Tim Roberts

Jazzin'
By Tim Roberts

At first I was stung and angry.

My girlfriend Laura and I had just picked up two copies of last month's LMN and were driving down Eastern Parkway towards home. She had leafed through a few pages to my column. I glanced over to see its title, in thick, bold type:

JAZZ FANS OR JAZZ NAZIS?

About a week earlier, his Editor-in-Chiefship Paul Moffett had emailed me and suggested that as a title for last month's column. If you recall, in it I discussed what I felt was the biggest problem with jazz: its hardcore fans, who are so assured they know what ideal jazz is - what it should sound like, what instruments should be used, what structure it should have, how often it should be fed, and when to clean out its cage - that they make it seem way to hip for its own good. I even mentioned three personal experiences that formed the basis of my opinion.

In a reply email, I told Paul I didn't quite agree with calling them Nazis. That's a rather toxic label, I said. And that was the extent of my reply.

Still, my voice rose in rage when I saw that my column had the "Jazz Nazi" title At home, several minutes later, I sent Paul an email with the subject line, "I Did NOT Want My Column Titled." Just so I could, in righteous indignation (one of my favorite moods, it seems), prove to him I didn't want the title, I reopened my response to him and copied its contents into the new message.

Then I re-read it. No where, in either of the two sentences had I typed, did I see anything that told him not to give my column that title.

I sent it anyway. He apologized, claiming he hadn't received my reply to his suggestion about the title. In hindsight, I had assumed that he would know that I didn't want my column titled and hoped he would get that in the context of what I wrote. [I blamed it on SNL - Ed.]

So I forgave him, forgave myself for being assumptive, and dropped the whole minor issue.

And because of that misunderstanding, I have received more email responses regarding the "Jazz Nazi" column than I ever have in the four years I've been writing Jazzin'.

I only heard from the ones who agreed with me, however. One of them, a known fixture in the Louisville jazz scene, said he has had his own run-ins with, as he calls them, "jazz fundamentalists" both here and elsewhere, as has a colleague of his in the Midwest. Another, who is a local composer, said, "Try being a contemporary artist/composer in any form of jazz that isn't DukeEllington!" She says she no longer tries to fit into the classic jazz scene and writes the type of music she calls "Contemporary MUSE," Music Unleashed from Soul Experience.

Thanks to all who responded. I didn't think my voice was the only one with concerns about hardcore jazz fandom, those self-appointed protectors of what they consider the pure and right of a music genre that was based on freeform expression.

To end this matter, and to drop another question into onto your plate, I'd like to mention a line from the Satires by the Roman author Juvenal used as an epigram to the 1987 Tower Commission Report on the Iran-Contra Affair. "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Who watches the watchmen? (by the way, it was also used at the ending of the über-cool 12-issue comic book series Watchmen, published by D.C Comics in the mid 1980s)

One of the city's regular jazz events happens next month: The Bellarmine University Jazz Guitar Clinic runs June 11 and 12 on the Bellarmine campus, hosted and led, as always, by Jeff Sherman. This year's clinic features seminars and instruction from Jack Wilkins, John Pisano, and Sherman himself. The faculty concert and jam will be held in Wyatt Hall on the Bellarmine campus on Monday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 452-8182 or email jsherman@bellarmine.edu.

Next month I bring four years of my tenure with Jazzin' to a close. I'll say my goodbyes, thank a whole bunch of people, and introduce my replacement. See you in June.

"Jazzin'" columnist Tim Roberts invites you to send your jazz-related dispatches to tim@troberts.win.net, or to his attention to the editorial offices of Louisville Music News. It'll be your last chance. Make the best of it.