats "Look in any jazz magazine, 90% of it is old people." In another observation, he notes," Jazz, nothing ever happens. It's literally like being in an old-folks home on bingo night." Moreover, in this film, he truly trespasses into the world of farce when he states his goal of hoping to be "badder than Trane and I think it's possible." Even a brief exposure to his music will reveal that he is light years from approaching Coltrane, although these days, adding hip hop drum beats and turn table scratching into otherwise forgettable music may be enough to be voted into the Down Beat Hall of Fame!

The American dream apparently lives on in Glasper's quest, as hopeless in its way as was Jay Gatsby's. And one day, Glasper will also be "borne back ceaselessly into the past," where he just may find himself in a jazz club, playing "Cherokee" to a crowd of gray beards.

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