It’s been almost 2 years since my legendary post On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore and many followup posts explaining exactly why in great detail, international conferences, videos, etc., and most folks still don’t get it.
The great irony here is that for all the creative “improvisational” types that jazz is supposed to attract, jazzheads are some of the most inflexible, obstinate, ignorant, lazy, entitled, cowardly and greedy people I have ever come across. For a genre that prides itself on community, jazzheads are a selfish and narcissistic bunch of hypocrites.
It’s been 100 years and you all are still arguing about what is and what is not jazz. Not only have many of the ancestors laid it out for you, but through them, I’ve exhaustively tailored the message in every fathomable way one possibly can. I’ve said it, played it, expressed it profanely and profoundly, and most of y’all continue to remain in the dark about it all. You don’t know and you don’t want to know.
It’s very simple: Jazz is dead. It died in 1959 and it ain’t ever coming back. Wynton can’t save it; Robert Glasper can’t save it; Esperanza can’t save it and Jesus Christ can’t save it. It’s gone. It ain’t shit now. Never was shit. Never gon’ be shit.
“OK, so this is a wonderful idea that Nicholas Payton has — and Max Roach said it, too. And Art Blakey said it, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk said it. I just wish they would all stay with it so that, when I’m listening to WBGO, they will say, ‘That’s Black American music, as interpreted by’ so and so. It is correct.”
— Bill Cosby
What’s most disappointing is to see the amount of Black people who are championing a terminology that sought to separate Black people from their music and the money. And it still continues, to this very day. Don’t y’all get it? Have you not heard what I said? I know y’all listenin’. It ain’t that hard to grasp.
What are you so afraid of? That cats are going to start bullshitting, stop swingin’ and people won’t know Jazz from Shinola? Afraid that you won’t be relevant? Well, guess what? That happened a long time ago. You will never get the masses to embrace jazz as something that’s cool and to be revered. It’s not cool. Jazz is not worthy of our respect. Jazz continues to be a stain and a source of shame on the Black community. Like Stanley Turrentine said, “Let It Go.”
There’s a term to express exactly what I speak of here. It’s called “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance is what one feels when caught between what one believes and what is true.
“JAZZ” is a White, racist terminology (vs.) Black Americans created The Music
Now, if you don’t think the term “JAZZ” is racist, you will inevitably feel conflict for a variety of reasons. 1.) You feel jazz is beyond color and is equally indebted to a cross section of peoples. 2.) In your mind, we’ve grown beyond any negative historical connotations that jazz may have held and can reclaim the term to mean something else entirely. 3.) You love jazz and that’s just the way it is.
If you agree that Black Americans created The Music, you may also find yourself in conflict. Why? 1.) You can’t understand why after all these years you still have to argue that The Music came through the Black community. 2.) You hate the term, “JAZZ.” 3.) You love jazz and that’s just the way it is.
Black people are a complex people. How you gon’ take the music of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and call it “JAZZ”? Their music doesn’t all sound the same. In many cases, they didn’t necessarily like each others’ music. And what makes them socially different from Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson?
Herbie Hancock and Maurice White could have been neighbors, been in the same class at the same school, listened to the same records and went to the same dances. There is no such thing as a “jazz” anything. What the above listed share in common is that they are Black Americans, not jazz musicians, and their music is indicative of the Black experience—which is multidimensional.
“I myself don’t recognize the word ‘jazz.’ I mean, we are sold under that name, but to me, the word doesn’t exist.”
— John Coltrane
You see, genre is not a Black thing, neither is race. These are European constructs that were designed to divide, classify and marginalize. Race and genre establish false hierarchal systems that engenders an environment of entitlement for some and exclusion for others. From an African or ancient perspective, geography and genealogy are what’s important. It’s more about whom begat whom, where, than what begets what, when — lineage as opposed to linearity.
And to be honest, the African or ancient way is not always the best either. The rigidity of those traditions were bound to be broken at some point. We have global colonization to thank for that. People need room to evolve. There is a reason for The Middle Passage, The Holocaust and the extermination of native peoples all over the world. Yes, we were colonized, but we were colonized before we were colonized.
To break the construct, you must first embrace the construct. To deny or ignore only gives more power to the opposition. It’s best to face the truth head-on, open and honestly. Black music has outgrown Ragtime, Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Soul, R&B and Hiphop. Africans have outgrown Africa and Americans have outgrown America. Homogeneity is pandemic in modern society. It’s time to marry the Old World view with the New World. We don’t all need to be the same, but we do need to learn to respect and celebrate differences.
Relevancy is not what’s important. It’s all about survival.
We don’t create tomorrow. What you do now is what matters most. The future is a byproduct of what we do today. We must call upon the ancestors for healing as they look to us rectify the wrongs of the past. We are their agents on Earth and they are our intermediaries to the supernatural. Without each other, we are nothing.
— Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop