Come Out and Play | Letters | Chicago Reader

Come Out and Play 

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Response to "Jazz in Bloom" by Jeffrey Felshman, published 26 January, 2001, by Chicago Reader:

David Bloom deserves much credit, not only for the dogged pursuit of his musical vision, but also for the unorthodox way he went about it. Eschewing the academic route entirely, he set up his own school. Not looking to anyone for approval but the internalized voices of his own musical masters, he set out on a quest to bring his message of what he thinks is great to his disciples.

Anyone who has come up against academic committees that are more interested in your resumé than your sound can appreciate Bloom's achievement. Music is still, by and large, the last profession where demonstrative skill wins out over academic record, but often at the cost of ostracism, rancor, and the jealousy of the PhD Mafia. As one who is familiar with the resentment of "classically trained" musicians when you encroach on their turf (I teach blues, jazz, rock, Celtic, folk, Beatles, etc without the benefit of an advanced degree at the Fine Arts Building, a bastion of conservative musical thinking), I lift my hat to David Bloom for having succeeded at establishing himself as a successful teacher.

Having given a full measure of praise, I must amend this hagiography by stating that I find it disturbing that Mr. Bloom no longer performs. Nothing short of losing the entire use of my body (i.e., death) would ever stop me from offering myself up, on more than a weekly basis, to the hazardous joy of performing live in front of audiences. Even at the risk of being perceived as a clown occasionally, performance is the very essence of what performing-arts teachers have to give their students. Instead of offering only a memory of glories past or historic associations with renowned artists, teachers of music, dance, and acting should be sharing the continuous adventure of performing.

Also, Mr. Bloom's dogmatic and narrow concept of music bothers me. Music is an ocean, not a private pool. The last thing we need in this new century is another generation of jazz snobs who share a fundamentally conservative view that all good music has already happened and new things are to be treated with contempt. That kind of calcified thinking yields nothing but deafness to the strange, the "incorrect," and the new. Jazz music represents no more than 2 percent of the market share in America today. The people that consume the other 98 percent are not all wrong. There are many wonders and truths to be found in folk, pop, rock, blues, country, and yes, even (especially?) hip-hop music. Anybody who claims that theirs is the only way to the truth is exaggerating their own importance.

But again, Mr. Bloom's tenacity in the face of a largely deaf, indifferent world is praiseworthy indeed. I wish him well and hope he keeps up the good work of passing what he thinks is great in jazz to another generation.

Mick Archer

S. Michigan Ave.

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