By Any Other Name…

He's got something to say

Man, Nicholas Payton sure knows how to rile people up

I’m not going to re-hash the whole thing here, all the back-and-forth between Payton and intelligent (Marcus Strickland) and idiotic (Brent Black) dissenters is out there if you care to read it. Payton’s basic argument, I think, is that the word “jazz” is too loaded with cultural, racial and economic connotations to allow musicians to create and profit freely. Basically, if you want to play jazz, then that label will constrain you. Payton attacks the term “jazz”, proclaiming it died in 1959 and even going as far as to put it on par with the n-word, among other quasi-outrageous/blasphemous/ludicrous claims.

I see where Payton is coming from regarding the term “jazz” and the constraints, limitations and expectations it places on artists. I understand wanting to be free from such a label and the 100 years of baggage it carries. Jazz must die, and with it the boxes it puts artists in.

However, can’t the same be said of just about any genre label? The very existence of genre is based on limitations and expectations. Once you name something, you define it. You forever limit it to that definition. To me, this is what Miles and Duke were against. This is where Wynton Marsalis butts heads with those who bristle at his rigid definition of jazz. It makes sense, especially for artists who play a music that is considered passe by so much of modern culture, to want to shake free of a brand that constrains.

Payton declares jazz dead and plants his flag in a new genre he names Black American Music. I have two problems with the Black American Music label. The easiest problem is that it is simply too broad to accurately describe any one type of music. Under the heading of Black American Music we could  place Jazz, R&B, Hip-Hop, Gospel, Blues, Ragtime, Funk… the list could go on. While it is completely true to say that these are all forms of Black American Music, and even share the same roots (and I do like that the name focuses on credit where credit is due), I don’t think it is descriptive enough or narrow enough to ever be adopted by the general public as a way of describing what kind of music they like. As freeing as it would be for musicians it would be useless to most audiences.

Which brings me to the larger problem with the label Black American Music, which is that it is still a label.  I think labels are woven more deeply into our culture than most of us would like to admit. When people say they are jazz fans, this statement implies so much more about them than simply the kind of music they like. Same for punk fans, hip-hop fans, country fans- these are not just styles of music, but cultural identifiers. It speaks to what is on your iPod, sure, but also what is in your closet, what is on your TV, what is on your book shelf, what kind of movies you like. In some instances it speaks to your socioeconomic position and even to who you’ll be voting for in the next election.

Are these labels a good thing? I can’t see how they are. They’re convenient, especially for record labels and bloggers, but they only serve to build walls between music and, eventually, between music fans. To really break down these walls we don’t need better labels, we need no labels.

How freeing is that? The thought dawned on me as I was looking over Ted Gioia’s list of the 100 Best Albums of 2011 that I wouldn’t have given 75% of these albums a chance at all, based solely on genre. My listening time is precious, and with such a massive amount of good music out there, both new and old, I’ve used genre labels to whittle down the options to something (somewhat) more manageable. If these labels didn’t exist, I would be forced to approach everything from a more open-minded place. The worlds of music currently stored under R&B, Hip-Hop, Rock, Classical, Country, as well as Jazz would all be able to meld into one new genre, with the only unifying requirement being that I dig it. It’d be the Shit I Dig section.

From now on, that’s what I listen to: Shit I Dig. That’s what I write about: Shit I Dig. That’s what I play: Shit I Dig.

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12 thoughts on “By Any Other Name…

  1. No, I think you meant to say that you write like shit. Call someone idiotic but dont have the balls to back it up? Nice…Get your pander on. Mr. Payton is laughing allready. You realize #BAM is a publicity stunt to draw attention to one of the worst records made that still has not charted. Hmmm looks like I was right…Yawn…..

  2. Interesting that you waited until you’d completely revised your original post and changed the URL address so my (and Payton’s) link to your work is no longer valid to say anything here.

    Did you even read my post past where I called you idiotic? Of course not, what idiot would? I don’t agree with Payton. I called his statements “ludicrous”. I also agree that the whole thing is a publicity stunt, but so what? More power to him. Without a label promotional machine behind him he needs to do what he can to get his music heard. And “Bitches” isn’t a very good record, in my opinion, but there are plenty who dig it. I don’t consider myself a “critic”, that vilest of professions. I just like to write about music.

    The real question is why did you feel the need to make what was ostensibly a record review a personal attack on Payton? Are you somehow threatened by what he has to say? Or maybe your tirade was a publicity stunt of your own, a way to get more people to read your scattershot, A&R approved “reviews”. I’m sure Concord loved what you had to say. Whatever your reasons, if you really believed in what you’d said you wouldn’t have removed your words.

    Thanks for reading. If you ever have anything of value to add to the conversation, I’d like to hear it. Otherwise go back to shilling for the labels.

  3. Cyber balls…I specifically mentioned the “idiotic” reference so perhaps pot/kettle? I didnt remove my words, as the story developed with Payton’s homophobic attack on me information and specific links were added proving a publicity stunt. All About Jazz Forum thread has a Payton quote “publicity you can not buy.” Personal attack? Grow a thicker skin or stop pandering to a vile disgusting little troll like Payton. I was case specific on my review. Weak vocals, dated sound…Nothing personal about that unless the truth hits a little close to home. I dont shill for anyone. I can name several labels where I refused to do exactly what you accuse me of and was happy to see them walk away. One label is Verve another is Blue Note – neither of whom are jazz powers anymore anyway. They have gone commerical. Get your facts straight. Learn to read. Better yet grow a pair and get a thicker skin. You are a walking contradiction and you are the one trying to make a name off of me. Unlike Payton’s twitter account my site is not a cyber toilet nor am I so crass and rude as to call jazz “shit i dig” as do you. Now, all the time and attention you get from me. Perhaps mommy didnt give you enough.

  4. Where I come from, “vile disgusting little troll” is a pretty clear example of a personal attack. You tell me to “grow a pair and get a thicker skin” in one breath, and in the next call me “crass and rude” for calling the shit I dig “Shit I Dig”. I’m sure you’ve read Miles’ autobiography, what’d you think of his grasp of French?

    You’re like the personification of every problem jazz faces today- your thinking is old, your attitude is defensive and your inability to move into the 21st century will eventually relegate you to the $3 bin. Judging by the reviews on your site, you value slick production and a good stylist over any real substance. Anyone who thinks Chris Standring is anything but bloated, commercial crap should probably have their jazz card revoked. Even Kenny G knows that guy sucks. But even I have to admit that your true talent as an interviewer came through when you opened your interview with him with this fastball:

    “Electric Wonderland has a warm rather organic sound, tell us about the creative process that went into this wonderful release. I remember about a year ago you posted on face book that you were looking for a sound that moved you. How do you know when you’ve hit that sweet spot?”

    Shill.

  5. I believe you called me an idiot FIRST….so once again you are a walking contradiction. love the profanity in your reply. no wonder you lack writing talent, credibility and an audience. taste is subjective jethro. tone deaf lasts forever. who have you interviewed? what web sites carry your work? i dont have to justify myself to a foul mouthed illiterate who panders to Payton in an effort to be politically correct. the vast majority of my reviews are of independent artists yet you pick out one “commercial” review. you could not make a point if you tried. miles is not the topic jethro. nice try on the basic debate tactic called “deflection” but you simply do not have the chops to pull it off. keep up your blog. if you consider being a critic a vile profession then stop writing. you obviously can not gain an audience or make a clear and consise point without resorting to profanity. sign of a small mind. no wonder i am in your head now. plenty of leg room. you never answered my question about the offensive nature of payton or his work bitches which again proves my point. saying payton cant sing is not a personal attack. calling him a troll is. learn the difference. you know nothing of how i think as you have the comprehension level of a year old. you defend a record you said sucks to begin with. nice….get your pander on. with age comes wisdom and experience. respect is earned. it would serve you well to remember both. ive proven payton to be a liar with specific posted links and i thank you for giving me the opportunity to prove that you are a fool. payton WAS a good trumpet player. i would love to hear him play what he plays best – jazz. heard the new jeremy pelt yet or is it not hip enough for you? it is LIGHT YEARS better than anything payton has done in ten years. perhaps you will think before launching your next personal attack. shill? snicker….they call it the music business for a reason. ill let you figure it out from here as ive wasted far too much time on a rank amateur such as yourself.

  6. Damn. Brent Black blocked me on twitter. Someone better take my shoe laces, y’know?

    I’ll try to search through that rambling comment of yours to find a point or two, but without proper punctuation or capitalization it can get a little murky. Throw in the fact that you hardly make any sense to begin with and who knows what the hell you’re trying to say? Nah, I kid, you’ve been saying the same thing over and over all night, so I got you figured out.

    I did call you an idiot first. That’s because you are an idiot. I stand by that review.

    I don’t pander to anyone. I write what I think, regardless of who reads it. I’m not real sure how you think I’m trying to be politically correct, that’s never really been my thing. I think Bitches is a bad record, but it was a noble effort. I’m not a fan of Payton’s singing, but his Rhodes work is solid and his trumpet playing is excellent as always. If you had only criticized the music, I’d have had no problem with your piece. But you had to get on some moral high horse about how offensive the title was. I’m sorry, but it’s 2012. If you’re offended by the word “bitches” you are the moldiest of figs.

    I wasn’t trying to make Miles the topic, just illustrating that bad language has been, is and will be a part of this music forever. I chose the most obvious example to make my point.

    As far as picking a “commercial” review, I suppose I’m guilty, but the thing is, as a reviewer, you’re only as good as your credibility. By spending two posts gushing over that kind of crap, your credibility is gone. You say you’re not a shill, but then say “they call it the music business for a reason”. Which is it, are you writing reviews or promotional pieces? Are you an impartial observer or paid sponsor?

    I like Pelt’s record, but don’t you get the feeling it has been done before? There’s nothing wrong with that, and the playing is excellent, but there are dozens (if not hundreds) of records just like it from the past 60 or so years. If an artist is going to so clearly cop a vibe from years ago, that record better be killing (I think Dave Douglas and co. did it better on GPS Vol. 2).

    It’s interesting that you want Payton to play “jazz”, and I think by your comparison to Pelt’s record you specifically mean that style of modal post-bop from the late 50s/early 60s. There’s no doubt he can tear that up, as he has proven on quite a few occasions. For my money, I’d rather hear him do that, too. But I have those records, and I can throw it on whenever I want. Payton could definitely have kept churning out those type of records, building a huge reputation and living up the “next Wynton” label. I’m glad he’s following his heart and playing what he wants to play.

    Finally, your ad hominem approach shows just how weak your “argument” is. Calling me “jethro”, saying I’m “illiterate”, saying I have a “small mind”, all just shows anyone reading this that you are rattled, and the fact that you chose to re-explore this two-and-a-half month old issue on the blog of someone who lacks “writing talent, credibility and an audience” shows just how desperate you are to not let the last time anyone actually cared about you fade away.

    But fade away it has. Tomorrow, you’ll still be polishing smooth jazz turds and trying to pass it off as journalism. I’ll post the first installment of Shit I Dig. You’ve inspired me, really. I was kind of stumped as to what I would write about next (that’s a problem some people have when we don’t get our instructions from A&R), but your continued idiocy makes me more determined than ever to keep at it.

  7. rattled? snicker dont flatter yourself. say anything you want to make yourself feel better but you still come off like a pompous pseudo-intellectual who in reality couldnt pour piss out of a boot with directions written on the heel. i write far more reviews other than smooth jazz. you simply pick out one to suite your argument and again try and deflect from the issue. oh i know…your a deep brooding sensitive artist that knows it all. that must be why you cant get a gig….now, moderate that. your not a writer. just a douche bag with a computer that his wife pays for. good luck with “shit i dig”….i’m sure youll have a highly evolved readership to pander to. maybe walgreens is hiring? hope and change! never post an attack you cant defend. have a nice life. good luck finding a gig … any gig…lmao! psst….no one actually cares what albums you by, thats a tad self indulgent but you knew that right? give sheila my best….snicker.

  8. More attacks against me. You don’t know me from Adam, yet you pretend to. You never address any of the points I made above regarding your post, you just lash out with insults and corny one-liners. snicker lmao snicker. If you’re only going to resort to playground put-downs, I’m going to delete everything you post from here on out. You have your own forum, feel free to say your piece there. I have to say, I expected more from you, but in the end you just proved my original opinion of you was right.

    PS- Who is Sheila?

  9. you make no points none…all you have done is attack me. you can not accept a difference of opinion. im not insulting you. i am stating the facts. you are a pseudo intellectual failed musician, hack writer and then because of your frustration at being a total loser you want to throw the first punch by calling someone else an idiot? take it all down do you think i care? looks like your site gets no traffic to speak of to begin with. i did address your “concerns” over my post. dont make the fact that you are too stupid to understand the difference between a personal put down and a critical comment my problem. your opinion means nothing to me….and judging from no traffic here, not many others. i must have got the name of your wife wrong. started with an s….but you would debate your own stay of execution. no wonder you cant get a gig in los angeles? oh my god and you post that! do you have a clue as to how bad that makes you look? you never address my points about payton’s filth so you must enjoy going gutter too. no worries. later on cyber balls….god knows your wife probably has your real ones in her purse.

    1. This Black guy is a candy ass of the highest degree. I read this dude’s blog once, and he’s incredibly defensive for a guy with a third-grade level understanding of punctuation. I guess proofreading goes against his stream-of-consciousness style. Put the Joyce book down and take the ear muffs off, Mr. Black – because anyone who likes chorus effects on an electric guitar has no musical credibility whatsoever.

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