It’s Not You, Jazz, It’s Me: An Open Letter

Dear Jazz:

For some time now, I’ve been getting the sense that I’m just not what you want. Maybe it’s all the talk about jazz nerds, BAM, jazzbros and my not knowing “shit about music” (which for the record I do not deny). Perhaps it’s how hard I have to look for you, or all the times that it seemed like I found you, only to be told that it’s not the “real” you. For whatever reasons, I just get the feeling that I’m not your type…of listener, that is.

wikinutdotcomIt’s time I faced the facts. I’m not as young as I used to be when we first started spending time with one another. I’m certainly not the young demographic that so many people loudly declare that you deserve, that many believe you need just to survive! Furthermore, I’m not the young Black demographic that so many think should be seeking you out, adoring you, appreciating all that you have to offer. If you ask me, everyone should be doing those things, but what do I know?

I can’t even ask that last question rhetorically anymore. I’ve always believed that you possess a complexity and history that demands careful thought as well as sincere reflection. Yet lately it seems like you need more than a mere admirer. Based on what many musicians tell me, there’s just a lot going on within and around you that I’ll never understand without being with you full time, or having spent my whole life in your company (and let’s face it, most people don’t get that kind of quality time without going to school with you).  I like so much of what I hear from you, but apparently I’m missing something. I’m just not “getting” you.

I’ll admit to some jealousy of all the artists and writers who do get you, the people who can communicate with you on the most refined levels and tell you what I think you want to hear (“nice F sharp diminished seventh!” or “describing music with words misses the point.”) In the end, I know that even those lucky people aren’t exactly who you had in mind. For even if could join their ranks, I’d be just another one of those white jazz critics that there seems to be far too many of already.

redleafpaperworksdotcomSure, a lot of people tell me that none of this should matter, that it’s just a matter of how you make me feel. However that would amount to a pretty one-dimensional relationship. Hell, I’m not even a corporation or a CEO; I can’t even give you the funding and festivals you seem to need.

I’m just a middle-aged, middle-class white person without a performance degree or a privately owned foundation. I can see how that doesn’t excite you anymore.

(Truth be told, I’m involved in a similar situation with classical music, where my income and lack of pretense as well as a conservatory diploma apparently make me a less than ideal patron).

There’s really nothing left to say at this point. I hope I can still be your friend, at the very least the kind of friend who listens to you, brags about you, sticks up for you, comes to your shows and even pays (yes, actually pays) for your music online. I ask that you please accept these things as a token of my otherwise unremarkable loyalty. I wish you all the best in finding the listeners you truly desire. I hope they are everything you could want or need.

Yours truly,
A Fan

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6 thoughts on “It’s Not You, Jazz, It’s Me: An Open Letter

  1. What if they don’t want any listeners?

    No, really…what if the idea is to hew out an academic cloister where at least a few facets of the music have a chance of surviving, and never venture beyond it again?

    • I can’t speculate on whether or not anyone is really pursuing those motives (consciously, anyway), but I think most people would agree that if such a scenario did arise, it would be very unfortunate. Yet regardless of the field or pursuit, belonging to a clique can be very seductive.

  2. 45spin says:

    You are one funny guy, Thank God you don’t pick on the Blues.

  3. Sometimes jazz goes slumming in the lindy hop community…I’ve seen it really let its hair down. 😉

    • Oh, you’re killing me: I’m not a very good dancer either i.e. I can’t even dance with jazz! I don’t know if I’d call it “slumming” though, so much as getting back to its roots…

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