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Poking the Jazz Hive
August 5, 2014 6:32 AM   Subscribe

On July 31st the New Yorker posted on Shouts and Murmurs: "Sonny Rollins: In His Own Words BY DJANGO GOLD". Plenty of people were not pleased. Including, yes, Sonny Rollins himself. (The editor's note on Shouts and Murmurs was added afterwards and was not part of the initial publishing of the piece)
posted by josher71 (91 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's time we rise up as a nation and shout, "Enough! The emperor has no clothes, and The New Yorker is really bad at comedy!" Just leave that kind of stuff to McSweeney's and The Onion, okay? It'll be less embarrassing for all of us.

And get rid of that Borowitz putz while you're at it.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:42 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


I think the Jazz Wax response was a bit overblown, but I think the New Yorker piece was idiotic. It isn't funny, it seems completely gratuitous, it's "aimed" at a real legend (Rollins is no Paris Hilton), and there are troubling racial overtones to it.
posted by OmieWise at 6:44 AM on August 5 [12 favorites]


Sonny Rollins is the essence of cool. And the fact that he's a long-time subscriber to Mad Magazine just utterly delights me.
posted by jbickers at 6:48 AM on August 5 [10 favorites]


Well, it got a smile out of me, and I'm a jazz lover; the first few quotes might be taken straight, but I'd have thought the last quote would have tripped most people's satire radar.

Shouts and murmurs are always (meant to be) humour pieces aren't they? However weak this was, I'm afraid here it's the guardians of Jazz that aren't doing anything to dispel their po-faced and humourless image.
posted by Jakob at 6:48 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


This is really funny. Pretty close to the house style of The Onion, though.
posted by grobstein at 6:51 AM on August 5


Yeah, Shouts and Murmurs is always humor pieces, which is why I imagine it didn't originally run with a disclaimer. Running it with the name of an actual person feels like a misstep that makes it seem a little meaner than it's meant to be, but otherwise it just seems like a minor bit of not very funny jokes at the expense of jazz, which seems fine to me.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:52 AM on August 5


Ha, MAD Magazine.

I'll take Don Martin over that awful artist who does those awful watercolor Obama New Yorker covers, any day.
posted by thelonius at 6:52 AM on August 5


This is really funny. Pretty close to the house style of The Onion, though.

Django Gold (@djangogold). senior writer for The Onion
posted by josher71 at 6:53 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Good potential, incredibly weak execution. The one line that made me smile: "The band starts a song, but then everything falls apart and the musicians just play whatever they want for as long they can stand it." That pretty much describes a lot of musicians' reaction to free jazz in the late '50s.
posted by Longtime Listener at 6:53 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


So although I enjoy jazz I've never heard of this story before:

1) I don't understand how anyone could ever think this was "real" - except the internet seems to have a hard wired anger gene, attenuated by twitter where ordinarily reasonable people want to get outraged over anything just for the dopamine.

2) If you like jazz in 2014, this can hardly be new - jazz was cool in the 60's and is now associated with middle aged white pseudo-academics in cardigans. How can you not be used to being the butt of jokes?

3) Sonny Rollins is a total legend... Off the top of my head - probably the only musician alive in terms of their contribution to music who is even in the same league is Paul McCartney - so I guess I can understand that does make it hurt more for fans
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 6:54 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Once I played the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland, with Miles Davis. I walked in on him smoking cigarettes and staring at his horn for what must have been fifteen minutes, like it was a poisonous snake and he wasn’t sure if it was dead. Finally Miles stood up, turned to his band, and said, “All right, let’s get through this, and then we’ll go to the airport.” He looked like he was about to cry.

That one was pretty good.
posted by thelonius at 6:54 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Just leave that kind of stuff to McSweeney's and The Onion, okay? It'll be less embarrassing for all of us.

I've always found the McSweeney's stuff to be the most embarrassing of all, and the tagline indicates that Django Gold, the author of that Rollins bit, "is a senior writer for The Onion," so there's that.
posted by thursdaystoo at 6:54 AM on August 5


> Shouts and murmurs are always (meant to be) humour pieces aren't they?

Well, Shouts and Murmurs is their weekly humor piece. Whether any given article is humorous is a matter of personal judgement.

I dunno. It felt more painful than funny. If you're into jazz and especially into Rollins and his peers, it's probably funnier because you can read it while being aware of how serious he is about his music, which is what this article is satirizing. In the context of a popular publication for which the readership is mostly going to be only slightly into jazz (like, have a couple Miles Davis albums and maybe Giant Steps), it reads as cruel and punching down.

If the subject had been, I dunno, Jon Bon Jovi, it would have read as a cheap shot but not particularly mean; the guy is also very serious about his work, but he's also incredibly popular, comfortably well-off and has weathered much worse than this.
posted by ardgedee at 6:56 AM on August 5


Trying to picture Henry Rollins going from calm to super angry. / oops, wrong Rollins.

I did like the part about selling the suit and getting away from it all.
posted by buzzman at 6:57 AM on August 5


This is a side-effect of viral culture. In the pre-Internet days, almost everyone who read the piece would be familiar with the New Yorker, and know that "Shouts and Murmurs" is typically comedy or satire. Now, all it takes is some repost to a linkbait site and the clueless hordes will rise up with torches and pitchforks demanding retribution.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:58 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


I thought this was extremely funny.
posted by Slinga at 6:58 AM on August 5


Remember when David Remnick used valuable space in the august publication to talk about how great Bruce Springsteen's ass is?
posted by The Whelk at 6:59 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


"Why would The New Yorker, one of the country's finest and most esteemed print magazines, wade into the jackass morass? The only reasonable answer is ivory-tower insensitivity or ignorance."

Wow, the irony of that accusation is delicious.
posted by griphus at 6:59 AM on August 5 [6 favorites]


Slate writes about this clarification tweet.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:00 AM on August 5


"Do you know jazz fans have no sense of humor?"
"No, but if you hum a few bars I can fake it."
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 AM on August 5 [25 favorites]


In the context of a popular publication for which the readership is mostly going to be only slightly into jazz (like, have a couple Miles Davis albums and maybe Giant Steps), it reads as cruel and punching down.

If the subject had been, I dunno, Jon Bon Jovi, it would have read as a cheap shot but not particularly mean; the guy is also very serious about his work, but he's also incredibly popular, comfortably well-off and has weathered much worse than this.


This feels precisely backwards to me. The New Yorker's schtick is appeal to precisely the type of people who (stereotypically) like jazz. Making jokes about jazz is making jokes about their perceived audience, making jokes about a popular musician would feel way more like punching down to me. (For the record, I would be fine with either)
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:03 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


It reads like a pale imitation of Jack Handey's style to me, except poking fun at an actual person. Stupid.
posted by sallybrown at 7:05 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Oh come on! No one laughed at "in walked Bud"?

I love Rollins' playing forever. One of my fave sax players. But satire is supposed to take the piss, and the more revered the subject, the more piss needs to be taken.

I'm sure Rollins is not amused. I wouldn't be, either, if I was an important jazz figure ill-treated through my career by white audiences and critics. But that shouldn't end sharp satire today. It is no real disrespect.

This captures pretty well the tone of those ghost-written memoirs of the famous-in-some-circles.

If you need to be told this is satire, you might be a bit tone-deaf.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:09 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Seriously, a person would have to be willfully ignorant to (a) care about Sonny Rollins, (b) think for even one second that one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz might have written that, and (c) think for even one second that the New Yorker was presenting this as though it were real.

It's like they ran an article called Linus Pauling in His Own Words saying things like: "Physical chemistry is a big joke. I mean, is it chemistry, is it physics? Who cares, right? We would just take a few hits of windowpane, zap a bunch of things with a laser and write all kinds of ridiculous stuff."
posted by slkinsey at 7:11 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


While we're on the topic, this was not actually written by Gwyneth Paltrow, just FYI.
posted by griphus at 7:15 AM on August 5


WHAT?! Come on, now. That is totally by Gwyneth Paltrow.
posted by slkinsey at 7:18 AM on August 5


Funniest line in this whole thing: "The problem is none of the quotes in the column came from Sonny."

The complete humorlessness of the responses makes the original piece even funnier.
posted by leopard at 7:21 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


The New Yorker is really bad at comedy!

If you haven't read Donald Barthelme's "King of Jazz" (The New Yorker, Feb 7, 1977), you should do that now.

(Thanks, Jessamyn!)
posted by hydrophonic at 7:27 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


This is uncanny valley territory. It was undoubtedly written and published with the assumption that no would could possibly take it straight because this is a very serious and very well-regarded musician. In that context, the "jazz is a waste of time" message is satirizing all of those people who think that jazz is a waste of time. You can see how this was intended to work if you imagine the subjects had been Thomas Pynchon and the literary novel.

Which illustrates why this failed. Because as marginalized as the literary novel is in American culture, it's not marginalized for the New Yorker's readership. Few would mistake the hypothetical Pynchon version for truth, and few would be defensive on behalf of literature.

But I suspect that even most of the New Yorker's audience is indifferent to jazz and no small portion think it's nonsense. And certainly most of the rest of America does. And then there's the racial component.

And I agree that the humorless defensiveness is just as revealing. I thought the piece was mildly funny; but jazz is not so central to my life that I frequently encounter people dismissing it as an ostentatious waste of time. When I do, I think they're doing that "aggressively demonstrating their ignorance" thing, which I sort of consider a public service. But if it were central to my life, and if I were to find myself defending it all the time from people who otherwise I would hope would know better, then I'd wonder if this piece was really just a roundabout way to accomplish this. You know, the whole "I'm claiming to be ironic while saying things I actually believe" disingenuousness. I don't think that was the case with this piece, but I can certainly understand why some people would.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:29 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


> This feels precisely backwards to me. The New Yorker's schtick is appeal to precisely the type of people who (stereotypically) like jazz.

That was true in the 70s and maybe the 80s, but I don't think so now. Its music writers cover pop, rock and electronic music more frequently than jazz, and this has been true since the Tina Brown days.

It strikes me that the responses to the piece in this Mefi thread breaks down along the lines of, "I know the jazz scene and I liked it," and "I don't know the jazz scene and didn't like it." The premise of the piece is too insidery for a general audience.
posted by ardgedee at 7:34 AM on August 5


I dunno, "black artist really isn't an intellectual, is naive 'natural' performer who doesn't understand the value or meaning of his own work" isn't exactly a new or particularly funny narrative. I love Sonny Rollins and I get that this is amusing precisely because he's so amazingly accomplished and brilliant, but I think the toxic history of this kind of writing about artists of color is such that it would have been better not to.
posted by Frowner at 7:37 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


If it stirs up enough internet brouhaha to get a few people to give Saxophone Colossus a listen, it's worth it.
posted by slkinsey at 7:38 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


I dunno, "black artist really isn't an intellectual, is naive 'natural' performer who doesn't understand the value or meaning of his own work" isn't exactly a new or particularly funny narrative.

That isn't the joke, though. The joke is "jazz is pointless noodling on instruments that doesn't sound very good." It's also not particularly new or funny, either, but that's the joke.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:46 AM on August 5


> If you need to be told this is satire, you might be a bit tone-deaf.

It's perfectly obvious this is satire (anyone who doesn't understand that is an idiot), but it's bad satire. The New Yorker publishes a lot of very funny stuff (cartoons aside, though they seem to have been getting better in that department lately), but this is not funny. I suspect trying to put out ten zillion online pieces in addition to the physical magazine is causing dilution of the product.
posted by languagehat at 7:50 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


I think the joke is, "living jazz legend saying things about jazz and his life as a performer that are 180 degrees the opposite of what he would actually say and evoke opinions of the unhip." Things like "In walked Bud Powell" couldn't be a clearer shout out to the informed.
posted by slkinsey at 7:50 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


It strikes me that the responses to the piece in this Mefi thread breaks down along the lines of, "I know the jazz scene and I liked it," and "I don't know the jazz scene and didn't like it."

In which case I'll chime in to say that as a former jazz musician, I dislike the piece just because I dislike that style of humor. This type of satire is the intelligentsia's equivalent of Adam Sandler. I don't find it to be clever or funny, just dumb.

I will, however, grant that taking it seriously is dumber.
posted by cribcage at 7:53 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I don't know much about jazz. This is not a very "insidery" piece. The objection that Sonny Rollins didn't actually say that he wished he had been an accountant, or "We must have jammed together for five more hours, right through sunrise. That was the worst day of my life.", or "I really don't know why I keep doing this. Inertia, I guess." is basically insane.

The joke is not "black artist really isn't an intellectual, is naive 'natural' performer who doesn't understand the value or meaning of his own work" nor is it "jazz is pointless noodling on instruments that doesn't sound very good." The piece simply inverts romantic narratives around old-time jazz, narratives that don't require anything more than a bare familiarity with jazz. Instead of music being something beautiful that people love, it's something that parents force their kids to do, something that sounds horrible, an unsatisfying job that the narrator sticks to because he's in a rut and can't get out of it. Jazz musicians dress sharply "as if to conceal the fact that we were spending all our time playing jazz in some basement."

Not the funniest piece in the history of the world, but I wouldn't have thought it required deconstruction either.
posted by leopard at 7:53 AM on August 5 [7 favorites]


It's perfectly obvious this is satire (anyone who doesn't understand that is an idiot), but it's bad satire.

Precisely. I know and love jazz (not that I'm an expert by any means), and this piece is clearly satire, but it's poorly executed and only weakly funny.
posted by sallybrown at 7:54 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Satire ain't always funny, that's for damn sure. This is just lame. Like when a 60 year old white guy tries to rap.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:58 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Even worse, The New Yorker never bothered to warn readers that the column was satire. Apparently, the magazine thinks we all should know what's a joke and what's not. [...] The irony in all of this is that the column, though fiction, might have been funny if we knew what was going on.
LOL. Myers certainly is holding on quite tenaciously to the wrong end of the stick. The piece really isn't funny at all — when I read it I had a hard time imagining anyone so pious and reverential about jazz that this would seem like a cutting, rather than a tired, form of satire — but this kind of priggish reaction certainly does that job. Instead of the weak editorial note they should've just published excerpts from Myers's reaction below the original piece; it's much funnier.
posted by RogerB at 8:03 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Linus Pauling said that?
posted by Segundus at 8:04 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


Thinking about this bait more - the reason is was a catastrophe was that for most people reading it it did not conform to Benign Violation Theory

For Jazz fans, it was not benign, because the association with Sonny Rollins and the way it was presented seemed malicious. For non-jazz fans it was not a violation because they didn't understand enough about jazz for it to be consistently funny. Which only left people who kind of knew about jazz, and for that audience jokes about jazz are not at all new territory.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 8:15 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


There are things about jazz music, musicians and culture that might make for good satire, but the problem with this piece is that it's just not that funny.

There's little in it specific to Rollins himself, and the "In Walked Bud" reference aside, not much to suggest that the person who wrote it even knows much about jazz beyond the broadest possible stereotypes. Effective satire requires at least an understanding, and often an affection, for the thing being satirized, and I'm not getting any of that from this. The only "joke" is the incongruity of someone like Rollins supposedly saying all that stuff, and when that falls flat, you got nothin'.

Marc Myers is laying on the butthurt a bit heavily, but I think he's right in saying that they wouldn't have tried this with Paul McCartney, Jay-Z, Willie Nelson, Yo Yo Ma, etc., for fear of getting sued. IANAL, and I know the standards are different for public figures, but it seems like this could be portrayed as an illicit use of Rollins' name & likeness, defamation, interference with his ability to make a living, that sort of thing. Not that I think it would be a good idea for him to sue - just commenting, refuting and then moving on, as he seems to have done via the video, seems like the smartest thing to do. That, and avoiding any future "humor" pieces by the same author.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 8:15 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I didn't think the piece required deconstruction either, leopard, but it obviously does for some readers and I'm totally on board with your offering.
posted by Cheezitsofcool at 8:17 AM on August 5


Gold's response
posted by josher71 at 8:17 AM on August 5


There were people upset with Spielberg because of a safari photograph showing he'd bagged a triceratops or somesuch.

Idiots abound. I look forward to the day they are wholly ignored.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:18 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Jazz is stupid.
posted by Naberius at 8:19 AM on August 5


The New Yorker piece isn't funny, or creative. Critics have it right this time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:27 AM on August 5


What is completely brilliant about this piece is the extent to which it has exposed how pompous and completely out of touch so many writer/critic/blogger types in the jazz world are. Howard Mandel and Marc Myers have done nothing more but reinforce the worst stereotypes of people who are into this music.

I may not think it's the most brilliant thing I've ever read, but it did get a chuckle or two out of me and it was not only completely obvious from the very beginning that the words were not actually Rollins's, but also that the writer had a fondness for Rollins's oeuvre. I've been a listener for over 25 years, and have plenty of friends who have been playing for many more years. None of us have reacted like Mandel and Myers, et al., who very well may be great people but have come across as the worst kind of condescending and humorless asses over this.
posted by slkinsey at 8:46 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


there are troubling racial overtones to it

What?

I dunno, "black artist really isn't an intellectual, is naive 'natural' performer who doesn't understand the value or meaning of his own work" isn't exactly a new or particularly funny narrative. I love Sonny Rollins and I get that this is amusing precisely because he's so amazingly accomplished and brilliant, but I think the toxic history of this kind of writing about artists of color is such that it would have been better not to.

Where does this misreading come from? There were no racial overtones to the piece. Django Gold is white. Sonny Rollins is black. These are facts, yes, but they don't work their way into the piece.

It was satire. It was intentionally ridiculous from start to finish and made no judgments about its subject, other than the implication that to be an object of satire you are a person of venerable stature. It's a compliment that requires a sense of humor to understand.
posted by GrapeApiary at 8:46 AM on August 5


"If Sonny was offended by what I wrote, I sincerely apologize to him for that; given all the joy his music has produced for me, this would be a hell of a way to repay him. No apologies for anyone else, though—all this humorlessness and tedious moral posturing only reinforces the worst stereotypes about jazz fans."

I don't disagree with that. I also think it's a worthwhile point to add on that particular webpage. Howard Mandel is not somebody I would ever take seriously in any context whatsoever, but I'm skimming those comments and seeing a lot of names I recognize. That's a little disheartening. It's also typical of the jazz world. There is so much brilliance wrapped in so much idiocy.

So I guess I'm on Django Gold's side, although I still think he is basically Adam Sandler.
posted by cribcage at 8:47 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


It's always so weird to see people proclaiming what is and what isn't funny, and when it's the New Yorker everybody is apparently obligated to present their opinion. So there isn't a one-size-fits-all for humour, who knew? Maybe those Just For Laughs sight gags they show on in-flight entertainment, or Mr. Bean?
posted by Flashman at 8:50 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


What is completely brilliant about this piece is the extent to which it has exposed how pompous and completely out of touch so many writer/critic/blogger types in the jazz world are.

What? Out of touch with who?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:52 AM on August 5


probably the only musician alive in terms of their contribution to music who is even in the same league is Paul McCartney

Yes, and lord knows no one makes fun of Paul McCartney. Certainly not writers for the Onion.
posted by echo target at 8:53 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Ugh. Might as well be, "A lot of people like jazz, but jazz is actually bad." It was just flatly dumb throughout, like a high school kid artlessly persevering through My Funny Valentine. I like jazz, I got the joke pretty quickly; the joke was old and weak like gas station coffee.
posted by klangklangston at 8:58 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


"Howard Mandel is not somebody I would ever take seriously in any context whatsoever"

his work on st elsewhere was surprisingly nuanced
posted by klangklangston at 9:00 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Sometimes when I read the Shouts & Murmurs page, I have a great laugh and feel compelled to show it to somebody else. Other times I shrug after a few seconds and move on the next article.

You guys care, right?
posted by leopard at 9:01 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


The funniest part of this satire is Mark Myers thinking that a New Yorker editor could be scammed into thinking a "Shouts & Murmurs" piece is real, "Or (and this is even worse), the New Yorker's editor also was scammed into thinking that Sonny said all of these things in his own words and allowed it to be posted as fact."
posted by gladly at 9:02 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


What? Out of touch with who?

Definitely me.
posted by josher71 at 9:03 AM on August 5


What? Out of touch with who?

The way the internet works? Modern humor? Modern humor on the internet? The list goes on.

The very idea that someone would believe that article contains actual quotations from Sonny Rollins is so laughable.
posted by slkinsey at 9:07 AM on August 5


Really? Nobody yet?
Django Gold — Christ, what an asshole.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:16 AM on August 5


I thought the piece was pretty funny! It reads like it started out as an Onion op-ed of the "famous person acting wildly out of character" variety, with the brow hastily cranked a couple of notches higher. I'm astounded that anyone is reading it as an attack on Rollins or jazz.
posted by theodolite at 9:17 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


For such a lame squib, this has produced a surprising number of very funny, pious, clueless responses. Ted Gioia wonders whether it's even legal. And don't miss Nicholas Payton in high dudgeon:
Wow, that’s funny! It’s about as funny as some White people think it is to let their kids run wild in a restaurant or on an airplane terrorizing the other patrons. It’s about as funny as how those kids grow up to be government officials who terrorize Africans or Palestinians.
posted by RogerB at 9:18 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


It's not all that funny and would have been fine as Just Another Onion Article (though it would need a funnier title). Now, thanks to the angry responses, way more people have read it than would have otherwise. I guess this counts as a win for The New Yorker. Or something.
posted by tommasz at 9:27 AM on August 5


Oh man from that Payton piece: "And it doesn’t matter to me what color this Django is, it’s nerdy White boy humor. Someone at The New Yorker shouldn’t have left that Django Unchained."

Like, I don't think the Shouts and Murmurs piece is particularly funny or lands well as satire but, damn dude, at least wait a sentence or two between critiquing someone's sense of humor and making a joke that wouldn't be out of place in a Jackie Harvey column.
posted by griphus at 9:29 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I love Sonny Rollins because I wouldn't have made it through 2002 without Saxophone Colossus. Still, this seems like yet another example of the Outrage of the Century of the Week™.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:33 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I know nothing about jazz and it seemed obvious to me that this was written by somebody who does know something about jazz, and likes jazz, and that if there's piss being taken here, it's being taken out of the people who say jazz is just pointless noodling etc.

And as "famous person acting wildly out of character" op-eds go, I thought it was pretty amusing.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:38 AM on August 5


Sonny Rollins has such an amazing media presence in his old age, posting on his Facebook page, doing Google Hangouts, so many interviews and performances; the guy never stops working. So, yeah, unfunny satire, whatever, but Sonny can speak on it in his own words and obviously nothing is going to diminish his rep as one of the giants of all time. There is a sense of Don B.'s deep affection for jazz in the piece linked above that doesn't come through in this piece, but maybe it's the style of the times and gentle satire isn't sharp enough to cut in this post-postmodern age. Sonny on the other hand, he can cut your head off. My personal favourite, Leonard Cohen with Sonny Rollins - Who By Fire.
posted by Lorin at 9:46 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Nicholas Payton is a child. Paying attention to his ramblings is like taking your political cues from Kanye West.

...which actually is an apt comparison. I don't know Kanye West's music, but everybody who does know his music says he's a genius. I can believe that. He's also a moron. We have plenty of that in jazz. Payton isn't the best example because he hasn't done anything noteworthy since he was a Young Lion, but Wayne Shorter works better. Wayne is one of the brightest composers in the history of American music, and arguably the best small-group composer in the history of jazz. I also wouldn't vote for him for school board, let alone listen to him on anything of actual import.

And then there's somebody like Wynton Marsalis, who, agree with him or not, is brilliant. I could listen to him talk for hours—occasionally shouting back at the radio maybe, but still. Put him onstage with Wayne Shorter, and they are towering equals. Stick them behind podiums and make them talk, and, well, not so much. There are all different kinds of intelligence. Some folks should just play the horn.
posted by cribcage at 9:49 AM on August 5


I didn't read this piece as being about jazz at all. I read it as being about alienating labour. The tragedy of going to work day after day doing something that you hate, made absurd by juxtaposition with an occupation defined by love and passion and dedication. That it was Sonny Rollins and jazz seems incidental. You could substitute any creative profession.
I thought it was funny but also deeply sad, when you realize that the world is full of people who genuinely feel that way about the work they do.
posted by calmsea at 10:05 AM on August 5 [7 favorites]


So, I guess the question I have is: why did Gold decide to use Rollins? Yeah, yeah, satire etc, but ... I tend to think there are very few neutral decisions, and so I am curious what the end result of 'Yeah let's use Rollins because....' is.
Put me in the camp of, 'obvious not serious, but pretty lame' camp. Anytime you have to add a ''just joking'' postscript is a good time to take stock of what you are doing, and hiding behind 'satire' is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. As they say, ironic racism/sexism/etc is still racist/sexist/etc.
posted by edgeways at 10:23 AM on August 5


Yeah, yeah, satire etc, but ... I tend to think there are very few neutral decisions, and so I am curious what the end result of 'Yeah let's use Rollins because....' is.

I don't know that the answer is all that satisfying, from the Gold's response link above,
2. As has been correctly speculated, Sonny Rollins was chosen more-or-less at random as the “subject” of this piece. I believe the other top candidates were Ornette Coleman and Jim Hall, but I figured Rollins had the name recognition. What I wrote has nothing to do with Rollins personally; it is clearly more about the popular conception of jazz and its history. Given the feedback I have read thus far, I suppose “clearly” may not be the right word to use here.
I wonder if Ornette Coleman would have gone over better.
posted by gladly at 10:32 AM on August 5


Somehow, the fact that Django Gold is apparently not a pseudonym just makes this all worse.
posted by Naberius at 10:33 AM on August 5


From Gold's response linked above:
As has been correctly speculated, Sonny Rollins was chosen more-or-less at random as the “subject” of this piece. I believe the other top candidates were Ornette Coleman and Jim Hall, but I figured Rollins had the name recognition.
Anytime you have to add a ''just joking'' postscript is a good time to take stock of what you are doing

I'm pretty sure whoever added that postscript took stock and thought: "Jesus Christ are these knuckleheads pompous twits." Would that be incorrect?

and hiding behind 'satire' is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. As they say, ironic racism/sexism/etc is still racist/sexist/etc.

Where exactly is the racism, ironic or not, in this piece?
posted by leopard at 10:34 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


and hiding behind 'satire' is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. As they say, ironic racism/sexism/etc is still racist/sexist/etc.

Where exactly is the racism, ironic or not, in this piece?


Well the sexism seems pretty obvious to me, and did I detect a hint of transphobia in the Editor's Note?
posted by amorphatist at 10:59 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


"and obviously nothing is going to diminish his rep as one of the giants of all time.

he is a saxophone colossus some might say
posted by klangklangston at 11:09 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


"Wayne Shorter works better. Wayne is one of the brightest composers in the history of American music, and arguably the best small-group composer in the history of jazz. I also wouldn't vote for him for school board, let alone listen to him on anything of actual import."

Wouldn't listen to him on anything of actual import? Juju? Speak No Evil? Moto Grosso Feio? In A Silent Way? Bitches Brew?

(Maybe I'm misunderstanding and you're saying that you wouldn't listen to his political opinions on anything you cared about.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:16 AM on August 5


I'm somewhat skeptical that Rollins was picked "more-or-less at random" with his large (relative to jazz) media presence and pieces like this one in Esquire floating around. That's real, right?
"That’s my curse. I have to play. That’s what I’m known for. “Saxophone Colossus,” remember?"
posted by Lorin at 11:19 AM on August 5


Clearly "Django Gold" is Borowitz' pseudonym for when he wants to write edgy.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:20 AM on August 5


Wow, I did not know that Rollins is doing things like Google hangouts
posted by thelonius at 11:25 AM on August 5


hiding behind 'satire' is not a get-out-of-jail-free card

And hiding behind outrage is not an excuse for a failure of critical thinking. This is really no different from past occasions in which people were fooled by Onion articles or the right-wing posturing of the 'Stephen Colbert' character. The "OK, so it's satire—but it's not funny!" rationalizations didn't fly then, and they don't fly now.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:25 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


> (Maybe I'm misunderstanding and you're saying that you wouldn't listen to his political opinions on anything you cared about.)

That's how I read it. But I think only people who are well-versed in public speechism would get the reference, and Metafilter might be too general audience for public speechostrophy. Maybe it needed a disclaimer.
posted by ardgedee at 11:36 AM on August 5


On previewing, I see Ardgedee beat me to it. And funnier.

On a more upbeat note, Wayne Shorter's work in the past ten or fifteen years has been remarkable. Both Shorter and Rollins were moving mountains once, but I have to say that in 2014, I'd be more more energized about seeing Shorter's band live. His record labels haven't done an awesome job about documenting what he has been up to, but there are recordings out there to be found. They are worth checking out.
posted by cribcage at 11:43 AM on August 5


Nic Payton is a very good jazz trumpet player, and a mediocre R&B singer/songwriter who seems to have taken to trolling the Internet around the time his hoped-for commercial breakthrough R&B album (can't recall the name, sorry) was flopping badly. He got some attention for it - his big hobbyhorse is that jazz should be renamed Black American Music, or BAM for short - and so has continued. Apparently, there's a certain percentage of folks in the jazz world who are not familiar with all Internet traditions, and thus can be suckered into responding to Payton.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:18 PM on August 5


The original piece wasn't particularly funny. I have no problem with people taking the piss out of jazz, but a bit of wit wouldn't have gone amiss here. Still, the reaction from the jazzers seems even more humourless...
posted by peterkins at 1:05 PM on August 5


> So I guess I'm on Django Gold's side

Because some idiots responded idiotically to his idiotic piece of non-humor? Nobody's making you choose sides, you know.
posted by languagehat at 1:18 PM on August 5


The "it isn't funny because it isn't funny" theme here is pretty... funny.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:21 PM on August 5


I thought it was funny. Just because some people didn't find it funny doesn't mean that their opinions are the only valid ones. I also didn't think it was idiotic. I thought it was fairly clever.
posted by Slinga at 1:51 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


The recurring "well if you're going to be edgy and make fun of Jesus you need to be hilaaaarious and this comes up short" theme in the comments is also pretty funny. This isn't trying to be edgy or offensive, it's just that some people are easily outraged morons.
posted by leopard at 2:01 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


I wish I could link to "Admit it: Jazz sucks" by Joe Queenan from Spy magazine. Because it is funny and we could use some laughs here.
posted by acrasis at 5:42 PM on August 5


Ornette Coleman has already attracted so much of this type of stuff that that particular seam is mined out.

And who is this Jim Hall? kidding
posted by Wolof at 12:07 AM on August 6


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