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Let 'Em Rumble

Photo by Jim Marshall, 1971

Alexander Brown
Contributing Writer

A couple weeks ago that outer island that encompasses jazz in the world wide web briefly skirmished over Anthony’s small suggestion for performers. It was quashed in due time, no feelings were majorly hurt, a call to amicably disagree was made and everyone went back home happily to their ham sandwiches and ginger ale. Let’s not do this again. Let’s fight until it gets bloody.

I know, due to the intricacies of jazz music, e.g. the time it takes to master an instrument to the rather laid back communal feeling in all jazz clubs/concerts, and the fact that most of us fans cannot be regularly accused of immaturity, makes sustaining an argument one way or another difficult without seeming petty. To this I would say get over yourselves, having the argument may be where the money is.

A good solid public row about jazz could be exactly the boon jazz needs. Examining the far reaching press, most of it is about conflict in one way or another. Hell, major news organizations pattern themselves around the mandate of setting your opponent on fire then urinating on them to put out the blaze. Arguments seem to be what the current public thrives on, why not give them what they want?

Taking a cue from hip-hop, beef has been not only a great marketing tool, but a core tenet of the art. If an artist happens to find himself a little too ignored in between tours and projects the quickest way to make everyone remember you live is by antagonizing someone whose single is at the top of the current Billboard charts. Ergo, instant attention, minimal work, and entertainment writers will be sure to have you on their mind for the next couple months while you finish working on that set barely related to your grievances.

And for those performers who aren’t afraid to show they have umbrage with another performer, well, then let your music be you final word on the matter. Pump all your distaste and ire into your next record, studio or live, and attempt to blow the object of your outrage into a public ennui-forced hiatus. If we fans get lucky, everybody will push themselves to make better and better records through antagonism.

And here’s the secret to famous musical arguments as it’s been known; When two top performers argue everybody wins. Records sell, angry tracks become hits, TV ratings go up, more people read the articles for the details and artist pretty much get richer. Amidst all this is the fact more people get interested in the argument as they pass by, like when they look at someone yelling while they walk down the street. They get drawn in the louder the din and next thing you know they are weighing options to take sides, even if they don’t actively join in.

I can respect the fact that the current atmosphere of jazz, especially on this site, has been one of total inclusion (smooth jazz, though, still being the “Furries” of the bunch). And I realize that us being adults, we’re not going to just start dumb arguments for the sake of it. But all this happy, get together, hug everyone crap but be passive-aggressive doesn’t suit us; we’re not hippies after all. You want to confront someone, do it, just make sure you back it up with your A-game when you do.

Alexander Brown is a freelance writer. More of his work can be found at his blog, [Relax and Aspire].