The jazz debate in France

There is a lively debate right now in the French jazz community which yesterday made it into the pages of Le Monde with a half page feature.

Pianist Laurent Coq had written in complaint to the programmer at the Duc des Lombards, expressing the feeling that the heritage of the club, its importance as a focal point for the French jazz community – and that community’s sense of ownership of it – had been lost in the makeover and change of direction. He wrote a long letter to the new programmerSebastien Vidal including the following:

“Whatever else, [the club] is a failure. And your programming doesn’t help. Wasn’t it reported to me that Brian Blade started weeping quietly on the stage after having asked the people in the front row – in vain – to eat more discreetly.”

“Quoiqu’il en soit, c’est raté. Et votre programmation ni fait rien. Ne m’a-t-on pas rapporté que Brian Blade s’est mis à pleurer discrètement sur scène après avoir demandé aux gens du premier rang de manger plus discrètement, en vain ?”

The debate went public, even viral when Coq set up a blog “Revolution De Jazzmin”

HE has written the following [extracted] in English:

“Maybe we have our share of responsibility in this. Could it be that we got a little too busy selling our narrative on Facebook lately, and have forgotten that this music should remain about freedom, community and depth ? Can you imagine Thelonious Monk tweeting “London, 8:00, Jetlag” ?

I say it’s time to wake-up, and voice our unity, regardless of age, style, social background, and say THIS MUSIC BELONGS TO US. Facebook can be a very powerful tool though, if only we join our forces and voices…

That is precisely what this blog is all about. It’s about us, the jazz musicians of all kind out there, and those who really love them (journalists, bookers, producers and most importantly JAZZ LOVERS).”

Even after refusing and/or deleting abusive comments (sympathies brother) his correspondence has received 430 comments.

The overwhelming sense is that this music deserves and needs to be supported with pride. I liked pianist Laurence Allison’s comment:

“Le cynisme que nous vivons est aussi une forme de violence.”

“The cynicism we experience is also a kind of violence.”

Here – I believe – is the club as it was:

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4 replies »

  1. I agree. Much cynicism which is violence. There's a kind of indifference from many so-called jazz enthusiasts who are just trying to appear to act fashionably. Bourdieu's cultural capital springs to mind. But in the end they are just consumers of what has become a commodity. Sartre would have said they were not in good faith. He would have been spot-on.

  2. It's certainly a symptom of the digital revolution and the growth of the spurious “jazz industry” that jazz is now more talked-up, blogged and tweeted by middle-class culture vultures than it's actually played, understood and properly appreciated. Plenty of media (not this one, surely) illustrate that rather sinister paradox.

    But this is a debate? Isn't it just one reactionary geezer pissed off that a club owner in the newly globalised French republic wants to make money and feeling slighted that Vidal didn't give him a gig? As Alain Jean Marie says “Le seul point vraiment significatif, c'est que Sébastien Vidal n'ait pas donné suite à la proposition d'émission que lui a faite Laurent Coq.” (The truly significant point is that Vidal didn't follow through on his undertaking to give Coq a broadcast.) Un cas des raisins verts, je crois.

  3. Thank you Wabbit for a good point. It isn't a necessary condition for a cultural brand to be transformable into the mass-produced mousemats or tea towels (eg Miro) to have value.

    Anon, your first point is very well made. Again it's the forces of patience, understanding versus the need for everything to be throwaway.

    I chuckle quietly here: I find an irony here in how much contemporary classical music goes with the (latter) flow is now made for the premiere and the party and is instantly forgettable and delete-able, and how much of what is achieved with patience and craft and dedication by the improvisers just feels to me more durable.

    As regards your second point, maybe you're right for France, I don't know: depressing perhaps if that's all it's about – I had hoped there might be more substance to this debate.

    In London, what I see is a deepening current: the sheer numbers of bright articulate talented musically literate deeply committed jazz graduates, generally enlightened programming mean that we seem to be moving further from this particular French existential abyss.

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