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.
The NEA Jazz Masters ceremony was more about the soul of the music and its proponents than about who won and who didn’t. The messages delivered by the recipients, as well as by the planners and emcees, were sincere in their attempts to describe the value of this music as being more than mere entertainment, as transcending the profit motives of the very corporate sponsors who began marketing jazz in 1917.
The first half of January 2012 at The Stone is being hosted by Stefan Winter, who founded JMT records in 1985. Besides launching the recording careers of Steve Coleman, Greg Osby, Cassandra Wilson, Robin Eubanks, Gary Thomas and Jean-Paul Bourelly, JMT (now called Winter and Winter) also championed many “downtown” artists, such as Tim Berne, Mark Feldman, Mark Dresser, Bob Stewart, Craig Harris, and Herb Robertson.
The standard end-of-the-year party is attended by people who have got, or are anticipating the arrival of, their end-of-year bonuses and want to party a little harder than usual. As the coarser forms of social lubricants are dispensed and imbibed, inhibitions and standards of decorum drop and playing music that everyone finds satisfactory can be, to use a single word, challenging.
I can only remember two times, the West Coast premiere of Pauline Oliveros’s To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of their Desperation and a performance of Donald Erb’s The Seventh Trumpet, where an orchestra I was in performed an “original” composition. This isn’t to say that orchestras never play new music, just that their ratio of new compositions to “flagwavers” was more than reverse that of jazz musicians. I find something rewarding in playing standard material though.