It’s tax time and I’ve been absorbed by the process of going through my piles of receipts and credit card and bank statements to try to keep what Aunt Ir(i)s will agree is rightfully mine. If we drive to a party attended only by musicians and we sit in, can we write off the mileage? Does my New Year’s gig count this year or last year?
It is no secret that the Eurocentric American mindset tends to look at modernity as equivalent to superiority vis-à-vis literacy and technological and economic development—an illiterate culture with uncomplicated tools that successfully lives in the same spot for thousands of years without destroying the local resources is the epitome of primitive and savage. And looking just at the issue of improvisation, one thing is agreed: it isn’t ubiquitous among the practitioners of Western art music.
We all know that American music is comprised of a multitude of genres, subgenres, cliques, factions and styles. The swath of American music is so wide that many of its most broad-minded proponents from one camp unabashedly and sincerely argue that some of the other widely listened to varieties of American music aren’t really music at all.
Musicians live and work in every city and town in the world, not just the “meccas” where most of the music industry’s corporate headquarters have set up shop. And I would venture to say that the locations of these headquarters aren’t that important to the musician choosing to relocate to one of these urban centers. The music industry doesn’t give value to a local music community, although it does attempt to assign value by manipulating the broader musical culture.
NARAS’s elimination of the Vocal Performance Male, Female, and Duo/Group categories and the Jazz Fusion Performance, Original Jazz Composition, Latin Jazz Album, and Contemporary Album categories from the Grammy Awards will only help to mislead mainstream perceptions of American music, just as the elimination of Best Latin Recording and individual Best Latin Pop, Latin Rock/Alternative or Urban, Regional Mexican, Mexican/Mexican-American, Banda, Norteño, Tejano, Latin Urban, Merengue, Salsa, and Salsa/Merengue Album categories will.
While the standard mythology of the jazz club owner has been one of reptilian and canine ancestry and cross-breeding (with a little porcine influence on the family tree), the truth is that there was quite a bit of dedication to presenting and cultivating new artists going on in the likes of Max Gordon, Bradley Cunningham, and Amos Kaune.