This post is mainly in response to the article Alex Rodriguez wrote last month at his blog which can be found here. This post will make more sense after reading his thoughts on BBNG.
The following was originally going to be a short little response to a comment left on my last post about BADBADNOTGOOD, but it turned into a bit of an essay so I figured I would post it here. The comment was left by one of the writers I cited in my last post:
Am I really an old fart at 27? You might be misreading this as a generation gap — I think it’s more that most people who actually enjoy jazz (of all ages) think that these guys are kinda lame.
It is a very long post, so I will let you continue reading it after the link!
Maybe I’m misreading this as a generation gap. Possibly a better way to put it would be a comparison between those that appreciate music from a more casual perspective and folks like you who are looking at it from a more technical area. As I see it, these guys care more about the sound/feel/fun of the music than the technical standards that the traditional jazz community likes to so strongly insist on utilizing to create music within the genre (they have pretty much said this themselves in the offending article). Many of the complaints that I have also been reading about are towards the idea that they are innovating or revolutionizing jazz music. This is certainly not the case, I would definitely agree with this. I think this was actually more of a point that the writer of the article was implying than something the band has said or has tried to present to anyone.
Here are some questions I have for those questioning the “legitimacy” of groups like BBNG. Does every single artist or musician have to do something revolutionary for their work to be considered quality music? Is it not possible to enjoy these guys for what they are? Is it not possible that as they mature both in age and as musicians that their talent will further develop? It seems to be that until they accept the standards that the community has created for the genre, people within this group will refuse to accept them which I think is kind of sad in a way.
The reason why I feel sad is that groups like BBNG can be utilized as gateways to more traditional and technical artists which the contemporary jazz scene seems to need (I specifically say “seems” because as I said in my last post about this issue, I am not very knowledgeable about what’s going on within this type of music). Imagine for instance that hip hop kid seeing these jazz covers of their favorite music. Could they not become more interested in hearing more of this music and eventually find themselves listening to celebrated jazz musicians that are deemed acceptable by the technical crowd? They might even think about taking the form of music even more seriously, perhaps studying about it or even picking up an instrument and becoming a part of this community, accepting the standards and practicing music the way that you people see fit. This is all just a possibility, but I do consider it a legitimate argument in my own support of BBNG and any other artists that have either not had the privilege to gain the education required by traditional jazz communities or simply wish to ignore it in favor of doing their own thing.
As far as your claims of racism and its role with BBNG, I find it both baseless and ironic. You argue that simply because the history of jazz is mainly built upon black music and that BBNG is made up of three white suburban Canadian dudes who happen to play jazz music, there is some kind of racial injustice being displayed. This makes absolutely no sense to me. When Bill Evans was playing the piano, was he participating in some racist activity? The ironic bit is that you are a highly educated white music writer with a focus in jazz writing these types of slanderous accusations. I’m very interested to know if you would have the same types of technical criticisms towards a group similar to BBNG that happens to be black (or any other minority group really) and does not have the privileges that you and others in this contemporary jazz community have had to achieve the level of technical ability that is required to join your ranks or even be considered decent jazz music. If you were to address this response of mine, I am genuinely interested in your take on this anyway.
This started as a little response to your Facebook comment but has turned into a bit more as you can see. I apologize for the length and I will try to conclude with this in mind. There is a reason why BBNG’s videos are receiving hundreds OF thousands of views while more traditional and technical artists that your community presents as acceptable receive hundreds OR thousands of views (I give you this group as example because the article you cite as an excellent take of BBNG presents this group in his post). The reason (that I believe anyway) is that BBNG seems to be more concerned about performing for the casual music listening audience that is enjoying their work while the technical performers are either too afraid to “violate” or too closed minded to think outside of these written in stone standards. That isn’t to say that I do not enjoy this music or that I feel it is bad, but it is why groups like BBNG might be seeing a bit more hype than you guys feel is appropriate anyway. Also while this is written about this band in particular, I feel the same way about any band/musician that is in their position.
I’ll leave you with this tidbit from another critic of BBNG which I found funny and demonstrates the point I’m trying to make perfectly:
I first saw and heard BBNG at a J Dilla tribute event at Le Belmont co-presented by The Goods and Music Is My Sanctuary. My beef with their set was that I didn’t get the sense that they understand the tradition of what they’re playing. Not necessarily the “jazz” tradition as taught by any number of schools, but the tradition of groove-based music, and the tradition of covers, i.e. playing a song with a meaning. To go double-time rock freakout on Slum Village’s “Fall In Love” either means you are just pulling out your musical tricks because you can, or it means you’ve had some really shitty relationships (which could very well be the case at 19). They also didn’t seem to realize, or care, that they were booked on a Dilla tribute bill and in a sold out room full of Dilla heads. To be fair, a lot of people in the room were really digging it, but their set proved that they’re a bit of a one-trick pony (or maybe a hog?) musically.
PS: I appreciate the fact that you had read my original post. I’m not claiming to be any kind of professional writer, critic, or anything like that and as I mentioned in the post I’m not really all that knowledgeable about the jazz scene to begin with so take these opinions of mine for what little they do mean. While I do not agree with your article, it was well written and I hope you do not take this response of mine as being derogatory towards yourself or any of the folks in your community really. I just feel like the opinions that you and similar jazz writers have expressed are out of touch with the general music public, particularly with the more casual and often times younger groups that make it up.
If you did end up reading this post I really appreciate it, sorry it was so long! If you did not, I figure it was a good way to kill some time while I’m on such a weird sleeping schedule… I have been up very late tonight, so if the post makes you feel like this at any time I certainly understand why and I do apologize!