"What is wrong with the jazz picture?"

By Greg "The Professor" Woods
e-mail: gwkeys@aol.com

Below is a prime example of what is happening to jazz. You have one or two "safe" legends like Sonny Rollins and Billy Taylor , but the rest is a probably a "whitewash" of the new face of jazz. What is especially offensive is Tony Monaco giving any "master" class on the Hammond. He must first master it himself.

A lot of wannabe's see an open season on jazz because it has been neglected by the mass media and by black folks en masse. For them, it makes an easy target to promote their own careers. And they do, sucking the air out of the room for black artists that don't have the same media access.

White folks know the historical value of jazz as an art form. They will stop at nothing to write themselves a part of it. But their presence means the scarce resources are taken from the black artists who are the true keepers of the legacy. White males will recognize the dead and dying ones, but never anoint the younger turks like James Carter and Christian McBride. Of course , we shouldn't expect them to. They had always looked out first for their own.

Who gets to define jazz and what is should and should not be? Who picks the successors to the throne of the old heads? Is Chris Botti, the next Miles? Is Tony Monaco, the next Jimmy Smith?

And the jazz clubs. There are only so many days in the year you can have music. Why are the jazz clubs inundated with mediocre white talent when jazz is an African art form? Why do I see so many promising jazz players, give up , because they get tired of the politics and racism? Where are the programs in schools so that black students even hear jazz played? Or have the chance to try out an instrument?

Our legacy is been taken from us. We are programmed to run after 50 cent and Beyonce and ignore the greatest art form, jazz , that has come out of America. An art form celebrated around the World for it's significance.

The vampires are sucking the blood out of our culture , using us like two-bit whores, while they smile and soothe our egos. Forget the egos, show me the money. We get the crumbs , they get the cake. We build their resumes and then they leave us in the dust.

The digital divide, the media divide and the financial divide is so great. We have accepted being second and third class citizens.

There are so many black Hammond players out there that can give a real master class, not a re-hashing of what they stole from Jimmy Smith or Jack McDuff. Who will not lack the groove and feel of the true Hammond sound.

And why aren't we doing the Podcasts and exploiting the media? You can wait on them to call you. They never will. We have to do it on our own. We have to make the sacrifices. We are the only group without our own.

Yes, I am a race man. I believe in the power and majesty of the African man. They look out for their own, I look out for our people. I know all the talk equality and brotherhood is for the photo ops. The bottom line of the suffering of our people , never changes. It is getting worst.

We think we are powerless, but we are not. We are the only real creative force in American culture. We have to stop giving it away and put a price on it. We have billions of dollars that we can use to make change favorable to our people. There is no reason Jay Z can't start a jazz label. Or is there? Who is really in control?

You might ask , what damage can mediocre white players do? They can chase away the audiences with boring shows based on them trying to imitate us. They can keep a black artist from working or getting a recording contract. They can give a new listener the wrong impression about what jazz is. Sending them back to Ne-Yo and Ludacris.

We need to be recruiting the youth of this country. Without them, jazz can die. They need to know that jazz is still being created and is evolving past 1959.

The best thing white musicians can do is get out of the way and let them play. Let them be heard, let them be able to sustain a living and leave a legacy. I am still searching for a true white jazz musician. And I have heard many. I hear intellect, but not "soul" and energy. Maybe one day , I will hear one. In the meantime, I refuse to lower the standards I was taught so that they can pretend they have a right to our legacy. Do you think they would accept a black man playing Irish or Yiddish music? Look at what they did to Charlie Pride and others who strayed into what they consider their own.

Black folks must not be lulled to sleep while they steal everything that is not tied down. At some point, we become expendable. We become a burden and must be dealt with. They have already gutted the civil rights era programs. And we are more segregated than in 1954.

Anyone who mentions jazz , must be held accountable. Would you let a white man sleep with your wife or take away your kids? Too many of us died to create the art form, know as jazz. Too many died broke and abandoned after giving us their lives.

Always know who is in control and why. Hold your head up, not look at the ground. Those of you that claim you are playing jazz , need to step it up a notch. You need more visibility and recognition.

They took the Apache and put them on a reservation. When we play cowboys and Indians we celebrate that genocide. Jazz was created out of our suffering. It is beauty out of evil. We need to fall in love with it again and move it to the next level.

The Professor


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