On CBC Radio TODAY, Commenting On “Jason Marsalis says…” video, and a shout out to OVER THINKERS.

think-to-muchHello, good morning, and welcome to the Saturday Morning News Post!

First off, if you’re reading this SMNP on Saturday before 5pm PST then you’re invited to listen to some of that CBC commissioned, Jelly Roll Morton tribute music I wrote/performed for CBC Radio last January. You can find it on Radio One 690 AM or 88.1 FM at 5pm and it will include some music from all the great artists featured that night we recorded live at the Patricia Hotel!

Moving on, let me give a quick shout out to all the over-thinkers out there! If thinking about shit was a job, we’d all be making bank in over-time. But it’s not, and unless you have a somewhat 9-5 job to distract you then you may just be thinking about much too much all at once. Probably nothing brilliant mind you, just… thoughts.

Anyways, that’s where I’m at these days,…over-thinking. And everything ties into something else, such as,…hmm, I don’t know,… let’s say your friend is releasing an electroacoustic EP pretty soon. Well that person starts thinking about how to release the EP (digital download cards vs. CDs, free streaming albums vs. sound bites) but first he’s gotta work out lots of details with his yet to be created record label, and then he thinks about the CD release show which should line-up with the CD release but he doesn’t know how on Earth to perform this music live!… etc, etc.

And then I get a request to think about and comment on this YouTube video of Jason Marsalis (jazz drummer extraordinaire and proponent of traditional jazz values). Why would anyone bother to do this you ask?

The request came from a great jazz pianist (and blog enthusiast) Josh Rager. Now Josh, if you’re reading this, let me just say; I love giving my opinion on anything, the problem is I’m an over-thinker who will think about it, and think about it, and waste more time and think,… until I can come up with THE answer, only there is no definitive answer so my mind will just run around in circles! It’s infuriating,. Okay?… I mean seriously!

So allow me to simplify my opinion on the view which Jason expressed. He believes that institutionalized jazz has lost touch with humanity and students no longer appreciate the value of playing for audiences but instead have learned only to play for themselves or other musicians.

First of all, I hope this guy has a sense of humour because I found the video kinda hilarious. Jason’s poorly edited, Cronkite-esque barroom sermon about “Jazz Nerds International” which, by the audio/video quality, I’m guessing was delivered to somebody’s old cell-phone camera. … Awesome.

So yeah, on one hand I completely agree, institutionalized jazz music hasn’t placed nearly enough emphasis on the core element of expressing emotion to audiences.

On the other hand, it’s music dude! People should be allowed to do whatever the hell they want to! If some guy wants to play jazz music for himself (possibly in 5/4 too) then let him. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s art.

If there’s any solution here it’s to be done by better categorizing the many styles of jazz music. I mean, how is it that jazz came to be a cover all term for any kind of music from Louis Armstrong to hip hop to the Doobie Brothers? It is kinda frustrating when audiences go out to hear a jazz show expecting something swinging and end up with some sort of through-composed, intellectual, new music performance,… and vice versa of course. I know what some of you are saying: “Who knows? You don’t know that they won’t enjoy hearing something different Danderfer!” Yeah, sure, they might, but they probably won’t; just like when I go to eat at an Italian restaurant I probably don’t want to be surprised with pan-Asian fusion dishes.

I don’t know, is it just me? I love labels and relish the opportunity to express this to any musician who considers themselves far too “open-minded” to have use for such things.  Labels are great, they don’t limit anything, instead they serve as a tool towards identifying someone’s likes and dislikes.  Labels help me find the right section in a library, just like they help me find the right aisle in a grocery store, just like the “list of ingredients” helps me determine whether to choose this jar of pasta sauce or the other.  Why hell, that’s an idea right there! “Jazz Festivals” (which, in my world, would hereby be called “Music Festivals”) could include an ingredient list next to all “fusion” artists, listed in order of greatest percentage, ie:  The Joe Blow Fusion Collective:  Contemporary European Classical, American Folk, Jazz, Blue Grass.

You see? Somebody looks at that and they can say “You know what, I’m not a big jazz fan but I love American Folk and so I’m going to give Joe Blow a chance.” Likewise, they won’t leave Joe Blows show saying “Wow, I kinda thought jazz was more swinging. I guess jazz isn’t my thing.”

OK, I’m done thinking about this. Josh, I hope that was worthwhile, keep up the blogs!

Thanks for reading everybody and have a great week! jd

  • http://wsf1027fm.blogspot.com/ Guy

    Here here! (Or is that Hear, hear? Or Here Hear? Or perchance Hear here? I, too, tend to overthink things.) For years I’ve been lamenting the fact that the term “jazz” seems to be a catch-all for any unidentifiable form of music. Everyone’s fine with any other type of music getting a label but for some reason you’re closed-minded if you label jazz. And why does everyone want their music to be labeled jazz anyway? Does it have some sort of cool cache?

  • http://jamesdanderfer.com james

    Guy, there’s no doubt the term “jazz” has cool cache that many creative musicians want to cling to. And really, they need to be able to say something when asked “What kind of music do you play?” That’s why I am hereby reinstating the term “fusion.” I know, I know, you’re already getting visions of pastel sports jackets and 80’s hair but I believe “fusion” is due for a comeback. It’s already a staple term in haute cuisine.

  • Amanda Zhao

    Sometimes if you think you’re over-thinking, maybe writing all your thoughts down will be a good idea! :-)

  • http://jamesdanderfer.com james

    Yes AA, writing ideas down DOES help. Why do you think I keep on writing the SMNP?... it’s keeping me sane!… just.

  • http://www.johndoheny.com John Doheny


    Answer is yes. cool cache. When someone (like, say Sade), describes their music as “Neuvo Jazz,” they’re reaching for a sophisticated, cosmopolitan affect that their music might not actually possess.

    As for Jason’s rant, one thing you learn very quickly in New Orleans is that the Marsalis’s, father and sons, are not nearly as starchy and didactic as they sometimes come off in print. They also love polemics, which is really just a ten dollar white guy word for shit disturbing. Take it with a grain of salt.

    It seems to me that there’s two sides to this issue. There’s the ‘appropriation’ of the term ‘jazz’ by popster arrivistes anxious to have their music taken more seriously, and there’s that section of the avant guard jazz community who insist that ‘jazz’ is pretty much any improvised music. These latter tend to be Europeans (or wanna be Europeans) who are working in forms not informed by a blues tradition. To quote another Marsalis (Wynton) blues in jazz is like roux in a gumbo. If it’s not present, it’s not gumbo, it’s a soup. It may be an excellent soup, but it’s not gumbo. East Indian classical music is all improvised within various forms, but it’s not jazz. It has it’s own vocabulary and traditions (HT to Morgan Childs for that one).

    I honestly don’t see a problem with this, but it’s truly amazing the amount of hostility you can stir up in some circles by making a statement like that.

  • Chad Eby

    anyone who takes jason’s “rant” as being, as a rule, anti-modern either a) has never talked to him in any real depth about music, b) has never heard jason play, c) harbors typical “anti-marsalis” tendencies, or d) all of the above…

  • Claudia

    My shit disturbing polemic.

    The definition of jazz is now so broad that it has essentially become meaningless.
    This may be because the use of the word jazz is one of the most bastardized in English.
    Admittedly, jazz is very hard to define. Still, one must try, and I maintain that some people have a very good idea of what jazz is. Who ARE these people, who have a good idea of what jazz is and where it belongs? The answer is surprising. Wait for it.

    Here’s the basic problem with our lack of clarity about what jazz music IS.
    As far as JAZZ festivals go, the label ‘jazz’ seems to INCLUDE everything. Music from all disciplines and locales is fair game. However the mainstream of jazz music itself is EXCLUDED from all manner of music festivals with labels like Mariposa, Caribana, Folk, Blues, Classical, Mozart, and so on. (I’ve never seen a BeBop band invited to play at The Mariposa Folk Festival or a BLUES festival for example, even though there may be as much blues in any Bebop band as there is in any bluesy blues band, and the be-bop band is made up of Folks!)

    Therefore, it seems that the world’s non jazz-music festivals have no problem defining ‘jazz’ and understanding where it belongs, or more to the point, where it DOESN’T belong! Yes, THESE are the people who know what jazz is! And it sure as hell isn’t going to be in their festivals!

    It would be wonderful if the Jazz impresarios had the same understanding and clear definition of jazz music as the non-jazz venues’ booking agents!