Balance Of Jazz Trade
No one can deny the incredible impact the USA has on the world. However with much impact
and influence come much responsibility! Are we talking politics here? Well yes and no.
We won’t be influencing any national elections here at Mojito Jazz Radio but if we can
impact the world of jazz be it listeners, musicians, venues or the upper echelon of
power in the jazz community, then open some diplomatic dialogue.
Today we stand up for the musical declaration of independence, “jazz for the people, by
the people, give the people what the people want, and they will come”. No wait, that
was more like the declaration of independence mixed with James Earl Jones from the Field
of Dreams. Then again, can we allow. America to be the place “where jazz dreams go to
die” like fly balls do in the glove of shoeless Joe Jackson? There was a time in
America when the entire country danced to jazz!
It wasn’t just the teenagers sneaking out of the house on Friday night to get foot-loose,
no the whole country danced to jazz. Men, women, singles, couples, boys and girls, rich
and poor, everybody. Everyone black or white knew the names of Armstrong, Duke,Goodman,
Ella, Bird or Bilie Holiday. Has America forgotten that we have created one of the
greatest arts and institutions since baseball itself, then exported it around the world!
Apparently the world still knows but Americans have forgotten, which brings me to the
title of this story. “the balance of jazz trade”. Americans created the incredible
commodity we call jazz and exported it around the globe so, of course we get to reap the
fruits of our jazz labor. Isn’t it also time that more of the American music
establishment recognized those other countries, artist, musicians and advocates for jazz
around the world that help perpetuate this American institution?
So, one day I’m listening to music and here is this bad-ass Japanese girl in her early
20’s freaking playing Charlie Parker “confirmation” and Duke Ellington’s
“Take The A Train” like no body’s business,then scatting “hurr-wee hurr-wee hurr-wee”
with this cute Japanese accent, then back to the sax. So I’m sitting there and about
this time, I’m coming unglued. I’m swinging so hard I almost broke my neck because this
chick is freaking Killin It!
In the meantime, stateside music programs have been reduced in schools. Most young
people think music comes from freaking computers. Traditional jazz stations have
dropped like med-flies in malathion spray, the few stations left only play the same
artist over and over like the building was cut out of cardboard. For some reason people
in America now think jazz is just for Old People! WTF !
I had to ask myself, self, why is it people in a country like Japan for example, can
sing our songs in English, know the name of every major western jazz artist and not only
hale the music but revere the artist who created it. If they even mentioned the name
Duke or Monk or Trane, it would probably be preceded or followed by the lighting of
candles and bowing as low as you can. Yet most Americans don’t know who Monk, Trane or
The Duke is.
The powers to be in the jazz world are doing little to help change that fact and expand
its commodity, if no where else, at least here in the nation. Of course I am painting
with a broad brush. The state of jazz has gotten to the point were their artist are
starving for gigs, there are barely any venues and all of the traditional radio stations
have vanished! Can any of you American jazz lovers, listeners or musicians tell me the
names of say 6 great Japanese jazz artist? Since the 50’s American artist have toured
Japan and profited from their love of our product. Year after year, we expect that trade
door to always be open yet, where are the Japanese artist touring the USA and appearing
at the most note worthy venues?
On a whole its not just Japanese artist, it’s artist from many countries around the world
that love our music, not to mention the hordes of artist produced here that can’t even
get a gig or radio airplay! It appears that, not only is the American jazz institution
afraid to let the outside in but it also helps keep the insiders out. (insiders meaning,
the artist born and bread here in the heartland of jazz)
In any trade imbalance somebody is going to get shortchanged and then the collapse! In
this case its the American people and the great institution called jazz. As grim as it
may seem, don’t go throwing yourself off of the musical wall street bridge yet, we can
restore the Balance of Jazz Trade. We can change import, export and investment
strategies before its too late. Like any great corporation the fix starts at the top.
Those at the top of the Jazz world, producers, artist, record labels, broadcasting etc,
need to reach down off of the pedestal and help build their own legacy by lifting up
those down the line. Your fame won’t vanish or be diminished, in fact it will only be
multiplied. If you don’t, there won’t be a jazz pedestal for anyone to be worshiped
on because one day people will be saying …”what’s jazz”.