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July 13, 2011

Justice Versus Just Us

Via regular Expert Witness commenter Cam Patterson I learned of this remarkable column by Greg Thomas, consisting mostly of a conversation with Gary Giddins. I know both these jazz critics, Gary very well and Greg as someone I edited a few times in the '90s and stay in touch with. But it's been a long time since I've discussed this topic with either of them. As is relevant to mention, Greg is black and Gary is white.

The subject of the column is why the Jazz Journalists Association has never given a Lifetime Achievement Award to an African-American writer. Giddins makes three obvious suggestions: Albert Murray, Amiri Baraka, and Stanley Crouch. Murray is now 95 and reportedly very frail, and I suppose the JJA could complain that he was never really a journalist--at best, an essayist, tsk tsk. Also, he has very conservative tastes--basically never adjusted to bebop. Who cares? Stomping the Blues is a profound and generative work, and he's 95. Get on it. Similarly, one could observe that it's been a long time since Baraka wrote much music journalism (and whisper that in addition he's an ideologue whose ideas are often, tsk tsk, questionable, plus we think he doesn't respect us, boo hoo). Who cares? He's Amiri Baraka, for Chrissake. He researched Blues People in Room 315 of the NYPL 50 years ago, and yeah, he got stuff wrong--while starting a crucial conversation that reminded white admirers of African-American culture that black people might have something of their own to say about these things. He's no spring chicken either. Get on it. And then, the very next year, my always contentious and often irritating old pal and editee Crouch. A curmudgeon, a player, a pain in the ass. Who cares? I would hesitate to account even Giddins a more broadly influential jazz critic in this period unless somebody came up with a metric now unknown to me. Get on it.
July 13, 2011 6:57 AM | | Comments (0)

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