June 19, 2024

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Jazz is about all of that: individuality, freedom, openness, tolerance, diversity, experimentation, progress: Videos, Photos

We do it too, counting on everything that jazz stands for: individuality, freedom, openness, tolerance, diversity, experimentation, progress, future…

But are we really doing the music something good with these charges? Or don’t they actually come from our political strategies to help jazz, i.e. “our” music, gain more prestige and respect, more scope, more funding?

In fact, jazz is very different things for each of us. For me, Whitney Balliett’s definition of the “sound of surprise” is still one of the most consistent. Yes, at best, jazz surprises me – more than I expect from almost any other art form… but stop! That’s where the jazz player in me comes through again, who ascribes “more” to jazz than contemporary new music, than advanced forms of popular music, than the avant-garde in fine arts, dance, theater or literature…

And it’s similar with the “repertoire”, i.e. with the return to the great recordings of jazz history. In fact, these often enough fall out of our discourse of a progressive art form. The “mainstream” – that is, the jazz mainstream, which is a different term than the “mainstream” itself… again a topic, as terms so often mean something different when you use them in different contexts… so the mainstream emerges in promoting our music. Apparently he doesn’t “research” enough, he relies on what is “pleasing”: the look in the rear-view mirror can’t be the future! Quite apart from traditional jazz. Just look at the winners of the German Jazz Prize.

I don’t want to criticize that at all. I believe that there is music that needs support more than others, and I believe that we have found a very good system in this country for creating and securing “spaces” for creative music. BUT: Should we not be honest, identify jazz as just one of numerous avant-gardes and perhaps focus on what really stands out: that it actually doesn’t fit into our European-influenced avant-garde concept that in it as an afro -Diasporic tradition other standards of value are possible and lived, that ideally he always confronts us with our own misunderstandings about this music?

Admittedly, I find it difficult to do without the superlatives. Incidentally, they also work quite well in conversations with jazz fans as well as with jazz fans. And for me personally, jazz is about all of that: individuality, freedom, openness, tolerance, diversity, experimentation, progress, the future, more than any other form of music. However, that has more to do with my own focus than the music itself.

From time to time we should be aware of how numerous arguments for jazz are more due to our love for the music than to looking at it objectively. And how they also close our eyes to what a more impartial view of jazz could contribute to the general cultural discourse.

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