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  • David Hadley Ray

Jazz Karaoke Anyone?

Venues seem to want jazz karaoke more than jazz with attitude. With decibel meters, political correctness and noise laws, is the rebel music of Bird, Monk and Dizzy being snipped and manipulated into being safe for the masses? Do folks really want their jazz neutered, or genetically modified? (It may look and taste like jazz, but it sho' nuff tastes like Kenny G.) From an outward perspective, it seems that some artists are so worried about offending people, they end up relaying a watered down, homogenized, pasteurized kind of jazz, A performance that is rated "G..." I call it, "Sesame Street" jazz... With the passing of so many of our musical icons, it is inevitable that, eventually, there will be a generation forced to, once again glean what they can from records... Ooops, I mean YouTube... It seems that the lack of mentorship, as of late, has been filled by academia, but I have my concerns regarding that also. A Professor might be reticent to fail a student for playing "technically" correct, but "emotionally devoid of content." I can't dig one without the other.

The relationship is symbiotic as far as I'm concerned. We need our music veterans to continue to do what they used to do, that is, to not only remind the venues of their obligation regarding this music, but an obligation of having players that have been, not only "around the block," but up the street and over at the rib shack. The almighty "bottom line" is definitely important, but shouldn't always be priority number one. But maybe our society has gotten over nurturing, maybe what we're seeing is the effects of "coddling." If jazz is still a living, breathing entity (I seem to remember someone saying rock is dead, blues is dead... jazz is on a ventilator (Wheezing, Asthmatic, C.O.P.D. jazz anyone?).

It's obvious to anyone living today that we are living in an era of social deprivation. Technology has enabled us to do wonderful things, without the annoyance of unwanted social interactions. The advent of the internet have given folks the freedom to avoid that annoying heckler intruding on my listening pleasure, or that bartender charging me quadruple what my drink actually should have cost. I can sit at home, in my basement (Every man knows, when you co-inhabit with a partner, you only get one room.), but this music needs stimuli outside of a bubble, even a comfortable one. This music needs maturity earned and learned on the bandstand and a reverence for traditions that have preceded today's, in my "unhumble" opinion, narcissistic views.

In my old age, I find myself worrying less about technique, and more about what am I trying to say. I have enough technique I've been told, and luckily, or sadly enough, I have enough tragedy in my history to give content and character to what I'm playing.

Maybe popularity is more important. I mean who wants to embark upon a life that will more than likely end up less than financially secure? Maybe we do need more of that good ol' safe, all encompassing, Sesame Street/karaoke jazz?

"Sunny days creeping up, it's A-OK, a safe complacent street is where mediocrity peeps, can you tell me how to vent, at the end of... Carnaby Street?"

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