amiri baraka at last

Finally, I’ve made it to Amiri Baraka (aka LeRoi Jones). It’s taken way too long.
I’ve just read this: Jazz and the White Jazz Critic. I didn’t read it there (in a google books page that make me suddenly think ‘what the fuck do we bother with publishers and book deals? All our rights as authors are dead with this one new technology… which really just does as the photocopier did for us all 20 years ago, but faster). I read it in a paper book.
And I got excited.
And then I went here and read that story. But mostly I looked at the youtube clip and got a bit excited.
I recommend the Jazz and White Critics article, as it sums up my misgivings about the jazznick fanmags and magazines and newsletters and recreationists.
Here’s one bit I like:

There were few ‘jazz critics’ in America at all until the ‘30s and then they were influenced to a large extent by what Richard Hadlock has called ‘the carefully documented gee-whiz attitude’ of the first serious European jazz critics. They were also, as a matter of course, influenced more deeply by the social and cultural mores of their own society. And it is only natural that their criticism, whatever its intentions, should be a product of that society, or should reflect at least some of the attitudes and thinking of that society, even if not directly related to the subject they were writing about, Negro music (Baraka 138).

And here’s another:

Most jazz critics began as hobbyists or boyishly brash members of the American petite bourgeoisie, whose only claim to any understanding about the music was that they knew it was different; or else they had once been brave enough to make a trip into a Negro slum to hear their favorite instrumentalists defame Western musical tradition. Most jazz critics were (and are) not only white middle-class Americans, but middle-brows as well (Baraka 140.)

This article is important because it was written by a black man in the 60s, and published in Down Beat magazine. I can’t remember whether Down Beat was moldy fig or modernist, but I think it was the latter. I cannot tell you how rare it is to come across a commentary by a black writer on jazz from the 60s or earlier. Doing all this reading of ‘jazz histories’ I’m beginning to think I might have to kill myself. It’s tedious. I like Baraka’s comment about ‘gee-whiz’ approaches to jazz. I was just saying to The Squeeze the other day that I’d have liked one of these guys to stop gushing about how wonderful jazz is, and to actually open their freakin eyes and see what’s going on around and beside the music. Hells, even in the music!
I’m gearing up for Blues People and will report back later.

2 Replies to “amiri baraka at last”

  1. I was just reading a review of Elijah Wald’s How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll. described as “a history
    of the social function of popular music – primarily as the facilitator of
    dance and social interaction- and how that function changed with the Beatles and rock music. There’s good stuff on bands and musicians who were enormously popular in their day but who have been routinely overlooked in the standard histories of jazz and rock (Paul Whiteman, Guy Lombardo, Mitch Miller, the Shirelles).”
    Sounded up your alley so I thought I’d pass it on.

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