More on jazz

Mr.Lifson, I think you miss the point of the Chronicle's article in that the lack of African Americans on the Yoshi's CD reinforces the belief among many that Kenny G, Harry Connick Jr, Brian Setzer, Diana Krall and Bebel Gilberto are the faces of jazz in the 21st Century. Let's put a little historic context into this discussion.   For years record producers would not put images of African American artists on album covers over concerns that whites would not buy the album.  This practice ended when Miles Davis insisted on not only having his face and body shown on covers, but his girlfriends as well, who were Black and beautiful.  

The article raised honest concerns by African Americans regarding whether the people who market jazz in the 21st century are being encouraged to match the image of the people making the music with the upscale whites, who have been targeted by the demographers as the key audience for jazz music in the 21st century..

Because people who market and promote jazz have abdicated the African American audience to hip hop and Urban Contemporary,  the marketing of jazz reflects the mostly white demographics that supports the music, at the expense of Black audiences under the assumption that Blacks, particularly younger Blacks, are no longer interested in jazz. The club in question, Yoshi's, does extensive advertising but does not advertise in Bay Area Black owned newspapers or radio stations with a large Black listenership, including the region's only Black owned commercial radio station.  This philosophy comes into play when decisions are made to book "jazz artists" for festivals, concerts and TV shows. 

Because white artists like Connick, Krall and Gilberto receive the bulk of jazz promotion budget revenue, Black jazz artists are told there much less money to promote them, a move that has resulted in the demise of BET Jazz.   Few if any Black format radio stations play mainstream Jazz, and Jazz is not included in any of the major African American award shows (NAACP Image Awards, BET Awards, Soul Train Music Awards, Vibe Magazine).  Kathy Hughes is an African American women who owns Radio One, the nation's largest Black owned radio group.  Of the 70 stations she owns, not one is a jazz station.  June is Black Music Month, but looking at the promotions around Black Music Month, one would think that for some reason Jazz is no longer Black Music.

Conversely, Jazz artists like Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (their motto is Great Black Music) and Ornette Coleman have been shunned by the jazz marketing community not only for their Avant Garde musical style but for their pro Black political philosophies.   

Yoshi's issuing a Jazz CD with no African Americans would be similar to Motown issuing a 50th anniversary CD with music from Lindsay Lohan, Teena Maria, Rare Earth, Michael McDonald, Pat Boone and Judas Priest, all white artists who all have work released or distributed by Motown.  While such a CD would be unique and an interesting marketing tactic, it would not be an accurate reflection of the history of Motown, much in the same way that a CD by Yoshi's with no Black artists may make sense from an marketing point of view but does not accurately reflect the reality of what goes on at Yoshi's, where 75 percent of the artists who perform there annually are Black.  Yoshi's has acknowledged that the CD does not reflect the rich history of Black Artists performing at the club, has issued an apology on its web site and has pulled the CD with the promise of issuing another CD that could include performances of Elvin Jones, Ravi Coltrane,  Jousha Redmond, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Cecil Taylor and the hundreds of other Black artists who have performed at Yoshi's over the years.

Harrison Chastang
San Francisco
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