February 02, 2009
Thunder Soul; or, a Secretary for the Arts?
Just because you're not a drummer, doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time.
Pat your foot & sing the melody in your head when you play.
Stop playing all that bullshit those weird notes, play the melody!
Make the drummer sound good.
Discrimination is important.
You've got to dig it, you dig?
All reet! ...
E: Buddy Smith told me that you came up with Illinois Jacquet!
C: Yeah. We used to play. Arnette Cobb too. We all lived in Houston, I played…. well, during those days it was different. To advertise, if a company put out — let’s say a new brand of soda water — well, they would advertise it by putting a band on a truck and letting the truck drive around the city. Or they would have us play at the stand where they were selling, and the music would draw people to the stand. Illinois was a drummer at that time! This was around 1939 or 1940.
E: Were there any other local musicians that blew your mind?
C: There was a band called The Birmingham Blues Blowers. This was in Houston. We listened to them quite a bit. They played many proms at the school. I remember peeping through the windows of the gymnasium when I was a little kid to watch them play. I said, “I want to do that!”
C: Just out of high school. I played almost every joint in Houston, whether they had small bands or whatever. I was all over the place.
E: What was it like, being a black performer at the time of Jim Crow? Segregation, outright racism?
C: I’m going to explain it to you like this. At that time, the people – black and white - who really had the money to hire the players wanted black performers. Because they were the naturals - blacks introduced jazz to the world.
E: So it wasn’t hard for you to get gigs?
C: Man, we had almost all the gigs! I was working all I wanted to. Blacks introduced this music. If people wanted to get real jazz, they had to hire black bands.
Perhaps more audaciously, Ivey is also calling on corporations to think more deeply about their responsibility to society and for the nonprofit arts sector, in turn, to study examples from the commercial realm for innovative new models to consider: "When Goddard Lieberson was president of Columbia Records, he viewed a record label as a public trust: He knew it would always have a vibrant classical division even if it didn't contribute to the bottom line, because it didn't operate as a subset of a subset of a multinational corporation. Today, with boards of directors harassed by shareholders each quarter, they don't have the flexibility to take risks that produce great art." HBO, by contrasting example, "sells subscriptions and produces content that generates buzz and a perception of quality, which is how you get 'Angels in America,' certainly one of the most important TV events of the last 24 months." Should it prove unable or unwilling to study new models, the arts will be "ignoring the fact that both the nonprofit and commercial business models make it very tough to make creative decisions. Among nonprofits, it's budget constraints, the inability to grow new revenue streams. Among for-profits, it's parent companies chasing stock prices and the inability to think of artists' development over the long haul." Neither of which, he says, are healthy for our culture.
Posted by Katherine McNamara at 12:07 AM | Permalink
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