Hostility to the genre's past
It's as if finally, musicians got the message that jazz is lacking in "innovation" and everyone is now scrambling (and overcompensating) to make sure they don't appear to be in that "non-innovation" camp, even if what they're doing is just as derivative as anything the neo-boppers ever did. I hear people say, I don't want to play standards, those tunes aren't sophisticated enough for me, etc. Perhaps they're so tired of hearing someone preach to them how they need to "respect the tradition" that they've had it. It's the backlash & unintended consequence of the institutionalization of jazz, in large part. Remember, the neo-bop movement was reactionary as well, shunning the commercialization of fusion, etc. We're simply witnessing the other side of the same coin.
But the question we need to ask is this - Is ignoring the "tradition" worse than what the neo-boppers did in ignoring "progressive" jazz forms such as fusion and the avant garde? I'm not sure I have the answer, but right now I'm leaning towards saying yes. This whole post was insipred by a post and subsequent conversation I had with pianist and composer Armen Nalbandian, about how young jazz musicians don't appreicate guys like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
From Armen's blog:
I have never ever in my life had a musician from my generation talk to me about a Charlie Parker or Dizzy Gillespie recording unless I brought it up first. Doesn’t that seem odd to you? That Jazz musicians don’t discuss not only great musicians but the inventors of a style. Very odd indeed.I agree, Bird and Diz are not appreciated by many young musicians, as one might expect. Perhaps that's a failure of our jazz educational system, perhaps youthful ignorance, or what have you. But I think it's an issue that should be looked at through the larger prisim of the bandwagon mentality of jazz musicians. True, there are some true iconoclasts who do their own thing and don't follow trends, and they can be found in both "sides" of the jazz world, say Bill Charlap and Dave Douglas, or Joe Lovano or Keith Jarrett. But I think right now, especially amongst young players, it's NOT COOL to be into Bird or Dizzy, to really study their music (on one's own time - not in class) because that's going to label you in the current out of fashion group of the neo-boppers. It's not that I don't want to see musicians moving beyond bop, but there's both an ignorance and an arrogance that is just as troubling to me as anything controversial Wynton Marsalis ever said. Another side of this is the contrived "innovation for the sake of innovation" that is quite prevalent today. Put all of this together and it makes for quite a disfunctional jazz scene. Thus, we shouldn't be surprised if we continue to see artistic stagnation. I don't think jazz is really going to move forward until it gets out of reactionary mode, and puts the music, rather than the image or agenda first. If you care to disagree, please respond accordingly.
I think that as a society, we are afraid to confront and realize genius.