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Schools, Teachers, and Bop Snobs

A FRIEND TOLD me a horror story about when he was a student at USC. He was a music major and had put together a vintage Swing sextet for a jazz concert. The concert director was a jazz teacher from USC’s music department. Prior to the actual performance each group went on stage to run through its tunes and, when it was time, my friend’s group began by playing All The Things You Are. About eight measures into the tune the director became very agitated. He impatiently ordered them to stop playing and to go home.

My friend was bewildered and asked what was wrong. The director sputtered, “You forgot the intro! What about the intro?”

My friend asked, “What intro?”

The director barked, “What do you mean, ‘what intro?’ The intro. Da-DA-da. Da-DA-da, da-DA-da, da-DA-da….”

My friend replied, “I don’t know that intro.”

The director yelled, “How can you not know Charlie Parker’s intro? Nobody plays All The Things You Are without that intro. And don’t ever get on a stage again until you know something about jazz!”

Stop and think about that little drama:

My friend was playing Jerome Kern’s 1939 tune in an authentic 1939 Swing style. Charlie Parker had yet to conceive his intro at that time and, when he finally did (in 1947), he never played the melody of All The Things You Are. Instead, he fashioned his own tune, Bird Of Paradise, around the same chord changes.

The intent of my friend’s group was to play Swing, not Bebop. Parker’s intro would have been completely out of place both historically and stylistically.

The music director was aware of neither the facts nor the chronology. He was unable to judge my friend’s music for what it was; he could see it only in the context of what he thought it should be. And, even had he been correct, he had no right to throw a student ensemble off the stage. The man is an idiot and, instead of berating well intentioned music students, should be collecting garbage.

Such scenarios and behavior are characteristic of Bop snobs. Bop snobs are pseudo intellectual nitwits who judge music mainly on its form and rarely on its substance. To them, any musical style prior to the emergence of Bebop in the mid 1940s is primitive and unworthy of serious listening; it was merely a stepping stone to the Great Epiphany of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. In fact, most Bop snobs consider any form of music failing to make use of Bebop’s arcane artificiality to be beneath them. The same kind of thinking is rife among orchestral music snobs.

More than once I have devoted space on this blog to revealing the damage that attitude has caused. But when I heard my friend’s story it really enraged me. That music director is an ignorant, prejudiced tyrant, yet continues to bully young musicians and stifle creativity.

We can stop the entropy affecting culture by taking a stand against such self-important nincompoops and I have just taken mine. Folks, it’s time to get jazz back on track. Don’t just sit there; do something!

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