Thursday, July 27, 2006


Jazz is the music of democracy. Many times has the analogy been made between the two. On the bandstand, every sideman gets a chance to solo, but he does so within the agreed to confines of the tune (usually). It is free expression made possible by the rule of law. It is the music of America.

Perhaps for that reason, the magazine reader polls have arguably had more importance than industry awards like the Grammys. Now Jazz Improv magazine is launching their own reader poll, following the tradition of Downbeat, Jazz Times and the late Metronome magazines. And why not? After all, record labels often buy advertising to congratulate their artists on high poll showings, and who wouldn’t want a piece of that ad revenue?

I’ve already launched a campaign for Paquito D’Rivera in the Downbeat poll in the clarinet and musician categories, so I would apply it to JI as well. Reviewing his autobiography only increases my enthusiasm for D’Rivera and his music. He writes beautifully about Cuba, the home he was forced to leave because of Castro’s brutal dictatorship. Now voting is on for Jazz Improv’s inaugural poll. To vote, go here for a download of their latest NY Jazz Guide & Directory, and print out page 39.

In addition to D’Rivera, I would nominate Lionel Hampton for Lifetime Achievement award (although Armstrong & Ellington will be deservedly hard to beat). Hampton is a pioneer on their level, who single-handedly introduced the vibes, not just to jazz, but essentially to popular music in general. Perhaps even more importantly, he was a part of Benny Goodman’s famous quartet, the first racially integrated combo to perform publicly, eighteen years before the landmark integration case Brown v. Board of Ed.

Lionel Hampton knew something about turning out the vote. He helped manage Richard Nixon house reelection campaign in 1946. He wrote campaign songs for Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller’s gubernatorial campaigns. He was elected by Downbeat readers into their Hall of Fame in 1987.

Exercise the right denied to D’Rivera’s countrymen, and vote for him and Hampton.