In a recent interview Richard Scheinin asked Bill Cosby the
following (even though I’m not on a campaign to get rid of the word “JAZZ”):
Richard Scheinin: Trumpeter Nicholas Payton has a campaign to get rid of the word “jazz,” and replace it with “Black American Music, or BAM.” What do you think of that?
Cosby: I think that’s a wonderful idea. Since the Caucasian publications of European classical music refuse to identify that they’re talking about Caucasian people in Europe — they call it “classical,” in the sense of the world. So it’s like Major League Baseball: “And the Yankees are the World Champions!” (They) didn’t play Japan. They didn’t play Cuba. They didn’t play Puerto Rico.
OK, so this is a wonderful idea that Nicholas Payton has — and Max Roach said it, too. And Art Blakey said it, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk said it. I just wish they would all stay with it so that, when I’m listening to WBGO, they will say, “That’s Black American music, as interpreted by” so and so.
It is correct. Because — and this is not my mind speaking, but what I heard — this guy was asking John Coltrane, “Well, do you like classical music?” And John said, “Well, what type of classical music?” And, see, the person asking the question wasn’t ready. And John, who was a wonderful person, didn’t put him down. He said, “Well, I don’t know what you mean. Because there’s European classical music, and then there’s Japanese classical music, and then there’s Indian classical music.”
I think that that is correct. And when you think about it, probably the only hiccup is the word “black” to a lot of people, because they get scared of it. They become frightened, or they become jealous, and they don’t know why. But I think that, in music, they would have no problem saying, “This is Black American music.” In the United States, they would have a problem with it.