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Sideshow freaks in the history of jazz,
This review is from: Kuroi Orpheus (Hybr) (Audio CD)
There is no reason to hold to the belief that musicians from very different cultures cannot absorb, explore, reflect and even live musical influences from anywhere else, or from other times, and bring fresh insights and inventiveness to them. To assume that only African Americans hold the secret key to whatever 'jazz' is, is a kind of inverted snobbery, bordering on inverted racism: although one comes across plenty of disdainful comments from black jazz musicians and critics, regarding 'white' European jazz, yet in truth there has been much fertile crossing-over and collaboration down the years.
What, then, are we to make of Japanese jazz? Personally, I have discovered it for myself only recently. Although most of the seminal recordings appear to date from the mid-1970s, I had been completely unaware of them until now. I find it hugely enjoyable, refreshing, exciting - if sometimes technically gauche, yet it shows how deeply American jazz influences have penetrated other cultures and are treated with reverence as well as panache. It's a fresh take on an old tune - and remarkably free of the usual wailing saxophones and trumpeting gymnastics.
I would really love to be able to collect the music I am hearing now on YouTube clips, of exceptional musicians like Suzuki and Yamamoto. But, for some inexplicable commercial reason, their output is priced far beyond the possibility of anyone other than the most dedicated millionaires supporting them and spreading the slender knowledge there is of their music in the literature: compare the pages and pages on Wikipedia on almost any American jazzman or woman you can name, with the skimpy paragraphs on Japanese musicians, accompanied by messages pleading for more information.
The digital CD is an infinitely rewritable medium. Whereas a vinyl recording can be said to have some collectibility, assuming a limited pressing, and few people (I suspect) own the equipment needed to press new ones, even if they have the original tapes, there is nothing to stop a record company writing thousands of CDs, even copying them from copies with little loss of signal; or an individual making home copies of a listenably high standard, from whatever source. Why in the world, then, is one asked to pay $200, $300, even $400 for a 'new' CD of a Japanese jazz combo of the mid-70s, when priceless back-catalogue recordings of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Lady Day, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, etcetera can be had for ten bucks in beautifully remastered reissues from their original recording companies like Blue Note and Columbia, so that everyone can come to know and love their work?
This is surely a self-defeating commercial practice on the part of Japanese distributors, selfish greed and stupidity that will simply bury great music and great musicians forever in a historical time-capsule, making Japanese musicians mere sideshow freaks in the ever-evolving story of jazz. Shame on you.