Jazz is Not a Punchline?

So, here’s this video.


My main issue with the movie La La Land is how Seb, the character played by Gosling, is so preoccupied with saving jazz. He wants (what modern jazz musicians would call “straight ahead jazz”, because it’s what is historically the most “jazz” sounding jazz that is still played today, even though fusion, latin, and funk and rock-influenced varieties of the genre, not to mention stuff like Haitian Jazz and the ways in which jazz has been embraced by soul, gospel, and world music traditions, are probably reaching a peak of popularity, and are more than well and alive today) to be “saved,” preferably by him.

Now, I get it. Gosling is making a joke at how this is how the world reacted to him, by sarcastically noting Seb’s ambition to save “jazz,” without caring what people of color had to say about it, even though no jazz musician would tell you that jazz is dead. But this monologue not only reminds us of how flawed Seb’s intentions and worldview are, but it gets away with not really apologizing for treating jazz as a punchline.

See, jazz is thriving because of people who care about it. It might not be in the mainstream, and it might not sound or look a whole lot like what it did in 1959, but it’s not exactly dying. And sure, there’s more amplified and electronics based and augmented instrumentation, and more comingling with other genres, but jazz is doing great. It’s not something to be saved (though it’s not exactly in the mainstream, constantly like it might’ve been in its hey-day), and it’s especially not something to be treated like a punchline to a really awful joke.

Jazz is my worldview, my lens to see the world. I am Mexican, American, a jazz musician, a student, and a catholic. My being fits into these five identities, give or take a few things. But Jazz is at the center of my existence. It is neither a joke nor a dead entity in need of saving.

If you disagree, then that’s fine. Maybe I’m just a musician. Maybe jazz is dead. Maybe I’m seriously in the wrong here. But let me at cry at the wake myself. My eulogy might begin with





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