Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The State of the Jazz Press

On April 19th I first wrote about Andy Garcia’s film The Lost City, its fantastic soundtrack of Cuban music, and its honest portrayal of Castro’s brutal regime. Now in the July/August issue Jazz Times (not yet available online) finally catches up with the film with a featurette “Lost Havana” by Rebeca Mauleon. Focusing primarily on the film’s music, Mauleon writes: “It is clear from the opening scene in Andy Garcia’s film The Lost City that Cuban music is the protagonist.”

Hardly mentioned at all are the political implications of the film and its music, with just an oblique criticism that “City may be flawed in its attempts to weave fiction with politics and history.” Reportedly, The Lost City had been banned by several Latin American countries, where freedom is now in retreat. Nor were the controversial negative reviews in the NY Times and other traditional media outlets, which clearly betrayed the critics’ biases in regards to the Cuban dictator. (It is worth noting Ebert & Roeper gave it two thumbs up.)

Unfortunately, this is par for the course. The jazz press now seems to avoid controversy, where once it thrived on it. When it does mention political issues, it usually does so in a rather knee-jerk way that assumes all readers and listeners are “good” liberals. Jazz Times is actually the best of the jazz magazines currently, having published some potentially controversial articles. Overall though, there seems to be a reluctance to publish anything that isn’t either press release material or warmed over liberalism in the jazz magazines, for fear of alienating the existing audience. Projecting a unified and insular vision of the music does no service to jazz. A little controversy can be economically healthy, and multiple points of view would help the jazz press expand its audience.