The Lure of Collecting Jazz Albums


Classics of jazz music emerge mostly by the consensus of popular opinion. When many people regard a record, a classic, it becomes one. A percieved classic album is more marketable than a nonclassic. Records like movies and books become iconic when they meet with instant popular demand and unanimous acclaim. Such represents or answers essential cultural needs hitherto unexpressed. The Girl From Ipanema swept dancefloors just before the “sex revolution” at a time when Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Tropic of Cancer were being unbanned. The Creator Has A Master Plan captured the trend of young people transiting from psychedelic trips to spiritual ones. Imagine was later released and India became a mecca for seekers. Fables of Faubus was a Civil Rights call-to-action anthem of wokeness (cf. George Floyd incidences). However, tastes and preferences change. Today’s fashion may become tomorrow’s garbage. Such a reality renders jazz pieces either deserving of their classic status or ridiculously overrated. One man’s jazz classic can be another man’s earache.

Very personal jazz classics are embraced by the individual fan. They are borne of felt experience and inner or cultural affinities for artistic expression. Why would a Nigerian have a life-long adulation for jazz, or a Japanese for Bossa Nova, or a Greek for calypso? Universality? Classic jazz records are not timeless gems because Nat Hentoff, Stanley Crouch, or Orrin Keepnews said so. Nor are they down to the Grammy Awards they earned nor runaway sales they achieved on their releases. If jazz is an embodiment of freedom, chew what you like and spit out the rest. Anyone forced to listen to music they dislike has been tortured.
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What Is Academic Jazz, Does It matter?

“Academic jazz” is a phrase that startles me. What does it mean? Today jazz music, jazz dance and jazz poetry are mainstream academic subjects. Libraries of books on jazz theory, performance, improvisation, history, analyses, events, styles, and personalities abound. Many believe jazz, particularly in its bebop and Avant-Garde forms, are intellectual, making it suitable for academic inquiry. If public intellectual giants such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Cornel West, Jack Kerouac, Amiri Baraka, have been steeped in jazz and its expression, it has to be intellectual. Nevertheless, jazz music was not created in university departments or conservatories of music. It came out of Africa, a continent perceived as backward. Most of the earliest practitioners of jazz in the USA could not read nor write English or music. They learnt and played their musical crafts by ear. That said, we may be confronted with the question, does academic jazz or the jazz of academics’ matter?  

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A Song for Reassurance: Okpan Arhibo Verses

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Obor ri guono ughwume sonobrughwe rovwo na’a

Obor ri guono ughwume sonobrughwe rovwo na’a 

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Abortu ri guono ughwu r’Okpan Oghene rovwo na’a

Itu ri guono ughwume Oghene rovwo na’a 

Translation:

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