No Room for Squares by Hank Mobley is a great song. I can’t think of anywhere worthwhile where “squares” add any value. Squares don’t uplift, they destroy. Squares don’t liberate, they censor. Squares don’t empathize, they judge. The sole purpose of the square is to curtail everything they don’t like, and what they don’t like forms quite the long list.
I usually don’t post about politics, but I have to in this instance. You see, every once in a while, I encounter the walking contradiction that is the staunch republican/conservative jazz fan. I met a “birther” at a music festival in Harlem of all places, complete with a “No Bama” t-shirt. This is America, and everyone is certainly entitled to their beliefs, but facts are facts, and they are undeniable. Although facts don’t seem to matter for the birther crowd, as they continue to promulgate the lie that our President is not an American.
The fact remains that right wing politics have been a thorn in the side of jazz music (the arts in general) for time immemorial, and the music has been fighting the right in one way or another from the start. Jazz was protest music, and the musicians certainly weren’t protesting hippies. Conservatives are no friends to jazz and the art world. The obstacles put in place of the growth and prosperity of this music like cutting school funding and music education programs (particularly in the inner city) are always at the behest of conservative leadership. The complete disregard for the institutions and models that gave us the legends of yesterday have all been decimated.
Which brings it back full circle to people like the man at the festival, and others like him I have encountered online and in real life. They indeed might love the music, but it perplexes me why they can’t recognize that their attitudes & mindset don’t sustain the art they claim to love. In fact, it destroys it. You can’t tell me you love Bitches Brew, then champion trickle down economics & Ronald Reagan. Do you think Ronald Reagan supported art like Bitches Brew? What did his policies do to foster the next generation of jazz musicians? What effect did it have on jazz education, particularly in the inner city? Why don’t conservatives ever ask these questions? Do they care? If they don’t care, then why don’t they? If they don’t care, then how much do they actually love this music? Do they see the correlation with the decimation of music education and the access inner city school children have to instruments with the waning interest by young people in the music? You can’t complain about the dwindled interest in something if you support the elected officials who systematically remove the avenues of learning available to young people. It goes hand in hand.
For the past few years, the death of jazz has been a hot topic for writers. Everyone loves to proclaim the death of the music, sometimes with what seems like glee. They will parrot the false notion that once jazz music stopped being “danceable” and became bebop it somehow died. Of course there is little nuance to that assertion, and facts tend to make that point invalid since the best selling jazz records came after bebop and not before, but who has time for facts in a debate? Certainly not conservatives. When in doubt, blame the musicians for destroying their art, and not the political and social constructs that routinely destroy the avenues that foster growth for the arts. Critics and writers rarely go in depth as to what in fact “killed” this art form. It certainly wasn’t Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing bebop.
Anytime I encounter these folks, Hank Mobley’s No Room For Squares always comes to mind. So please, if you are a self-identified “jazz conservative”, spare me the lectures on Reaganomics, liberalism, socialism and every other ‘ism’ you probably don’t understand. I am the product of the big city. I know first hand what conservative policies do to people like me. I can’t think of anything squarer than someone who claims to love jazz, but fails to see what side of the political aisle has been hell bent on destroying it. It’s definitely not the left. Whether you agree with that is irrelevant. It’s the truth.