AFRO-AMERICAN MUSIC INSTITUTE CELEBRATES 36 YEARS
Pain Relief Beyond Belief
I am an unabashed, unashamed young lover of the music we so lovingly call Jazz. I have had a love affair with jazz most of my adult life. Jazz, as we call it is an improvisational musical art form. An art form that challenges the most talented, creative artisans of the craft to create a masterpiece on the spot, in front of a well informed, sophisticated and educated audience. Hence, the concept…”no room for squares”. Step onstage and perpetrate if you will…mess around and get your feelings hurt. Jazz is real!
However, there is a debate that surfaces from time to time; usually outside knowing Jazz circles…that jazz is anything but real…they claim in fact that Jazz is dead. The argument goes along the lines of declining record sales, minimal significance in pop culture and other such nonsensical material concerns. This false argument is even supported by folks who know better. Dead, really, seriously?
How can an art form that began some 100 years ago, evolved and continues to evolve, is played, admired and replicated all over the known world, is spontaneous and demanding to play, fresh and innovative at it’s best and simple and pure at it worst, performed, enjoyed, recorded, distributed and available 24 hours a day for those who want and need it…be dead? On top of that, the best improvisational performances that constitute the heart of jazz music aren’t even written down! To create it and to hear it is to be alive to be in the moment.
Jazz has a history, a present and a future. For those who may have fallen victim to the aforementioned falsehoods of the demise of jazz music - may I humbly suggest you plop your clueless ass on the couch and view the documentary “Icons Among Us: Jazz In The Present Tense”.
Directors Lars Larson and Michael Rivoria present the antithesis of the well known documentary “Ken Burns Jazz”. Flipping the historical argument on its head it owes no patronage to the past…not disrespectful of it but upholding the one and only truth that with jazz music all that matters is now. Isn’t that what Charlie Parker was hinting at through his classic bebop tune “Now’s The Time”? As pianist Robert Glasper ( one of the 75 active musicians featured in “Icons”) puts it…if Charlie Parker was somehow resurrected and happened to walk into a Jazz club and heard an alto saxophonist playing his music riff for riff (…as could happen) he would be pissed! Charlie Parker would call the cat a lame and put shame to his game. The risk takers of the 1940’s and 50’s Jazz scene that so many revere, would expect- no, demand the new cats take the seed they created and plant it fertile ground.
Well, fellow citizens have no fear; the Jazz GOD’s are well pleased! Jazz is alive and kicking!! The 1 hour and 33 minute documentary stands as a testimony that there is no need to deify Miles, Louis and the Duke as the only true Jazz icons…there are, as the title insists… ”Icons Among Us”, and if you didn’t know…now ya know. “Icons Among Us: Jazz In The Present Tense” was produced in 2009 and is available now on DVD.
- Brian Phoenix
Brian Phoenix is Host and Producer of Jazzism (a katzpheno mix) available via iTunes.