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December 10, 2009

Jazz police are looking through my folders

A Spanish jazz fan called the cops when he decided that a performance by jazz saxophonist Larry Ochs wasn't really jazz:

Police decided to investigate after an angry jazz buff complained that the Larry Ochs Sax and Drumming Core group was on the wrong side of a line dividing jazz from contemporary music.

The jazz purist claimed his doctor had warned it was "psychologically inadvisable" for him to listen to anything that could be mistaken for mere contemporary music.

According to a report in El PaĆ­s newspaper yesterday, the khaki-clad police officers listened to the saxophone-playing and drumming coming from the festival stage before agreeing that the purist might, indeed, have a case.

His complaint against the organisers, who refused to return his money, was duly registered and will be passed on to a judge. [Guardian]


the jazz police of europe are a real entity. i toured europe more than once with harry "the hipster" gibson. harry was one of the first players to have his music called jazz. he had clipping from the early 20's from the times/picayune reviewing his piano playing in storyville (at his mom's whorehouse no less).

we were playing hamburg and after the show were going through the "smile and shake" routine. a big, blond, very earnest german guy came up to harry and said:

vhat you play iss gut, but, iss not jass. you come to my house tonight. we drink and i play you zum real jass, ja?

god save musicians from the festival purists. i've gone head to head and toe to toe with them over blues, bluegrass, and just about every other musical form out there. at one blues festival i was told that the national steel body guitar/harmonica set i was planning (featuring son house, robert johnson, and rev. gary davis songs) was "inappropriate to the festival." they wanted electrics. a bluegrass team of purity watchdogs objected to the inclusion of queen's "fat bottomed girls" and cyndi lauper's "time after time" into our set. there are always students of the form who seem to know way more than us lowly musicians.


p.s. i can only imagine the way the purists go after dja. rather than seeing him as a true carrier of the torch of big bands, i'm sure they wax all poetic about the "purity" of the likes of glen miller and harry james.

forgetting, of course, that the big band era also brought us the likes of guy lombardo and paul whiteman.

I haven't seen this particular group, but in my experience Larry Ochs' sax-playing is close enough to random burps and squeals that I can see how someone would have a hard time defining it stylistically.

Scott Amendola, though, is indisputably a jazz drummer, and a extremely good one.

I've encountered a few Celtic Cops who've berated me for not playing 'Traditional Music' properly. In other words, not playing 19th century pieces, the way they've heard them performed on some folk artist's CD.

Every genre has it's snobs.

There is a theory in the bluegrass world that the term was probably first used in the sentence "That's not bluegrass."

hey last Larry Orc's album is on atavistic. Clearly it's experimental instead jazz. :P

weaseldog, yo brother, i been brought up on charges of "defamation of o'carolan" more than once myself.

i take to heart me irish da's definition of jazz.

(you'll have to imagine the musical kerry lilt your ownself here)

jazz, when you do it right, comes from the top of your head and the bottom of your heart at the same time.

true dat. if i hear that happening, it's jazz baby.

Minstrel, in one incident, I had gotten my hands on some really early Tommy Makem material. So I was playing in that style, with those words and accent... Someone asked, "Where the hell did you learn that version? That's not that song is sung!"

It was only later did I realize how folkenized Tommy's music became as his fame grew.

not 'how' that song is sung :)

yeah, i tend to read typos the way they were intended, i hope folks do the same with me.

it is very perplexing to me when things become "folkenized." (good term that, i intend to co-opt it)

the whole thing about folk music, blues, jazz, and all those other forms is that they are vibrant expressions of exactly how folks of a region and era are feeling.

it has to be constantly changing. the forms themselves as soon as they become static tend to whither fast.

the folk purists capped on woody guthrie for his way of taking an old tune and writing new lyrics for it. that's how "little red wing" became "the union maid."

it's something that has been done throughout history.

it happened with classical music. gunoud took bach's "air for the g string" and turned it into a glorious "ave maria." durafle took gregorian plainsong and made them into beautiful motets.

palestrina took folk tunes and turned them into music that can transport an atheist like me into something approaching rapture.

it's always happened. if you remember some folk songs from your childhood, plug in the electrics and rip the sides out of them. it's fun.

i played for tommy on more than one occaision. i miss that genial lug. he was a sweet man, a kind spirit, and he would love to know that his music brings you joy.

Jazz police. Now I've heard everything.

I am on record as opposing the very concept of "Jazz Police."

However, if we must have them, I agree they should arrest Larry Ochs. And they should make him share a cell with Philip Glass.

I think Jon Arnold's response was appropriate (albeit NSFW):

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