Wednesday, December 16, 2009
U.S. House Salutes Miles and Honors Jazz; Will Words = Action?
The U.S. House of Representatives apparently does (or is striking the right pose), and hopes that you do, too.
By a vote of 409-0, the House on Tuesday approved the passage of H.Res.894, which honors the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis's classic Kind of Blue album and calls jazz "a national treasure."
Yes, it's never too late to salute the modal masterpiece, which has Miles' moody trumpet topping textures supplied by pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Jimmy Cobb. A two-disc Legacy edition of the album, with alternate takes and an extended live version of "So What," was released in January.
In the "whereas" prelude, remarkably enough, the resolution points out that the album was certified quadruple-platinum (4 million copies sold) last year by the RIAA; that it was recognized as the best-selling recording in jazz history; and that it "continues to be the standard masterpiece of jazz for American musicians and audiences."
Nicely stated, and mostly true.
Here's what the resolution does:
(1) honors the 50th anniversary of `Kind of Blue’ and recognizes the unique contribution the album has made to American jazz;
(2) directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to transmit enrolled copies of this resolution to Columbia Records;
(3) encourages the United States Government to take all appropriate steps to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music;
(4) recommits itself to ensuring that musical artists such as Miles Davis and his Sextet receive fair protection under the copyright laws of the United States for their contributions to culture in the United States; and
(5) reaffirms the status of jazz as a national treasure.
The resolution was sponsored by Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat, who said Miles' group "made musical history and changed the artistic landscape of this country and in some ways the world."
As Seattle trumpeter Jason Parker suggests on his One Working Musician blog, it's great when important people say nice things about jazz. But lip service ain't enough.
Parker offers several good strategies to help the House -- and oh yeah, where's the Senate? -- turn words into action, including getting more of that governmental arts funding directly into the hands of local arts organizations, and making sure that jazz isn't left out of the mix when it comes to arts funding.
How else can jazz lovers with power and/or deep pockets help honor jazz? Here's one way: Launch an organization, with an affiliated international conference, that's as large and influential as the International Association for Jazz Education once was.
The IAJE, previously known as the International Association of Jazz Educators, served as a global clearing house and common ground for jazz educators, musicians, recording labels, radio people, critics, managers and practically everyone else with a stake in the future of jazz. And then, a couple of years ago, the organization imploded over fiscal irregularities, to say the least.
It's time for the rise of another jazz organization as ambitious and jazz-connected as the IAJE. And maybe Conyers' resolution will give that cause just the boost it needs.