Blue Notes, In Black and White

Question: Is there a broader sociological purpose to your work? 

\r\n

Gary Giddins: The only sociological purpose I can remember that I had to deal with and sort of get past was race. I grew up with this idea that—I mean it was a fact, it wasn't just an idea, that white musicians were given all kinds of help that were denied black musicians. This is an African-American music. Most of the great figures have been black, and yet in the '30's, it was the white bands that got all the great hotel gigs and all the great radio hookups. Even in the '50's and '60's, when I was coming up, the white bands frequently got the most attention. I remember everybody saying that Stan Goetz was punished for years because of something that a critic wrote about him in “Life Magazine,” Albert Goldman said he was the greatest saxophone player in the world. This was a time when Colin Hawkins was alive and Sonny Rollins. And it was so offensive, really it would have been offensive to say that about anybody because it was ridiculous, but it seemed it was always the white guy.

\r\n

And so a lot of people started to put down Stan Goetz. And I remember having lunch one day and I was writing a line for a wonderful saxophone player, a black musician and we were having lunch, and he made some kind of disparaging remark about Stan Goetz. And I had done this myself. And I said, "But, you know, isn't Stan a great player?" And he looked at me and he said, "Of course, he's a great player." So, you have to get by that. Goetz is one of the supreme figures in my judgment, but there was so much of that and I really had to deal with that.

\r\n

In the '70's I used to talk about this with other critics, white and black, that we'd say, like if you're standing on 20th Street, and a new white band was coming to town on 15th, and a new black band was coming in to town on 25th, it's five blocks that way or this way, we'd all go to see the black band. It's just the assumption from history is that something more is going to be happening there.

\r\n

So, I think at some point, you just finally have to really try to become color blind and say this guy is saying something and this guy isn't, and it isn't a question of race and it isn't a question of gender. That was a big issue that we started to deal with because, while most of my favorite singers have always been women, there haven't been a lot of really notable women instrumentalists. Marylou Williams, the great genius, she's always the token female in every discussion of instrumentalists and orchestraters and composers. But there have been so many really gifted women players in the last several years. So, that's been something that you have to deal with.

\r\n

But on the other hand you don't want to say, well she's really good just because she's a woman, or because she's cute, there was a lot of that too. I remember there was a notorious piece in an essay in which this guy was going on and on about this woman musician and he just described her legs once too many times to make it a credible piece.

Recorded on November 13, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen

Jazz is an African-American music, yet its major white figures initially received the top gigs, the big money—and the scorn of black musicians. Untangling the genre’s racial politics is part of Gary Giddins’ job.

Thousands of Nazis held big rallies in America less than 100 years ago

Nazi supporters held huge rallies and summer camps for kids throughout the United States in the 1930s.

Credit: Bettman / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the 1930s, thousands of Americans sympathized with the Nazis, holding huge rallies.
  • The rallies were organized by the American German Bund, which wanted to spread Nazi ideology.
  • Nazi supporters also organized summer camps for kids to teach them their values.
Keep reading Show less

Coffee and green tea may lower death risk for some adults

Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.


Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
  • This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
  • The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Keep reading Show less

Can you solve what an MIT professor once called 'the hardest logic puzzle ever'?

Logic puzzles can teach reasoning in a fun way that doesn't feel like work.

Credit: Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • Logician Raymond Smullyan devised tons of logic puzzles, but one was declared by another philosopher to be the hardest of all time.
  • The problem, also known as the Three Gods Problem, is solvable, even if it doesn't seem to be.
  • It depends on using complex questions to assure that any answer given is useful.
Keep reading Show less

Why San Francisco felt like the set of a sci-fi flick

But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.

Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP / Getty Images
Surprising Science

On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.

Keep reading Show less
Quantcast