So, recently I saw the indiegogo video for the Don Cheadle produced homage the great Miles Dewey Davis. On a sidenote… please support this effort by Don Cheadle to honor this great American through this film project “Miles Straight Ahead”. Miles Davis was and is a great American, how do I know this? He was an interesting musician, artist, business persona, personality. He helped music change about five or six times during his lifetime by leading the charge in experimenting with sounds and textures. I would argue that he is our Stravinsky, he is our Schoenberg. How does that make him a great American you may ask? Well … it doesn’t.
Your artistic output shouldn’t solely be able to place you in the category of great citizen or member of the republic. However, your public and private acts of questioning and speaking out aloud for or against topics does. Miles was an asshole to some and a savior to many. He helped change many lives through his playing and compositions. BUT,…but… what really placed an inedible mark in the column of great American for him was his ideas about race, color and above all the place that music should have in our community. As I watch the indiegogo campaign video, I was reminded that Miles like other great “jazz” artist had disdain for the term “JAZZ”.
He and Duke Ellington, as well as many other jazz musicians were documented throughout the history of the music disagreeing with the term. Nicholas Payton and many other new musicians involved in crafting the new directions and paths of this great American music that most people call “jazz” have lead the charge to call it by the bigger distinction of Black American Music (#BAM). It is true that the music came out of the black community in New Orleans, as many other American folk musics i.e. Blues, R&B, Hip-Hop, etc. However, if we zoom out even more.. we can see what Duke and Miles were talking about. We can see the music as being social.
“Jazz” for the lack of a better term, is social music. Socializing is the main function of all art, and most specifically music. Performances are no good with audiences of at least one other person. All music serves the same functions and directions as life. To serve the function of communicating our emotions and feelings, our desires and expectations, the good and the bad in life. So, as I was reminded today through watching this video asking for support of Miles Davis bio-pic, all Black American Music forms are social music.
I will explore this more in coming months… but I had to jot this down before I forgot. Read ya later.
Jarritt A Sheel