Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Breaking the musician's code

How I wish I had time time to write up a decent post on this, which came to my attention via an e-missive sent out by Rob Scheps, who participates in the band in question ("Jazzcode").

Given that participation (Scheps was kind enough to sit in with the IJG last March, but on the whole he has a habit of playing in much more, uh, high class and high profile situations), I know that the level of musicianship on display in this group is most assuredly of an extremely high order.

But as to drummer Carl Stormer's broader project, which distills jazz aesthetics and philosophy (as if such a thing exists in a single "code") into a powerpoint presentation that can be used to teach corporate teams (or armies) to be more productive? Normally I'm the biggest fan of incongruity, but this seems kind of like, well, you know, an insult.

It reminds me a bit of that old Virginia Slims ad (see above) and its double-edged slogan ("You've come a long way, baby"). Translation: "We've finally gotten around to letting you be an equal part of our society... but just so you can buy and consume our cancerous products, bee-yotches!" Sure, it's technically an advancement -- but at the same time somehow it misses the point.

Many times I have absent-mindedly mused that if only more people understood the thought processes behind jazz, or what it means to improvise (you know, so you don't have to stick to your plan after it becomes apparent that your plan is really fucking stupid), then the world would surely become a better place. (This is in fact one of the justifications (excuses?) that crops up every time I doubt the "deeper purpose" of my own commitment to music.)

But to reach the broader culture on these terms? In a suit? Neatly groomed? At a corporate retreat? No thanks.

Of course, any jazz musician who is able to get the music in front of an audience that would not otherwise be inclined to check it out is okay by me. Though I do wonder what percentage of the seminar participants go on to become "jazz fans" (versus the percentage that go on to become more productive workers).

A code is not an incantation. And I suspect that what's missing here (in the presentation, not the music) is the spirit, or magic, of the subject. And if not an outright revolutionary or rebellious or comic mood (you know where my allegiances lie, right?), then at least a willingness to offer a counterpoint to the status quo.

Instead, this (again, the presentation, not the music) seems to be a logical extension of the GQ-ification of jazz that made it into all the magazines in the 80s. Or jazz as Tony Robbins might imagine it.

(Ah, what the fuck do I know? You gotta make your money where you can in this business. But damn if it isn't the principle of the thing, always the principle of the thing that I get hung up on...)

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