After reading, Did the American songbook kill jazz?, and discussing with some friends on Facebook, the following stream of consciousness occurred to me…

We measure dead-or-aliveness by whether something (or someone) makes a lot of money, and especially compared to the relative amount of money made by other things/people. By that standard classical music and jazz are both dead.

To artists, especially someone like Miles Davis, the art they made 10 minutes ago is now dead, never to be revisited again (except for commercial reasons…).

When an artist starts making art primarily for commercial reasons, it’s no longer art. It’s entertainment. Not that there’s anything wrong with entertainment, but it ain’t art, at least not most of the time (I don’t not love me some double negatives!).

Artists we now revere were/are often considered heretics until long after they’re gone, and most don’t care what their audience thinks about them or their production (as long as they’re eating, I suppose).

To the extent jazz is dead in America, its birthplace, that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Just go to Europe or other parts of the world where jazz is thriving.

Jazz won’t be dead as long as there’s somebody who is compelled to make it and someone who’s compelled to listen to it.

Of course, once we decide the jazz is not dead, we’re going to have to move on to that other favorite question, “What is jazz?”

Not that this is directly on point, but I’m reminded of a lyric from Gil Scott Heron:

**“If everybody believed in peace the way they say they do, we’d have peace. The only thing wrong with piece is you can’t make no money from it.”**


This ain't Superfly, baby. Oh wait, maybe it is…This ain’t Superfly, baby. Oh wait, maybe it IS “Superfly” ...

I discovered a couple of things last night. One of them is that artists have sensibilities that I may or may not share. I first saw Marc Seales playing with Ernie Watts at the Earshot Jazz Festival this fall and I loved his playing. I loved his playing tonight too, but his compositions didn’t match my mood. I think that’s it. It’s not that they weren’t good or that I didn’t like them. They just didn’t really resonate.

Jazz is like that. You have to experience it, always with hope. You have to be open to the possibility that magic will happen (because it so often does!). But then you need to sit back, relax, listen—let reality set in. And recognize that everything isn’t everything, at least for everybody, and certainly not all at the same time.

OTOH, the quintet played a song that I loved. I told my wife it reminded me of “Superfly” and sounded, vaguely, like something Curtis Mayfield might have written. It didn’t sound like that song (and how would I know not having heard it, maybe, decades). It evoked “Superfly, called it to mind, suggested that it might, possibly, be it.

So the song is over and Marc announces they’ve just played, ahem, “Superfly!” Can you dig it? I knew that you would!! I know I wasn’t the only person in the room that called that one (the brother at the table behind me and I exchanged a couple of “knowing glances.” But man!!

One of the ideas I’ve been enamored with is turning songs from my youth, from the last $%^&&*( years into jazz standards. A few musicians, notably Herbie Hancock, have tried that. I never would have thought it, but “Superfly” deserves to be indelibly etched in that pantheon! The New & Improved American Songbook.

Hell, let’s make it a New World Songbook, as jazz has certainly escaped our shores…


Susan Pascal (vib) Quartet with Bill Anschell (p), Chuck Deardorf (b) and Jeff Busch (d) at Tula’s Jazz Club In Seattle.


I don’t know what got me to adopt this pose, but I saw Jaco strike a similar one many, many times.