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Jazz in The Curriculum

"front book cober"


Extract of the book 


Kent State University Press , Published in 1970 


Dominique-René de Lerma  , Lawrence University (Appleton WI 54912-0599 ) ddlerma@new.rr.com 


Chapter 8. Jazz in the Curriculum

Cannonball Adderley, Dorothy Ashby, and Robert H. Klotman

  • Within the past fifteen years, the name of Cannonball Adderley has been ubiquitous at concerts, and with increasing frequency, his music and voice have been heard on many university campuses. His personality is filled with wisdom and good humor, and those ideas he verbally expresses are no less important than those coming from his saxophone.

  • Dorothy Ashby, respected throughout the harp world, has demonstrated the adaptability of that instrument for jazz expressions as documented on such recordings as Cadet 5-690 (Dorothy Ashby), Cadet 5-809 (Afro-harping), Prestige 5-7638 (The Best of Dorothy Ashby), Cadet 5-825 (Dorothy's Harp), Atlantic 5-1447 (The Fantastic Harp of Dorothy Ashby), Prestige 5-7639 (Dorothy Ashby Plays for the Beautiful People), and Cadet S-841 (Rubaiyat). 

  • The moderator for this session, Robert Klotman, established his friendship with this distinguished young lady while he served as supervisor for music in the Detroit public schools, a post he held prior to joining the Indiana University music faculty.

ASHBY: My experience in jazz and in jazz education has been diverse. For five years, my husband and I had a four-hour radio show in Detroit, twice a week. We talked about the new jazz releases, about the problems of jazz, and about the performers. I also spent some time as a record reviewer for the Detroit Free Press and, like Cannonball, I have spent much of my time playing in clubs and concerts- not with his financial success, but we're working on that. When Dr. Klotman was with the Detroit school system, we toured the elementary and junior high schools to perform and to talk with the kids about the life of the professional jazzman.

I speak often of the decade of 1950-1960 as being the best for the Black jazzman. The economy of the country Was in pretty fair shape. What we missed out on in the way of post-war adjustments, we "made up for" with the Korean venture. The United States was becoming aware of jazz's role in international goodwill. The jazz festivals were born, giving jazz some of its greatest and most diverse audiences. Jazz was used in the films, like Odds Against Tomorrow, No Sun in Venice, and Miles' The Elevator to the Hangman.

That period passed, and now we're in a slump. Some articles claimed that jazz was dying in the mid-1960s, but we knew that wasn't true. Jazz has a long way to go in the academic community because some of those who teach have not experienced being with jazz people or jazz music, either from circumstance or choice, and continued to think of it as the music of disreputable people, to be performed in disreputable places.

As early as 1947, North Texas State University had a jazz program being supported by Wilfred C. Bain, who is now the music dean here at Indiana University. Before that, some of the Eastern schools had jazz courses. Many of the colleges in the country now have jazz in their curricula. The reason we are here today is to try to instigate more, to propagandize even more for our first love: jazz.

I mentioned a degree of distrust for jazz on the campus in some areas. There are those who fight it because of their own personal fears or shortcomings, perhaps anticipating the resentment they would feel if Blacks were engaged to teach (that is, those Blacks who were qualified, whether or not they have the letters behind their names). Most of us like the well-trodden paths and dislike having to discover or create new techniques, and we would have to in order to teach jazz. The old techniques won't suffice. The traditional academician would be uncomfortable discarding the safety of old labels and analysis forumlae. Instructors would be called on to distinguish styles and idioms which would be new. This requires a keen ear, one that really has heard all kinds of jazz for years. It requires a sharp mind, one that has learned jazz outside of the formal educational system. Of course, we learned the basics of music techniques at school, but we did not study the art of improvisation. Jazz, being the product of the moment, must have spontaneous creation. This is something we learned in those places where people were doing that kind of thing, not in college. So the teacher would have to differentiate among two hip beat, Latin, Afro-Cuban, gospel type, a slick rock beat and a funky rock beat, etc. These terminologies were created by jazzmen to describe their own particular colorings and shadings, and they are often terribly subtle. The answer might rest in the intensity of the beat, the complexity of the beat, or in that minute metronomical difference which could distinguish heavy funk from light rock funk. Those who have had experience in playing and writing jazz, who knew the recordings and the players, would be in a position to develop definitions for communication in teaching.

Many jazzmen who excel as players, writers and arrangers could very capably teach others certain musical principles: How to create endlessly varying melodies and rhythms in a particular idiom, using a given set of chords; how to fashion continuous harmonic variations for a given melodic line in one or a multitude of forms; and how to design combinations of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic variations for this spontaneous improvisational form we call jazz. This is evidently a comtemporary counterpart of that instruction to which Baroque organists were exposed for their treatment of the chorale preludes, and relationships to the passacaglia and chaconne are not at all remote.

One summer, my husband and I taught some young people without any prior musical training. In just a few weeks, they could recognize the colors between major and minor chords, they knew what augmented chords sounded like, and they could play basic triads and had begun to learn improvisation.

How jazz can be taught in concrete terms and not in poetic terms depends, of course, on the skills of the instructor and the grade level of the teaching. A particular set of methods will work for the young student new to performance. The form and analysis of jazz could be taught on the college level with applicable transfers of information from harmony and theory, with in depth stylistic studies of particular performers. Because of the manner in which the jazzman acquires his skills, he is probably the best qualified person to teach this essentially aural tradition.

Being able to teach jazz effectively also requires of the teacher an awareness of the jargon and, indeed, an awareness of the total life style of the jazzmen. The reason for some of our prowess in improvisation, for example, might stem from the fact that we've always had to improvise. We learned how to make do with the food left over from the plantation house-to make chitterlings, maws, and brains. When the season demanded it, we put cardboard in our shoes. We wore long hair before the style was called Afro, because we couldn't afford hair cuts, and then that became the style of the jazz musician. In Black Music in Our Culture, you've read how Wes Montgomery improvised his own instruction and invented his own techniques. I guess, to an extent, I had to do the same thing-for want of money, and because I didn't have a harp until I was out of college. I began harp in high school. The school had only five harps, but there were thirty students. Scheduling problems forced me to design a fast learning plan so I could get as much accomplished as possible during the school year. Naturally, I developed some unorthodox techniques. Wes Montgomery developed skills other guitarists would have thought impossible, and he developed them out of his own necessity, lacking a teacher or a guide.

We also need to teach areas in jazz that are neglected too much: to tell those interested in jazz as a profession about the snares of booking agents and managers, about the creation of publishing outlets so you get the percentages and don't get exploited, about television residuals, and about record distribution. A jazz curriculum should cover things like this also, things essential for our lives in the business itself.

One final word on terminology: Don't get caught up in the desire to have labels. The person who wants to learn jazz, wants to know how it is done and not what you call it. If you've heard that wonderful old Black jazzman, Eubie Blake, you don't need to know his piano style is called "stride." You need to know how he swings his left hand, following tenths or octaves with chords to accompany what he's doing melodically with his right hand.

What is important is that the jazz student understand the amount of time a performer has to create and execute a musicaly logical idea, one which is aurally pleasing and rhythmically "on time," one which is suitable for the harmonic color and the expressive style of the piece. And a really good jazzman can consistently create valid ideas (and even different ones with each new performance of the same work) which will have still more than these qualities.


ADDERLEY: I wish I could say who I am. I've been trying to find out for some time. I imagine most of us have. We are victimized by things like identity, which means we have a niche, a category, something to do, a place, and an expected behavior follow-through situation. Actually, that's one of my big problems. It's very difficult for me to accept what has been done to this music. We have allowed it become categorized and placed in niches, numbered, detailed, and put into little things. We've come up with a departmentalized Black-oriented music. I imagine that the only reason there should be any emphasis on Black music is because there has been a concerted effort to be sure there hasn't been any information regarding the music that is of, from, by, and-largely-oriented to Black people. Consequently, some of us have taken an interest in trying to cancel those lines of demarcation that say this is jazz, this is bop, this is funky jazz, this is modern jazz, this is avant garde, this is gospel, this is spiritual, this is blues-well, blues may be another thing altogether-but I resent saying this is soul or rock and roll, or whatever you want to call it. From a pragmatic viewpoint, these are the realities we have to deal with in this society. Since I'm going to be a jazz chauvinist, I'll have to go along with these terms to an extent.

The things from early jazz (erroneously called Dixieland), from that music practiced by the New Orleans people, is all very beautiful. But it's very odd that Louis Armstrong became known as the first principal jazz instrumentalist, when Duke Ellington was doing his music in Washington at the same time. There has been no explanation in our research why we have said Louis' music belongs in the start of jazz history, while his contemporary is overlooked.

I am not a person who feels this music has to be developed and taught by a Black man. It must be taught by someone who knows it, loves it, and is competent. Although it is true that Blacks have a stronger emotional identification and can develop this enlargement of traditional European music which has become peculiar unto itself, I feel that anybody with the skills and love can develop it. I had a piano player for ten years who was an extraordinary example of this, a European: Joe Zawinul. He played jazz as authentically as any one. And on records, because you can't see the performer, it's difficult to identify someone ethnically or racially-even those as ego prone as I am. I once said I could tell the race of a player from the recording, but that is no longer true.

I'm one of those people who has concentrated on Black music and thereby created those little monsters who proclaim that traditional European music is of no value to them, because they are Black, because it cannot help them make a living, and blah, blah, blah, blah! Well, I don't think we should necessarily try to create performing musicians by our playing jazz. We should create people who love it and can get some insight into what music really means.

The worse thing in the world is the half-time football show. There is so much tradition around it that there is no room for imagination: all those people make letters and figures on the field, play popular tunes and the Stars and Stripes Forever . . . that's the dullest music in the world today, and it seems as if nothing has been done about it for generations. It's the same as it was years ago in New York and Boston. How can we make music a part of living within our society with this kind of activity in the school? I'm talking about the logistics of absolute scheduling. I'm talking about the introduction of music- that is of Americans, of our people-into student life the same way we deal with geography or arithmetic. I'm talking about studying the music they hear every day, so the pupils will have some frame of reference for change and improvement without having to resort to information from an expert about what is excellent and what is not. This means that I'm not thinking so much about the academic curriculum approach, but that I am concerned with the humanistic approach. That may be an innovation for people who are professionally identified with music, either as teachers or performers. It is unfortunate if we are exclusively musicians.

We are not comprehensive enough in our schools. Everything is so cut and dried, and people no longer have any real interest in anything except academic games. Except for the college level and a few other places, there is no consideration of jazz. A few high schools have stage bands, which may or may not rehearse during school time. But I don't think people have to be musicians to be taught about this music.

How can we make this music available in the general curriculum- not as a frill or elective for those who have no real interest. There must be some way to introduce music into the general school program to people in the chorus or in folk singing or whatever, and not from a racial point of view. With that, we start off with one shoe in the gutter and the other in a bear trap. When we identify music as Black in this racist society, we automatically create a limbo with that ninety percent of our students who don't happen to be Black.

There is a source of pride for our Black students who know they have something, but then we have so many Black students who don't have any interest in jazz per se. You say Black music, and they think only of James Brown, Brother Joe May, or Aretha Franklin. You say Duke Ellington, and they smile like that was something lofty that had to do with our past. It's like telling some kids who have been reading the latest poets about Langston Hughes or Paul Laurence Dunbar. They say they can't identify with that; they can only identify with what is here and now, what is current.

KLOTMAN: All of my early training was in the Western tradition, and I'm very much of a Johnny-come-lately to this scene, and it came about because of my urban experiences. I say this, then, with an apology, but I was concerned with those seventy percent of the Detroit students who were Black, and that isn't a minority group. I thought it was ridiculous that we were completely ignoring this majority and the cultural heritage of these students. When I started teaching in the 1940s and wanted an example of theme and variation form, I used Art Tatum's Dark Eyes as well as Haydn's Emperor Quartet, and that would be an example of music integration.

HARRIS: How much Western or European music should be included in the curricula you are considering?

ADDERLEY: The curriculum should be comprehensive. There is no other way to study music. In jazz, for example, we play European instruments and we use European notation. The music itself is an Afro-American style of European music. That's why it started off with songs already in existence, played by the Black marching and funeral bands.

ASHBY: I agree, yet we must know that there are special factors at times which require a different approach. Just a few days ago, I was here in Bloomington for the International Harp Conference. A fellow harpist asked if I were a Grandjany or Salzedo disciple. I had to say I was an Ashby disciple because, after all, I had to create my own technique to get what I wanted from the instrument. My elbows aren't always high, nor are my thumbs.

ADDERLEY: I'm not in conflict with that. What I'm wondering is how you teach somebody past telling them to do their own thing. You can teach them something that's proper and functional in terms of a technique but, when it comes to the essence of music, jazz is more complicated than simple phrases.

ASHBY: As an example, we can use the symbols of figured bass with the pop musician.

ADDERLEY: We use symbols in scores to get things done. There is no reason why we could not employ a notation previously not used in music, not even by the avant gardists, if this would communicate something to the jazz musician. Communication, however, is essential for formal, written music. Real improvisation is something else. I've seen major players with great reputations who can only improvise with the people they rehearse with all the time.

KLOTMAN: Oscar Peterson, who was on a panel with me in Seattle recently, told a student he should get as much  formal training  as possible, that it would not harm him and that it would provide him with background and knowledge he might not otherwise acquire. At a Chicago meeting of the Music Educators National Conference, a group of string players performed some music by Dave Baker as a demonstration. The first violinist, evidently well schooled, was not at all inhibited by the jazz style of this suite.

TIPTON: We know there is an abundance of music teachers, seemingly in every area but jazz. At Hampton, we are interested in starting a jazz degree program, but many of the practicing jazz musicians with whom I've spoken are reluctant to leave performance to the degree a teaching schedule would require. Is there any information source which will assist in locating such a faculty?

ADDERLEY: As we travel to various campuses, we have found some Black music or jazz teachers who are profoundly incompetent, who get a job teaching because of a local contact or regional reputation. I've seen this in major state universities-even in ones with fine music departments-and jazz falls down to its lowest possible level, diminishing its relevance and importance to the students and the faculty because of this incompetent teacher. We might be a little less concerned about finding jobs for people and more concerned with the rectification of some wrongs and with the quality training of promising teachers. I know that such organizations as the Black Music Center, the Afro- American Music Opportunities Association, and the Institute of Black- American Music will work in unison toward this goal, because I wouldn't like to seen anything that seems to be at cross purposes when our aim is to spread the gospel of what this beautiful music is all about.

ASHBY: I hope we will also find ways to keep alive the music and the tradition of those good jazzmen who are no longer with us, like Billy Strayhorn, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. It is particularly important that libraries stock their collections with recordings of these men before the records are out of print, and that they acquire whatever published music is available.

ROBINSON: We must not think that music is only one language; there are many languages in music. I am concerned that the language of jazz is not always taught to young people.

ASHBY: I agree with you, and I'm sure my fellow Detroiter Beverly Williams feels the same way. We've got to be concerned with the development of young audiences, and it is not true that children hear jazz at home, on the television or radio, or from recordings.

ADDERLEY: I've done a lot of what you might call filibustering on this, particularly on the campuses. When people tell me they like jazz but they don't understand it, I ask them to tell me what music they do understand, what they understand about it, and why they think that music is easily understood. We come up with things like the Beatle's Hard Day's Night, so I play recordings of Ella Fitzgerald or Count Basie doing that, and when they do it, it's jazz. Don't worry about the sources for these things. The composer isn't important in a jazz performance, not that important. Jerome Kern and Cole Porter have written things which jazz musicians have used for development. So I take these things and show them how much they do understand about jazz. It just depends on whether or not they've decided that they understand. And I tell them I don't think it's necessary for them to understand any art, any art at all. All you have to do is come up with your own conclusions and what's there, enjoy it or not, get into it or dismiss it.

I've had the experience of being a teacher, and I understand the difficulties. One must develop teaching skills the same way he develops other skills. Even if you have a lot of information, it is not always easy to impart this to other people. I have mentioned before how I felt about degrees. I don't mean they are unimportant because we operate in a society that counts degrees. Ornette doesn't have a college degree, but Cecil Taylor and Archie Shepp do. Ironically, these two have college positions. I know Ornette very well, and I certainly respect him, but he is not a teacher. More than that, his music is not easy to read. I've commissioned pieces from him, and he writes music just the way he wants: no time signature, irregular bar lines ..even the note heads don't have stems some times. We can't play his music until he plays first, and then we have to imitate what he does. So you see, a person who is gifted is not necessarily a good person for communication in other areas. And, on degrees, Ken McIntyre turned down his doctorate because like he felt it was insulting for that faculty to offer him a degree in Black music.

ABRAMS: You know, degrees are handed out by schools which set up their own criteria. If you talk about their thing and give it back to them when they ask, you've got the degree, but they're not talking about jazz. And the present system was not set up for the needs of Black people.

ADDERLEY: I'm glad you're here Brother Abrams, I'm glad to see you again. What you are saying is very important to our topic. Let us not misunderstand where we have been leading ourselves: We have been talking about jazz in the curriculum of existing schools. The whole school system needs to be revolutionized so we won't be hung up on these old-time traditions about teaching but, if we're talking about doing it in the schools, it's got to be introduced in the schools the way that the schools operate. Once the music is in the system, and once we are in the system, we will have to manage methods whereby the beauty of. this music can be utilized aesthetically and intellectually.

MAULTSBY: How do you feel about the rejection of such musical terms as melody, phrase, and ostinato-words which have been associated with European music? I'm thinking about a White jazz musician, teaching in a university, who advocates doing away with these words.

ADDERLEY: Well, I think the man has to do what he thinks should be done. I don't agree with him, though. In order to get a wider number of people on the same consciousness level, we have to have a system that is not quite so personal. I don't know what this teacher is trying to accomplish other than teaching Black music, but if he feels he should reject these terms because they relate to music he is trying to get away from, then I have to accept it because I'm not doing his job.

QUESTION: I would be happy to hear what you might have to say about the blues.

ADDERLEY: I've always felt that the blues idiom is a feeling. Duke Ellington has said that some people like to travel and that a traveling man who has to leave his wife at home sometimes has need for another woman. If he has left his woman too long, she may find she needs the attention of another man. Duke has said that these feelings and reasons give rise to situations which lay the foundation for a blues expression. He said that sometimes the man is happy his woman found another man, because he didn't want her. Under these circumstances you can have happy blues, rather than sad blues. You know Count Basie's I Know My Baby Gonna Jump and Shout? That's the blues. But I don't know what the blues is, I just know how it feels to me. Definitions and rhetoric can't say in finite terms what the Blues is all about. People just know.

QUESTION: On the matter of education and jazz, I wonder if we should start from the top and come down. In the hierarchy of education, what do you have to say about Black studies programs?

KLOTMAN: I'd like to have that question directed to Vice-Chancellor Herman C. Hudson, who is in charge of Afro-American Affairs at Indiana University.

HUDSON: The most essential element in Black studies programs is that there must be Black control. At Indiana University we are well aware of the fact that we're in a White institution and we know that White people may work for the program, but the control of the program, the directions and ideas that permeate its development have to be in the hands of Black people.

I am very much opposed to interdepartmental arrangements, institutes, programs, or appendages of any sort which many institutions have established to meet the exigencies of the time, because these will be abolished as soon as the pressure is over. The program must be integrated into the basic structural arrangement of the university, on the departmental level. Persons working in that department should have the same rights and privileges of all faculty members, including tenure and promotions. Their academic home is within the department, and its future must not rest in the hands of outsiders who make external judgments about their capabilities.

I also agree that degrees are not necessarily a presumption of competence. The reverse is also true: One cannot presume competence because he grew up in the ghetto. We are part of an educational institution with a lot of traditions, many of which are bad and most of which are not going to change overnight. Having academic degrees is part of the university life. It is not, however, an essential criterion in our Afro-American Studies Program. We are hiring at the professorial rank (not as only an artist-in-residence, which is a very temporary thing), engaging people who might lack degrees but who happen to be extremely competent for the job.

QUESTION: On a lower level, are we using a back-door policy by having subject material segregated in courses like Black music, or Black history?

HUDSON: The people who teach American history or music history have systematically excluded mention of the Black contribution for generations. I'm not ready to turn that over to people who have perpetrated this serious omission. For a period of time it is going to be necessary for us to develop materials on our own history and then later to get this into the overall educational picture. And I don't say that only Black students should study Black music. White students have been victims of educational policies in the past also.

ADDERLEY: The ex-coach and star of the Boston Celtics, Bill Russell, is a dear friend of mine. We were talking with Joe Garagiola of the Today show, and Joe took issue with the fact that there was a new magazine called Black Sports. He said he would be insulted if a magazine came out which was called White Sports. Bill and I simultaneously agreed that magazines would not be named White Sports .They just were. And history has been White history, and music has been White music.

Within the framework of American institutions of higher learning, we have excluded Black contributions to music and have influenced the emasculation to the extent that it has carried over into predominately Black schools, making those administrators effete who for many years have looked down on the music of the street, of the farm, of the road, and called it inferior. We've created this attitude with our own children. I deplore the fact that it has been necessary to establish these so-called divergent points of view because this should have been part of the whole thing all the time. As Chancellor Hudson has said, everybody has been deprived of knowing the truth by these guardians of the White ethnic image, by the status quo "policy makers." You'll almost never have Black history taught within a general history course unless a Black administrator is in the head chair.

ASHBY: By the same token, I think Black students should also have more than just Black studies, and I'd like to see the student of baroque music study jazz.

ADDERLEY: Along the line of Black studies, I was informed by the people on one major campus that over sixty percent of the Black students at that school are not involved in any way with the Black studies program. That's tragic. I don't think Blacks should identify only with Blacks, but it would be nice to know what it's all about.


Conclusion ( Dominique-René de Lerma)

 There are two articles which extend some of the implications brought up in this discussion, which I recommend. Neither of them deals specifically with jazz or music, but they tie in beautifully with thoughts offered by Dorothy, Cannonball, and Chancellor Hudson, and they both appear in the thirteenth issue (January 1971) of Cultural Affairs on Education, a journal issued by the Associated Councils of the Arts (1564 Broadway, New York 10036). The first of these is by Joseph Featherstone: "The Arts and the Good School." Second is W. H. Ferry's "Universities: Looking Black." I appreciate having these articles brought to my attention by our good friend, Madeleine Gutman. Mr. Featherstone amplifies manners whereby art education (in cluding music) can provide students with knowledge and experience of value, and Mr. Ferry attacks problems and prejudices in Black studies in a most perceptive manner.

As for the particular points this duo raised, it is quite possible that Cannonball's "little monsters" will be shaken. Within the context of his statements, however, surely it can be understood that his interests are allied with those expressed by many at our seminars. If Dave can say that Whites don't own Beethoven, Cannonball can say that jazz belongs to those who love it. But he is also advancing the cause of a rehumanized education and of comprehensive musical studies.

Both Cannonball and Dorothy have expressed their thoughts quite clearly, but I was particularly delighted to find Dorothy had already thought of an idea which was taking shape in my mind: the relationship of jazz performance to baroque performance. At this point, I should have liked very much to include a translation of an article on exactly that point, written by Hans-Peter Schmitz, which was published in Die Stimme in 1949, and which was called to my attention by Dr. Erwin Jacobi of Zijrich. Unfortunately it is not possible to make arrangements for this in time to include it, but I hope this article can be published in translation in the near future.