AFTER NEW JAZZ SITCOM GOES LIVE, WHITE COLLEGE STUDENTS RANT SAYING “JAZZ WAS SAVED BY WHITE PEOPLE” AND “BLACK PEOPLE DON’T LISTEN TO IT ANYMORE”
A controversy arose on social media following a recent BlackNews.com story entitled, “Giant Steps TV Show — America’s First Jazz Sitcom Launches on Amazon” which was published on October, 31, 2017. Apparently, three white students at The New School School in New York posted that the show “sucked” and was “bad for jazz”, “not remotely funny or interesting”, and then followed with a claim that “whites saved jazz because Black people don’t listen to it anymore” and that “whites have evolved the music to be more intellectually engaging”. They further offered anecdotal proof claiming that booking agents nationwide hire more white artists than black artists.
This happened on the same day that Grammy award-winning iconic drummer Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts had given the show 5 Stars on Amazon, where the bulk of comments surrounding the show applaud it as funny, entertaining, historic, and a first step in addressing the plight of jazz within the sitcom format, utilizing three top Black musicians as the principal actors.
Several musicians excoriated the students’ assertions, including William Murray, an celebrated original member of the famed Howard University Jazz Ensemble, legendary bassist Mickey Bass, who stars in the show, and Dr. Geraldine Seay a Florida A&M history professor and owner of B Sharp’s Jazz Club in Tallahassee, Florida.
Former Duke Ellington Orchestra alum Gregory Charles Royal, who created, wrote, and co-stars in Giant Steps with Mickey Bass and Lauryn Hill saxophonist Brent Birckhead said, “These comments open up a simmering wound that has been on the surface for decades. Jazz in no way knows color, but in every way it knows tradition. Many Black musicians feel that the ill effects of academia have created a class of people who have no idea about jazz’s traditions, nuances, humor or historical context.”
He continues, “We never expected people such as this to ‘get it’ with our show. And obviously the show will improve its production quality as we move out of the pilot. But the bigger issue is do we as Americans want our artforms co-opted by people who have no sense or desire to respect or understand tradition or context? That jazz is the only Black artform that has been co-opted to this extent, Giant Steps and other future shows depicting the jazz experience in creative ways are an obligation of its warriors to produce.”
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