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Bebop Spoken There

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Saturday, February 01, 2020

What's in a name?


This Month's issue of DownBeat features an excellent interview with trumpet player Nicholas Payton. Payton, one of the top brass names in our music - and the reason I stress our music is because Payton expresses a problem he has with the term jazz representing what he plays.

It's not a new problem, in 1970 Frank Foster, in Crescendo magzine, said "I've been debating with myself whether I still dig this word [jazz]. I've decided I don't. I think its been around too long, and is the cause of a lot of mis-identification. I'd like to find a short monosyllabic word to replace it." 

And, as far back as 1949, DownBeat itself also sought to come up with an alternative name and launched a contest with a $1000 prize which, back then, must have been big bucks.

The winner was one Esther Whitefield, 2334 Glen Green, Hollywood 28, California. I guess that, if she's still with us, she lives elsewhere. Her suggested alternative name for jazz was crewcut. Esther's reasoning was that crewcut was the exact opposite to longhair which was the name given at the time to classical musicians. I suppose that these days the opposite could be applied!

Incidentally, the runner up - Irwin A. Johnson from Ohio - whose Amerimusic won him the chance to have the Charlie Barnet Band  play a gig of his choice maybe didn't collect his prize as the same DownBeat page announced the break up of the Barnet Band!

Despite awarding the prizes, none of the magazine's judging panel considered any of the winning entries seriously and so jazz remains jazz - until now...'

Do any of our readers have their own ideas as to an alternative name for the music? I'm afraid there aren't any prizes - we ain't got a thousand bucks and Charlie Barnet is dead - but we welcome your suggestions ...
Lance

2 comments :

Russell said...

Remind me, who was it who said 'If you have to ask what jazz is' etc? Jazz is the perfect word to describe 'our music'. Mouldy old figs use the phrase 'our music' to retain ownership, refusing to admit newcomers unless they're onboard. Quite right too, Arts Council supports all sorts of quasi-jazz!

Steve T said...

Wayne Shorter recently said ' I dare you' but that's three words so how about 'Progressive'(Russell)?

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