Does jazz need to have a rebrand? Why the genre’s biggest icons resented the phrase ‘jazz’

On Global Jazz Working day, theGrio examines the racist origins of the time period “jazz

Due to the fact 2011, the world has celebrated April 30 as Worldwide Jazz Working day. It’s a day dedicated to celebrating the genre’s songs, considered one particular of America’s greatest creative and cultural creations, and musicians around the globe.

Jazz tunes has been an outlet for liberty of expression for both equally the creators and consumers. From the days folks danced to Lionel Hampton in American dance halls, to the nightly ferocious still melodic worries amongst John Coltrane and his quartet, jazz has supplied a rhythmic language for the Black American seeking to come across inside independence in a land where external independence eludes them.

Having said that, the top irony is that quite a few of the greatest jazz artists reject the phrase jazz by itself. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Max Roach, T.S. Monk, Ahmad Jamal, and Lee Morgan are all artists deeply involved with jazz, and all refuse to be described by the term.

Users of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band direct a 2nd line parade down Bourbon Avenue during the grand re-opening of Preservation Hall on April 27, 2006 in New Orleans. Eugene Grant, who performs in a equivalent band was included in an altercation with New Orleans police over blocking the entrance to a bookstore. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Why really do not they like the term “jazz?”

For starters, they say it is racist. Several of these luminaries have said that the phrase “jazz” is derived from white gatekeepers, critics, and pundits who resented this new Black American audio that was imagined-provoking and inspirational in the early 20th century. T.S. Monk, a drummer, and son of beloved pianist/composer Thelonious Monk, once stated to Ebony where the time period arrived from and why it’s offensive:

“Jazz will come from the French term jas, which indicates whore. It is about whorehouses they performed in the jas homes,” Monk stated. “It was Americanized and called jazz. In essence what they had been stating is, this is whorehouse music. And it was insulting for the reason that a single of the most intellectual endeavors in the heritage of mankind is jazz. So given that this is a great intellectual endeavor and specified the simple fact that it’s taken a pretty long time for White The us to understand Black mental acumen, that’s the basis of this rejection of the word jazz.”

Monk went on to say that contacting the new music jazz for so several musicians, “particularly coming out of the mouth of a white American, was tantamount to expressing the term ni**er. ‘It’s ni**er songs.’”

Nina Simone echoed this idea in her autobiography, I Put a Spell On You: “Jazz is a white term to outline Black people.”

American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone performs October 18, 1964 in an unidentifed location. (Photo by Getty Images)

American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone performs October 18, 1964 in an unidentifed location. (Photo by Getty Photos)

Trumpeter Lee Morgan articulated the concern by indicating that the word “jazz” was assigned to the musicians alternatively than something they discovered them selves as they did with be-bop. “I do not even like the phrase ‘jazz,’ truly. I feel it’s a lousy word,” Morgan is heard expressing in his documentary, I Identified as Him Morgan. “It’s not a phrase that we produced up. Just like we had been told that we are negroes.”

Pianist Ahmad Jamal also spoke of the racist origin of jazz. He called the term a “mistake” and a “misnomer” that held back the development of many of his contemporaries during a 1973 job interview with Down Defeat. “I think it is up to the musician to rewrite some of the historical past publications on our music, and I think the elimination of the phrase jazz would be very appropriate.”

So, with jazz staying, as drummer Max Roach coined it, “a 4-letter term,” what really should it be identified as? Does it have to have a rebrand?

Some of the musicians adopted their personalized monikers for their artistry. John Coltrane, in his documentary Chasing Trane, stated that “he just referred to his tunes as ‘John Coltrane New music.’” Miles Davis named jazz a “dirty word” and insisted that what he did was “social tunes.” Both equally Simone and Morgan stated that if they were likely to simply call their songs just about anything, it would be “Black classical tunes.”

This photo from July 1973 shows American musician James Mtume (left) and iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis arriving at Heathrow Airport in London. (Photo: R. Brigden/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This image from July 1973 reveals American musician James Mtume (still left) and iconic jazz trumpeter Miles Davis arriving at Heathrow Airport in London. (Image: R. Brigden/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

New Orleans multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Payton has been primary the campaign versus the word jazz for about a decade. He has composed that “Jazz died in 1959,” the 12 months seminal albums Form of Blue, The Shape of Jazz to Occur, and Mingus Ah Um ended up unveiled.

Payton believes that because then, jazz does exist, but only as a homogenized variation of the improvisational tunes that these outstanding artists innovated. Hence, he refers to his audio as Black American Songs or B.A.M.

Along with the racist connotations of jazz’s etymology, the musicians grew to dislike it due to the fact of the limiting mother nature of remaining recognized as just jazz musicians. Although numerous choose pride in it, many luminaries felt it stopped them from checking out outdoors the realm of improvising on a bandstand with a piano, drums, upright bass, and a horn.

Quincy Jones is a learn of quite a few musical genres as a producer, arranger, conductor, and trumpeter. In his youth, he acquired his chops from musicians like Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, and Clark Terry.

As he mentioned in his Netflix documentary, Quincy, Duke Ellington entrusted the responsibility of decategorizing American songs to so-called “jazz” musicians and critics in light-weight of his function as a movie scorer and producer for so-called “jazz,” classical, R&B, pop, and funk.

“In purchase for music to expand, the critics must prevent categorizing and permit the musicians get involved in all different facets of music,” Jones claimed. “We will die if get stuck in 1 spot of tunes.”

Proof of this artistic explosion, when a so-named “jazz” musician is ready to branch out, is considerable and it normally yields sublime final results. The musical brilliance of Donald Byrd’s funk-era team The Blackbyrds, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunter’s band, and Miles Davis’ creative ventures into what became identified as fusion, are just some examples. Even nowadays, it is evident when listening to the audio of Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spalding, Terrace Martin, and Kamasi Washington.

The fact that today’s breed of so-named “jazz” musicians creates songs devoid of the genre is probably the goals of the architects of this new music coming genuine. Maybe not settling on a set name or allowing for the artists to give it their most well-liked names is greatest for everyone.

Even though quite a few purists insist that so-referred to as “jazz” is a certain point with a certain seem, musicians like Payton, point out that this is why the term “jazz” needs to turn out to be a relic of the previous.

“The quite actuality that so many individuals are keeping on to this strategy of what Jazz is intended to be is exactly what helps make it not awesome.”

So, with so quite a few occasions committed to Worldwide Jazz Working day on Saturday, delight in the tunes, embrace the heritage, and come across your title for this music, if you pick out.

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