The artistic director of a prestigious New York City jazz venue made an ornery assertion in The Village Voice’s fascinating profile of bassist Linda Oh. Rio Sakairi of Jazz Standard suggests that:
"One of my pet peeves is when organizations say, 'Jazz: America's greatest art form.' My reaction is always like, 'Are you saying this because you don't want people to listen to it?' Because that sounds really goofy and not very attractive.... I'm thinking, 'Why are you putting out this really goofy, douche-y image of jazz?' I'm puzzled by that."I share her distaste for the sentiment and for the similarly grating phrase “America’s classical music.” Variations of the verbiage are frequently employed by arts organizations in Kansas City.
I reflexively check to make sure my wallet’s secure every time I hear language of this type because I know that someone is trying to shake me down for a donation. The assertions often seem as if they’re intended to impress gullible philanthropists.
The disingenuous pronouncements are inherently dismissive of blues, gospel, country, bluegrass, R&B, rock and roll and hip-hop. The form is further marginalized by the implication that listening to jazz is the musical equivalent of eating one’s vegetables. Potent and powerful, jazz shouldn’t come with a catch.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)