Page 10 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, April 5, 1989
Prejudice still keeps jazz from mainstream
BY LIAM FLAHERTY
THE fact that jazz is the one origi-
nal American art form is not due to
some fortuitous geographical acci-
dent. The music was born out of the
American experience, from the crux
which remains our self-defining na-
tional shame. That is, the relations
between Blacks and' whites - or, as
Amiri Baraka expresses that eu-
phemism, "our peculiar mode of
mutual mistrust." It is an organic
reality, not an isolated field of study
running parallel to the real story of
America. It is a tumor we have not
Jazz was created out of this fun-
damental tension, urban Blacks tak-
ing the instruments of European
concert music and setting them to
dance to ancestral rhythms. It was
from this original subversion - the
instruments of the oppressor appro-
priated back to the homeland - that
jazz has grown from. The musical
expression found itself on the other
side, Blacks telling the story that for
so long was available in white ver-
The tension has remained inherent
in the music; from Louis Arm-
strong's unrestrained riffs, Charlie
Parker's frantic bebop lines, the an-
gular mysteries of Monk, John
Coltrane's extensions, and Ornette
Coleman's dense counterpoint flow-
ering into melody. The creative ten-
sion is of the essence, not an aca-
demic contrivance of classical music
or the masturbatory, guilt-ridden
angst of much pop and rock.
After almost a century, jazz has
survived the clich6s assigned to it, as
well as numerous raids and co-opting
strikes. Yet it remains, for the most
part, music played by Blacks. This
must go a long way in explaining
its unceasing struggle to survive on
the market place. The only music it
outsells is classical, and even that
has not always held true. However,
classical music is firmly institution-
alized; Lincoln Center isn't going
anywhere, but no such guarantees
exist for the Village Vanguard.
Even those who support the mu-
sic have hurt it in no small measure
by their misproportioned attention.
Quirks of personality grow larger
than the music, creating the pitiful
fact that some people think of bebop
as berets and Jack Kerouac rather
than Charlie Parker on alto. Even
discussions of the music centers on
the extremities of style. Composi-
tion has always been neglected, but
the written legacy of "Confirmation"
and "Naima" are just as important as
Parker's speed and Coltrane's
screeches. The importance of groups
such as the Modern Jazz Quartet lie
in their ability to rectify these
prejudices. They can take even an
ephemeral piece such as Ornette
Coleman's "Lonely Woman" and lay
open its structural beauty.
These days it is said we are in the
midst of a jazz revival, but nobody
would deny its limit in scope and
impact. As far as television and radio
are concerned, jazz is still largely an
anathema - either wholly ignored
or subsumed under an amorphous
term such as "jazzy," which can
slapped on anything faster than rock
or with a horn solo.
Europeans have always held jazz
in higher esteem, and many Ameri-
can players have traveled there to
make a living. They are expatriates
in the truest sense, bringing across
the ocean something far less
portable, and more rooted, than pen,
paper, and mind. Perhaps Europeans,
grounded in the classical tradition,
can appreciate the freedom and
adventure more. Or perhaps they are
free of the weighty baggage Ameri-
cans barely manage to conceal, the
uneasy marriage that causes a native
art to take flight.
How many stereotypes can you find in this picture? In a scene from Sing, streetwise Italian youth
Dominick Zanetti and the Cheap Chicks prepare to perform in the Senior Sing.
Sing too imbecilic for words
BY DAVID LUBLINER
The catch phrase for this new film musical offers
the following advice: "Sing! When The Feeling Gets
Too Strong For Words!" Well, unfortunately (or may-
be fortunately), I can't sing this review, so I'm forced
to use words, despite my intense dislike for the movie.
In a blatant ripoff of such films as Fame and Foot-
loose, Sing attempts to combine the Italian culture in
Brooklyn with the song and dance of a high school
talent show. The similarities aren't surprising, consid-
ering that the same team (producer Craig Zadan and
lyricist Dean Pitchford) who created Footloose is re-
sponsible for this endeavor. The school and the setting
may be different, but the concept remains the same.
The movie is based on an annual city-wide high
school musical competition in which each class selects
a theme and produces its own show. Sing 's tradition
dates back to 1947 and has included such famed
performers as Barbra Streisand, Paul Simon and Art
Garfunkel. The only performer with any real talent in
this film is Patti LaBelle, but unfortunately she is
given just one number.
The community of Brooklyn Central High learns
that the board of education is planning to close down
their school. The students' last chance to express their
freedom is to put together this show on their own.
What follows is a montage of scenes depicting their
renewed dedication and commitment to the cause.
(Ugh! The feeling's growing stronger already.)
Sing overflows with stereotypes of the Italian
community, overexaggerated Brooklyn accents, and
one-dimensional characters. Peter Dobson (Pla in
Clothes) stars as Dominic Zametti, the typical
streetwise Italian youth who grudgingly comes to the
aid of his school when he discovers how much he cares
for the traditions of the community.
Lorraine Bracco (Someone to Watch Over Me, The
Pickup Artist) plays the idealistic, yet street-smart
teacher who returns to her home town of Brooklyn to
help restore its floundering Central High School.
Although Bracco is herself a Brooklyn native, her
portrayal appears forced and overemphasized. As the
characters in this film work overly hard to convince us
of their ethnicity, their performances become hardly
believable. (Here it is: I have got that queasy feeling in
Sing fails where films such as Moonstruck
andCrossing Delancey succeeded: in bringing the spirit
of a community and its culture alive. Because the char-
acters are so dry, the film provides no reason to care
about what happens to them. Sing lacks the sense of
realism which made these previous films so appealing.
Sing's last chance to save itself rests in the big
musical finale. Somehow it manages to fail here as
well. Although the dancing sequences are a lot of fun,
the annoying pop music (like Nia Peeples and Rachel
Sweet) which accompanies it ruins what's left of the
My friends who have taken part in the actual Sing
competition tell me that the movie hardly resembles
the real show. The filmmakers have transformed a low-
budget talent show into a high-tech, multicolored
event. I'm not surprised, though. We should expect
such things from Hollywood.
That's it. The feeling has definitely become too
strong for words.
Continued from Page 9
sizable dedicated core of fans and virtually no enemies.
Like the Who, R.E.M. is steered by two captains
whose navigational instruments are not always perfect-
ly aligned. Stipe, R.E.M.'s Townshend, can't separate
his social consciousness or his aesthetic goals from
the immediacy of the music he is performing. Buck,
while not as talentless as Roger Daltrey, seems to
aspire to more moderate plateaus of musicianship and
Wait a minute. The similarities and differences
between the two can be posited and hedged and sculpted
'til Lassie comes home, but when it comes down to
the very bottom line, R.E.M. is left choking on the
Who's exhaust. In terms of chart success, they have
only one moderate Top Ten showing: Document's
"The One I Love."
It's tempting to blame the radio programmers, the
shallow public, or the promotions managers for the
scarcity of R.E.M. on the radio, but ultimately it
comes down to the boys in the band. If they never
come through with a "Magic Bus," a "Baba O' Riley"
or even a "You Better You Bet" of their own, then the
promise of the no-longer-brand-new band will go
unfulfilled. Something about these guys won't let
them connect with a large audience. Somehow it all
seems insulated and untouchable, like they're encased
With Green, their first release on Warner Brothers,
R.E.M. makes some tentative advances into stardom.
Singles like "Orange Crush" and "Stand" will alienate
some fans in the self-involved college brat demograph-
ic, but will potentially win them a whole new follow-
ing. And who can argue against the numbers of a gig
in Cobo Arena, where tens of thousands once saw
Huey Lewis and the News?
R.E.M. will performtonight at Cobo Arena in
Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18.50.
Continued from Page 9
But not all of the Dead's public-
ity has been so, ummm, rosy
(ouch!). They recently cancelled a
string of March concerts at the
Kaiser Convention Center in Oak-
land, California. Neighbors of the
Center complained to the city coun-
cil about Heads cooking on their
lawns, littering, using all sorts of
non-appropriate bathrooms, and
sleeping in the area several days be-
fore the Dead arrived. The Dead have
always been plagued by the less than
considerate actions of a minority of
their fans; if the recent Oakland
incident proved anything it is that
Deadheads are no different than most
people - in most bags, there will
be seeds and stems.
. The only way these problems are
going to go away is for Heads to
clean up their act themselves, which
you can take literally at the Recycle
Ann Arbor recycling booth in the
The romance of travelling around
the country without has appealed to
Americans since at least the 1760s
(cf. Daniel Boone, Tom Sawyer,
Kerouac, etc.). It really is eas-
ier/cheaper than you might think,
and for many people, getting to a
Dead concert is half the fun. But
ultimately, all the travelling, retread
fashions, drugs, and now progressive
politics come down to is the music.
In the first four shows of the Spring
Tour, the only repeat was one of the
new songs. But the Ann Arbor
shows will still have some pre-
dictable bits: we'll get to hear the
new tunes, they will do a Dylan
cover o; three, and you can always
bet on the three most played songs
in ' R ."I Need A Miracle" 12
times], "Playing In The Band," and
"Hell In A Bucket" [24 each]). In
Pittsburgh on Sunday they hauled
out three comparatively rare ones,
"Dire Wolf' (5 in '88), "Shakedown
Street" (5), and "US Blues" (11).
Personally, I'll be hoping for an
album-speed version of "Friend of
the Devil"; I'm sure all of you
probably have your own favorites.
Last fall they wowed a Maryland
Audience with "Ripple," and who
knows, they've got to play "Dark
Star" again someday, but regardless
of the set list (clich6 alert!), there
really is nothing like a Grateful Dead
THE GRATEFUL DEAD appear at
Crisler Arena tonight and tomorrow.
Tickets are $20.25.
---Sunday, April 16
Auditions for Submarines and Weltschmerz, two original one-act plays,
will be held in Room 2518 Frieze Bldg. from 4-8 p.m. Roles available for
three women and five men; age ranges from 20-30 years. No prepared mate-
rial necessary for audition.
Persons interested in tech, set and light design and/or crew should drop by
during auditions or contact Dan Plice through his mail box, 2540 Frieze.
Needed: Prop master, an L.B.O., and four crew people to help put to-
gether (and run) the $5 Revue in the Arena. A deal can be made where those
workers won't have to work every performance. Performance dates are April
6, 7, 8, and 13, 14, 15. Call Michelle at 995-0935.
Auditions and opportunities runs every Wednesday in the Michigan
Daily's Arts section. If you have information regarding any auditions or
theater-related events, contact Cherie Curry at 763-0379.
Read Jim Poniewozik Every
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