April 23, 2004

Jazz Nightflight World Connection is a feature dedicated to exploring jazz from its roots to its most innovative permutations. Columnist/host Cleve Alleyne further expands the possibilities of jazz music.

Take few steps back, and look around

Some may think my words a bit harsh toward the music industry. However one's tongue should not bleed from the biting if people don't deserve the silence. Were all entitled to our opinions, Thus I've been granted the opportunity to share mine with you.
There are many types of individuals, those who can see truths, those who are blind to all but sophistry, those who care about the truth, and those who are just comfortably living in denial. I liken the industry to a parent; let's say a family with many children, some of which are talented. But by no means do they approach the magnitude of someone like John Coltrane. Were it left up to the industry we'd all be sucking on the Kenny G media fiasco covered nationwide on the TV news a few years ago.
Imagine blowing one long passionless note for hours in front of all those cameras. Mel Gibson produced The Passion of the Christ and gained widespread media hype; Kenny G blew that long note and was fully covered by the media for his production of The Passionless Hype, one long note blown for many hours, covered by news to seem like it were the first space shuttle liftoff. Not even a mention of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who many years earlier did what Kenny G attempted on multiple horns, which was his trademark.
This was probably before Kenny G was born.
Some of us don't notice these things; we are lazily rotating in orbit around denial. Is there anything wrong with this picture? There are some things more important than just any kind of music, particularly empty music.
I remember the early days of my 8-year stint doing the Jazz Night Flight radio show in Los Angeles' Loyola-Marymount University. Some people would just play the music. People have been conditioned to embrace simple music, resulting in rejection of anything considered to be deep.
As a result deep becomes an uncomfortable place. I've heard people say that they only like John Coltrane's more accessible endeavors like "My Favorite Things" or his work with Johnny Hartman. Forget about trying to play Love Supreme, Transition or Interstellar Space. It's so bad that even some established scholars and musicians feel discomfor tlistening to these selections. We live in a world where the lowest common denominator is the first production choice, i.e. Survivor. If you present anything deeper, you risk the possibility of dying with it never being heard. I feel the arts possess a piece of the spirit of mankind, it's a heavenly gift.


Ills, chills and thrills: Shout out -- March 28, 2004
The music industry today is different than 30, 20, even five years ago because technology. But perhaps it's the same as yesteryears. Word was that the industry was run by organized crime, gangsters in suits with one goal in mind -- to corral artists into their stable and sign them to their label. Were the labels ever genuinely concerned for the artist or the arts?
Maybe in special cases where there were a few real human beings involved. But more than likely many artists can tell a story similar to the recent surfer who lost an arm to a shark. The early days of the Internet fostered a worldwide freedom of speech and spawned a litany of artists expressing dark sentiments that something was terribly wrong with the way the industry did business. And that was without touching on issues of racial inequities.
The '50s, '60s and '70s fueled by issues like civil rights and war in places like Vietnam, Black Panthers and so on created a generation of activists bent on doing something to change things. By the late '70s the music industry had all but exhausted its ability to do more than produce generic formula pop stars, propped up in empty void packages, driven by a desire to make millions off the backs of those who pumped life into their existence in the first place.
However, their mentality seemed to be that the industry was doing artists a favor. The '90s birthed Generation X, so they were called anyway, and a music which raised many questions. A generation of music initially snubbed by many, even the Grammy awards.
Little did any of these old school "APW's" (artist pimp wanabees) executives know that Generation X combined with the Internet would turn the industry completely upside down.
While artists of the '70s and '90s tried with very few successes to establish themselves as independents, Generation X and the late '80s success of the "Do It Yourself (D.I.Y.) era began to change that. Gen-X music was like a virus that had the key to open the door infecting young white America.
Prior to this time you would think it absurd to see a young Caucasian man driving in his car blasting hip-hop or rap music. Now you can find rap music in the homes of rich corporate white America. This music has infiltrated to such a degree that it's created a generation of financially free artists who now have the industry working for them! Board meetings of multibillion dollar corporations plan marketing to cash in on the popularity these rap icons.
Do folks ever stop to think if these artistss sympathize with an industry that didn't care about them to begin with? Those of us who don't necessarily appreciate hip-hop. must at minimum respect and owe a debt of thanks to this generation for accomplishing this act financial rebellion. Hopefully it can only get better from here?

All Portions Copyright 2004, PMC Music/Creative People.