[DISCLAIMER: this post is not intended to offend a particular race. I expose the black and white races solely for the purpose of education.]
Jazz was born in the United States as total musical improvisation from the wombs of the black race in the mid-1800s. The fiddlers (violinists) on plantations would begin to improvise, and the slaves would dance to the improvisation. Other instruments would join (bass, drums, harmonica, trumpet, etc.), but there was no reading of music notes on paper; all played individually. The classical music of whites is the antithesis of the original jazz improvisation born of the black race.
As time progressed (post-slavery), blacks began to take lessons from whites, both privately and in colleges. This was the arsenic (deadly poison) that eventually murdered the jazz improvisation of the black race. Musicians such as Scott Joplin, Jellyroll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, and a host of others began to read and write jazz on paper; this was the first major dose of arsenic administered to jazz.
Moving into the early 1900s, jazz big bands became popular, especially for dancing. Blacks mixed White’s classical music with a rhythm called swing, and a hybrid was formed. Band leaders such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, Lionel Hampton, and many others flooded the scene. The arsenic was being consumed over these years by blacks and jazz as well. Both were unaware that they were dying in installments.
The next wave of black musicians to consume the arsenic of whites were called Be-Boppers. They include Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis, and many others. Whereas the big bands provided little room for improvisation, be-bop provided extended space for improvisation under the arsenic of European (Bach-ian) harmony and the White American Standard Song Book. It is rumored that Charlie “Bird” Parker rang the doorbell of his idol, classical music juggernaut Igor Stravinsky. Igor allegedly closed the door in Bird’s face. My poor, pitiful black folks still feel the need to worship whites and grovel for their approval; it’s insane.
Marching forward in time with larger doses of arsenic administered to blacks and jazz by whites, we come upon musicians: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and a host of others in the “Post-Bop” era. These musicians were so hopelessly absorbed in impressing Whites with their arsenic classical training, or mind-boggling technical prowess on their instruments, that they completely lost sight of the fact that the original jazz was about individualistic improvisation plus call and response.
It was never meant to be poisoned by the arsenic of white classical music—reading notes and playing rigid, repetitive chord progressions ad-nauseum. This preconceived classical arsenic has almost turned jazz into a lifeless corpse, but not quite yet.
Moving forward, we come to the next wave of musicians: those of the avant-garde and fusion eras (1960s and 1970s). The arsenic in the previous decades of jazz did not alienate the originators (blacks). However, the black jazz avant-garde players: Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, Archie Shepp, and many others, most certainly alienated almost the entire black race.
The irony is that they tried to go back to the roots or foundation of jazz during slavery, which was the total or complete freedom of the individual to improvise whatever he or she desired with other individuals doing the same; or simply returning to the era before the ingesting of white classical arsenic music. The more that the avant-garde musicians attempted to regather the blacks that they had alienated in the late 1960s, the more that those blacks “ran for the hills” to get away from the original jazz devoid of arsenic.
My assessment is that the primary distinction between jazz during slavery and avant-garde jazz of the 1960s is that avant-garde jazz lacked a danceable groove. Whereas jazz during slavery maintained the magic danceable groove. Consequently, blacks began to flock toward Motown, Stax, Chess, and many other record labels and the “danceable groove” artists that these labels produced.
Lastly, most arsenic-poisoned black jazz artists cut ties with the avant-garde and began to crossover into the music trend that was founded by my mentor and second father, Eddie Harris. His songs “Listen Here” and “Freedom Jazz Dance” were danceable grooves that he played intricate solo improvisations over. He became an overnight “soul-pop superstar,” and others followed his lead: Herbie Hancock, The Crusaders, Grover Washington, Michael Brecker, Stanley Turrentine, Miles Davis, Chick Corea, and a slew of others emerged.
I was sitting on a couch next to trumpet titan Dizzy Gillespie, and he told me, “Robert, I had to stop performing with Charlie Parker because he kept playing songs faster and faster. We had an audience of about 10 people. We took a break, looked across the street, and saw “Trumpet Sensation Jonah Jones” on the marquee. There were lines of people wrapped around the block. At that moment, I decided to get an Afro-Cuban big band simply to put the dance back in our music so that our people would come back to us.” I was speechless and simply nodded to display understanding.
Hence, the three murderers of original jazz were:
- White classical arsenic music
- Black jazz musicians whose sole purpose for existence was to impress their former white slave-masters and grovel until whites accepted them into their society.
- The entire black race completely discarded their own art-form for the new fad or hit of the week.
When the race that creates an art-form suddenly shuns their created art-form, that art-form will inevitably die a slow and painful death. Whites play for almost all white audiences in classical music. Latinos play for almost all Latino audiences in Latin music. Asians play for almost all Asian audiences in Asian music, and so on.
However, White’s classical arsenic now dominates the jazz that Blacks created. Their primary ambassador for the promotion of white arsenic in jazz is none other than my brother and former employer, trumpet titan Wynton Marsalis.
Unlike the aforementioned races and their music, Wynton (and nearly all black arsenic-jazz players today) plays in concert halls filled with completely white audiences. Wynton is their champion, and that’s all that he dreamed of as a child—to be accepted and liked by whites. Most blacks that were raised in the South have this mentality, unfortunately.
I played classical flute music and I love listening to orchestras. Wynton’s positive achievement was becoming one of the greatest classical trumpeters in history. I would never deny this fact. However, Wynton is attempting to fuse classical arsenic with black jazz. This has never been and will never be a reality, for the original black jazz was destroyed by the three murderers above in the 1970s.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. ⚰️
Thanks For Reading,
(C) Prof. Robert Stewart Ph.D