Articles by Ratzo Harris
Though luckily there were no drug cartel-associated mass murders in Monterrey as their had been on the opening night of last year’s festival and again on the morning after the last performance, this year’s Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva was framed by its own internal controversy that emerged from its saxophone competition.
This is the eleventh year that Encuentro Internacional de Jazz y Música Viva has been held in Monterrey, Mexico, which is where I’m writing this. This year’s lineup includes artists from Germany (via the U.S.), France, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the United States.
Tuesday was International Jazz Day (IJD) and marked the end of Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), a title that April has held since JAM was launched by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2002. JAM website’s FAQ page includes the question, “Why is [JAM] needed?” The answer includes the idea that “JAM will encourage people to take jazz more seriously as a vital part of America’s cultural patrimony.”
There are many, many other venues, extant and defunct, that were left out of my discussion last week of exemplary ways in which musicians have advocated for their colleagues. So I’d like to add a few more names to this list.
We clearly advocate for different reasons. But there is a kind of advocacy that has an altruistic underpinning: I’m thinking of when a musician, or group of musicians, takes on the role of presenting artists in situations where they might not be heard elsewhere.
Learning music has been shown to be important to the development of our minds and bodies. What music is addressing issues of culture deprived curricula in education?
There is a chasm between the work-a-day world of the so-called “nine-to-fiver,” with a 41.5 hour-per-week allowance for exploring culture, and the world of the freelance, part-time, and unemployed work forces that have more time to listen to, or play—which translates into more time to learn—music.
The lines between what would be considered “jazz” and what would be considered “aleatoric” improvisation are becoming increasingly blurred. This might, or might not, be accepted as real jazz playing, but it’s important to remember that the musicians who played the music that was originally called “jazz” rejected the term, sometimes vehemently.
While it might seem paradoxical to some, that an improvising musician would be writing a part for a performance, it’s actually not at all at odds with how improvisation works.
How audiences receive a movie or a musical performance is an expression of cultural stratification. Whether or not we feel that direct sales of their works is more ethical than viewing them second-hand for little or no cash outlay has a lot to do with how we’re raised.