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Copping Out

MUSICAL SHOWS HAVE exploited pretty girls for centuries but does that kind of exploitation belong in jazz?

Recently an otherwise top-notch ensemble of middle age men appeared with a cute young woman in the front line. She could play but, in contrast to the others, fell far short. Of course she was decidedly appealing to look at and that alone commanded the audience’s favorable attention. They were unconcerned with (or unable to discern) how well she played; the shock that she could even appear in such an ensemble made her the star of the show.

Any musician could recognize her artistic shortcomings and realize the band suffered musically because of her.

Traditionally jazz bands have hired pretty girls to sing. For every Ella Fitzgerald bandleaders have hired a thousand adequate (or worse) female singers to the point where, today, by far the most important quality in a female performer is her appearance.

Do we now want to encourage the replacement of excellent jazz instrumentalists with vapid cuties? Is that what jazz is about? Has the apathy toward music taken us to a level where we need to sell a band on looks instead of sound? Is the bottom line of jazz, as with most everything else, now about the money?

Frankly, I’m disgusted with the degeneration and corruption of what once was a magnificent form of music. We have replaced creativity with caricature, talent with looks, emotion with intellect, and quality with pretense. Much of jazz consists of a bunch of self-absorbed idiots trying to pass themselves off as geniuses by extrapolating the ideas of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker into nonsense while wearing African robes and odd beards and bizarre hairstyles. Or by using an accountant’s skills try to cobble together a “killer” chart. Or by hiring a cute girl.

Folks, it’s time to get jazz back on track. Save the cute girls for the chorus line. Write some melodic and memorable tunes, look into yourself to improvise on them with meaning and feeling, and knock out the audience with talent and enthusiasm.

What? You think that’s too difficult? Then get a real job.

And if you’re not a musician yourself, then learn to recognize the good ones.

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