Posts from 30th August 2018

Aug 18

how not to write about jazz, probably

FT + Hidden Landscapes2 comments • 1,140 views

[This post originally went up at my PATREON: subscribers get to read posts and hear podcasts early — and help offset costs and time and help me do more of this kind of thing. Please share widely and encourage participation in the comments!]

A week or three back, my old ilxor pal Kerr put up a list of jazz genres on FB and asked his followers who could define them. And bcz we’re dicks, we gave him a dusty answer (mine, in full, was “I can!”). We played mean games; we suggested he google. And so he did — fair play — and of course the joke was on us, bcz the results (wikipedia!) were terrible, full of error and sententious assumption. Some true claims — especially in the endless lists — mixed in with much confused nonsense and (wikipedia!) inapposite citation.

My dusty answer wasn’t just about being a dick: Kerr’s question had landed right on top of something that’s bothered me for decades. Which is why people often write so badly about jazz — including people who know a lot about it (a lot more than me anyway). They can get the facts right — the chords, the analysis — but then miss the point. They write well about the players’ lives and character, and about the feel. But when they write about what the musicians actually think they’re doing, and think about what they’re doing, it all goes cock-eyed and dull — as if being fully conversant with musical technique and terminology acts as some kind of huge mental block.