|COOKING, JEANS AND SOUL - Part 2|
|3/27/2017 10:39:58 AM - (cont'd)|
I can't help but think that there is a high amount of ignorance and stereotyping not only by this blogger, but many regardless of country or race, who still think jazz and soul should be sung by black Americans, who think classical is strictly for Europeans, that rock 'n roll should be for trailer park and rebellious whites, etc. Please, are we still in such an antiquated mind set? For that matter, what business do people other than Americans, namely cowboys and farmers, have in wearing blue jeans, especially those millionaires on NY's upper East side -- do they think they're fooling us? What's up with these kimono-sleeve dresses worn by non-Japanese, or sari inspired skirts worn by non-Indians? Who does Chef David Bouley think he is, borrowing Asian traditional spices and other ingredients to fancy up his food? I'm almost laughing as I write this because these notions are not only outdated but downright stupid.
I'll use my mother as a perfect example of someone who came out of a completely alien background compared to those who may seem more naturally destined to become a jazz musician, and why what she does is completely her own thing. She's Japanese, born and grown in Manchuria, China until 13 years of age, classically trained, then fell in love with jazz music as a teen while working at a dance hall in Japan to help support the family. Her love was so deep that she paved a name for herself in Japan as being quite the jazz pianist, and got discovered by none other than the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson who helped scout her to attend Berklee, the first Japanese at the school, and record with Norman Granz. Over the years she developed her chops as a jazz pianist and composer, and it was in the '70s that she decided to infuse Japanese traditional music to create and tell her own perspective and thoughts of life. Maybe there were some who thought that was a stretch, but I know there were many who thought she created a completely unique perspective to jazz that is solely her own. Did I also mention that jazz, composing and band leading were and still is primarily male dominated? Certainly didn't stop her, and she is now considered a living national treasure in Japan, inducted with the Jazz Master Award, and other awards recognizing her amazing work over the decades.
In my case, I'm doing something a little more mixed and with lots of shades of gray. Whereas my mother fused two distinct styles of bebop jazz and traditional Japanese, I tend to take a more little-bit-of-this-and-a-little-bit-of-that approach, and while it's not done consciously, it's all a reflection of music I listened to and loved growing up as well as other styles and artists I became inspired by which resonated with me. I've already written a blog touching similarly on this subject entitled "Fusion" where I describe my various inspirations which took me on the musical path and philosophy I currently have, and it's really not the point of this blog to recount that.
I think the world has become less black and white and more about infinite shades which we as creators add to our palette, finding our own colors, harmonies and balance which best expresses our perspective and heart. I know I'm not black so I'm never going to pretend to be Stevie Wonder or Chaka Khan! I know I'm not Brazilian so I'm never going to pretend to be Flora Purim or Milton Nascimento! I know I'm not purely American so I'll never pretend to be Led Zeppelin! I'm not a Londoner, purely Japanese, African...I'm not a lot of things! What I AM though is a lover of music, a woman, a person who feels deeply, has compassion and sympathy, who loves to rock out sometimes or dig deep into hip hop, who is stimulated by jazz and great improvisation, who feels such beauty from classical and certain Brazilian chord structures, who is in awe of truths and dreams spoken by our poets, who feels the primeval pulse of chantings from African, American Indian or other tribal societies, who feels a certain recognition and interest in rhythms from across our vast but syncopated world...why must one be limited by the book cover we were assigned to at birth?
So I continue to find ingredients that I think work in harmony with others that I want to eat, hear, touch, see, wear, regardless of what preceded my time or is considered acceptable. The past is a map of where others have come from and should I want to revisit for reference, it helps and teaches me, but my future is yet unwritten and there's no right or wrong in my book when it comes to styles.
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