Author Archives: Ratzo B. Harris

JAM Session

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.”

More Advocates

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.

Parlor Advocates

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.

More Media Matters (Part 2)

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?

More Media Matters (Part 1)

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.

I Vote For Change(s)

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.

Matters of Convention

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.

Business As Usual

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.

The Second Oldest Profession? (Part 4)

A connection I have with Dave Brubeck is the state of Indiana, where both of our paternal grandfathers are from, but in all of the obituaries I’ve read about Brubeck there is no mention of his Native American background, a point vital to his music as well as jazz in the big picture.

The Second Oldest Profession? (Part 3)

I was thrilled to see and hear the recent release of never previously issued recordings by the seminal guitarist John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery. Until now, there was no audio record of his work available from the six years of his life he spent playing music on a half-mile long stretch of night clubs in Indianapolis that catered to jazz musicians and aficionados known as “The Avenue.”