Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Master

Comment: Ornette's Pulitzer

When I was ten years old I received a prize for passing my school examinations. As I proudly stepped forward to accept my award, someone in the audience gave out a loud "Booo!"

I knew the identity of the culprit. It was a spotty classmate with whom I had had an altercation some days prior. For some reason he had taken a dislike to me. Strutting and cocksure in the company of his 'gang' members, the fool demanded 'satisfaction' in the form of fisticuffs after school.

I was no scrapper, but knowing him to be a cowardly moron I dutifully showed up at the school gates at 4PM, knees shaking and fists at the ready.

My adversary, however, failed to appear, and you can be sure that I was quite vocal in publishing this fact to my pals the next day. It became a cause of embarrassment for the spotty moron - and a juicy piece of school gossip - that I had called his bluff in front of his cronies.

I suppose there's no recognition without suffering, and my boyhood mini-drama came to mind while I was reading today about an altogether more elevated prize-giving.

Ornette Coleman was dissed every which way while reinventing modern jazz, but the master has finally received official recognition in the form of this year's Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2006 masterpiece Sound Grammar.

I was astonished to discover that this is the first jazz work to be bestowed with a Pulitzer.

Despite his gigantic contributions to swing music and American composition, Duke Ellington was nominated but - gasp! - turned down in 1965. His posthumous citation in 1999 was followed by Thelonius Monk's in 2006, but until now those awards have represented the Pulitzer committee's stingy acknowledgment of America's greatest art form. What of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie's harmonic reinvention of jazz through bebop? Miles Davis' modal and fusion innovations? The spiritual sway of John Coltrane? What about, ladies and gentlemen, Louis Armstrong, the genius who invented modern music?

looo....Pulitzer people?

It's sobering to realize that such titans of jazz have been thus ignored for almost a century. Not that they coveted or pursued such honors - they were far too busy expanding the boundaries of a musical form which enriched the lives of millions, striving against a background of unspeakable racial bigotry.

In any case, I am sure their spiritual heirs and admirers will be watching with benign 'satisfaction' when Mr. Coleman steps forward to accept his gong. There will be no catcalls on this occasion, only cheers of appreciation.

For my thoughts on this superb recording please read here

News item here


Biby Cletus said...

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Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Thank you Biby. Some interesting postings on your blog which provide unusual insights into Indian culture.