Let me make one thing clear.
I am not dissing an art form. I am dissing the name, Jazz.
Just like being called Nigger affected how Black people felt about themselves at one time, I believe the term “JAZZ” affects the style of playing.
I am not a Nigger and I am not a Jazz musician.
What do Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Gary Bartz and myself share in common? A disdain for Jazz. I am reintroducing a talk to the table of a conversation that my ancestors wanted to have a long time ago. It is on their shoulders that I stand.
“Jazz” is an oppressive colonialist slave term and I want no parts of it. If Jazz wasn’t a slave, why did Ornette try to free it? Jazz is not music, it is an idea that hasn’t served any of us well. It saddens me most that some of my friends can’t see that. Some of y’all who know me and I’ve even employed, stood on the bandstand with, know how important tradition is to me. My work speaks to that.
This Ain’t No Rant
For all those who say I’m on a crazed, cranky, angry, dark rant: There is nothing crazed, cranky, angry or dark about what I said, but a lot of this hate energy I’ve received online truly is. Someone has even gone as far as to deem me the Charlie Sheen of Jazz?
You know what the most offensive part of that statement is to me?
The “JAZZ” part.
I’m trying to save this music and folks are straight lambasting me. The saving grace is, for the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly favorable and it’s here where I choose to focus my gaze. I’m sacrificing myself for the greater good of Black American Music and some of you are calling me names, and I’m the angry one?
Most of these folks don’t even know me, but yet they have a strong dislike for Nicholas Payton. I am a human being, not some internet bot. When you hold an intense dislike for someone you don’t know, it means that somewhere down deep inside, you have an intense dislike for yourself.
Please take at look at yourselves. What are you doing to save this music? Are you out there slaying dragons and trying to break the status-quo, or are you just functioning under the guise of what you have been fed for many years and are told is the way things have to be?
You can dislike me or what I say all you want, but it doesn’t stop what I said from being true.
It only disturbs you this deeply because it dismantles everything you’ve built your life upon.
As I stated in the piece, “JAZZ” is resistant to change.
It wants to hold on to the old way of doing things, even if they’ve proven to not work.
What are you so afraid of? That you actually might have to think for yourself? That you will be responsible for the information that has been passed down from generation to generation though the lineage? That you have to live up to the great legacy this music demands?
I challenge my dissenters to really be an individual and stand alone in the face of everyone telling you that you’re wrong, crazy and can’t do it. That’s what Duke did. That’s what Miles did. Are you willing? Are you able? Are you ready? Only a few can really do it and my piece makes that clear. It ain’t for everybody. So, go on, continue to box yourself in a label that was designed to marginalize Black musicians and cut them off from their brilliance.
When Black American Music became “JAZZ,” it separated itself from the American popular music idiom.
I’m just trying to take it back to its roots.
American popular music has been separated from its root (what you call Jazz) and, as a result, all of the branches of the tree are dying.
American music is dying and I’m trying to help save it.
Turn on the radio, if you don’t believe me.
How many Jazz records that have come out in the last 5 years that you’ve really loved?
I do more to support this music than most of you. I don’t just come online and bitch about the state about this music. I lend real and actual support to the art and its artists and here I have to see some of you tear me down and say I’m killing the music? When it is some of you who want to hold on to an oppressive idea that doesn’t serve Black American Music who are the true murderers.
The music was just fine before it was called Jazz and will be just fine without the name.
There is nothing to be afraid of except yourselves.
I am Nicholas Payton and I play Black American Music.