FauxPolitik

Monday, June 30, 2003

The Reverse Iconoclast: Can one be reactionary to a point of iconoclasm? Reason Kerry Howley has a good insight on Stanley Crouch's blowup with Jazz Times. Crouch was fired, and both parties faced off in a war of words. Crouch is a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy; he rides a hobby horse on the history and canon of jazz, like his protege Wynton Marsalis, that is narrowly defined, to say the least. I have to say, I admire Crouch. I'm biased, since I share many of his beliefs, and because I met Wynton when I was 18 years old and was floored by his ability and confidence. At any rate, too much of the jazz press is willing to accept nearly any squonking as jazz. Crouch, I think, takes the other extreme out of a conceptual purity, but partly to be heard over the din.

Crouch would disagree with me, too, but jazz ended a few years after World War Two. Bebop was the death knell, as jazz became less about dancing and more about theory, chops, breaking boundaries. (This is not to say that it's all worthless after that, but it's not jazz, just as rock and roll is not blues -- related, common roots, an offspring of blues even, but not blues.) Some of it is related to jazz. The cool stuff that came from Gil Evans and Miles obviously owes a great deal to Ellington, but it is essentially chamber music for jazz instruments. For too much of the jazz press, jazz is an anything-you-want-it-to-be category. Any thing that's not explicitly not-jazz is jazz. Crouch is an antidote to that.

As for the racial aspects, jazz is, in Crouch's words, "Negro music." Whites have made great contributions, but it's not their music -- any more than Bossanova is North American music because Stan Getz played it so well.

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