Monday, 8 July 2013

Jazz - It's Strictly For Snobs

I couldn't resist an album called Strictly For Snobs leaping out at me in the charity shop, could I? No, because I look down on anyone who doesn't appreciate Jimmy Smith or Cal Tjader (both featured on this compilation) - yes, I'm a snob! Forgive me, because cultural coinage is the only kind I have, so since I can't sneer at those with inferior cars/houses/wardrobes/jobs or education I peer down my nose at fans of Olly Murs (who is he anyway, and what does he do?) and Dizzee Rascal (whose oeuvre I know well, of course).

I've been called a snob several times over the years, always in relation to music - it's what philistines do, mock my superior taste - ha-ha. Why? Because the notion of cultural snobbery was born out of inadequacy as a defence/attack mechanism, of course. If some numbskull hasn't heard of, or worse still dislikes, say, Ornette Coleman, my admiration for him in opposition to the swill they listen to is called 'snobbery'. But you and I know it's called Taste, Good Taste. Picasso once said: 'Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing. Taste is the enemy of creativity', which is ironic when appreciation of his work is a mark of Good Taste and the butt of many joke by idiots who laughs at that woman with the wonky eyes (not art!). He may be right in relation to creativity, though.

Funnily enough, the sleeve notes on Strictly For Snobs 2 are all about Jazz being accepted as 'pop record fare', thus contradicting the basic premise inherent in the title, eh? Perhaps MGM played the double bluff card, daring non-Jazz fans to find their inner snob and buy this album. A good joke. Then again, there's nothing here to frighten the horses, especially with Kai Winding's Easy Jazz (?) moods and Johnny Hodges' three tracks. But for proper penthouse playboys with taste, as mentioned, there's Cal Tjader, and Jimmy Smith (What I'd Say and Hobo Flats - I'm pretending his rendition of Jingle Bells doesn't exist). Best of all for me there's Little Tracy by Wynton Kelly, which I'd never heard before (or more likely heard and forgotten).

The real snob today is going to sneer at most of this Pop Jazz and, well, a lot of it is rubbish (Johnny Hodges? It can't be the Ellingtonian legend, surely? Not this!). But there's no denying that Jazz of a kind did break through in the 60s, though whether Jazz lite ever lead the listener to heavy is debatable. I had that discussion years ago with Gilles Peterson, who firmly believed that it could and frequently did (well, he needed some excuse for playing yet another frothy bongo-lead tune when we plagued him all night to play Coltrane, being the snobs that we were - and being wrong, looking back).

Looking at the sleeve I'm reminded of this classic dance scene from Bob Fosse's wonderful Sweet Charity, the first sequence of which is entitled, appropriately, The Aloof...


  1. I love the sleeve.

    But there is something about being a *self-proclaimed* snob which reduces the actual snobbery by several degrees :-)

    1. By god I think you're right, C. But only in the eyes of perceptive people like yourself.


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