Jazz Heretics – The Perversion of Jazz

I’ll make this quick (hopefully . . . I’m going off the dome . . .).

Two weekends back, I took my son to what was supposed to be a jazz concert.

This show was headlined by Robert Glasper, and was opened by an artist I wasn’t familiar with, “BJ the Chicago Kid”. It also featured Bilal, Lalah Hathaway, NXWorries, and Anderson Paak. I’ll start off by saying I was severely disappointed, if not downright angered. What I witnessed, and HEARD, was a perversion of jazz artistry.

To give background, my son the young Mr. Queen, has an expanse of musical tastes, some of which he acquired from me. He is a fan of J. Cole, and I introduced him to Nas, but he is not a fan of Hip Hop as a whole. Young Q is not comfortable with the profaneness of the art form, though he does appreciate the creativity.  He seeks a balance between his tastes and fitting in as a teenager heading to college. He likes funk, funk/jazz, eighties, classical, pop.

I took him to the Lena Horne Band shell at Prospect Park on a warn beginning of summer evening, and dropped $250 for our tickets.

I wanted to introduce this hungry young mind to a sophisticated music experience outside of the world of trap/drill rap, the stallion girl, horny R&B, the Cardi girl, and the outright demonic nature of today’s music.

He is a musician himself, plays violin and piano, and we get complimented everywhere about his behavior, decentness and maturity. So, this trek from Suffolk county, Long Island, to Brooklyn, occurring just days after his high school graduation, was a Father/Son experience.

We were dressed like gentlemen, not in suits, but sport jackets with jeans, semi-casual. I put on a skimmer, because, well, that’s me. We enter, pay another $50 for poorly made burgers and ONE order of fries and two of the only non-alcohol choices on the menu, “Prickly”. Looking around, the place was filling fast.


The show started ON TIME–WOW! 5:45 in the afternoon and this plane is taking off!




BJ the Chicago Kid comes out in what appears to be whatever he could fish out of his laundry basket and commences his opening song, “Church”, and the refrain is:

“She say she wanna drink, do drugs and have sex tonight
But I got church in the mornin’, church in the mornin'”


He continued to perform for an hour, which I thought was extremely generous for an opening act.

And he cursed, and rapped, then back to slow songs about sex, and then exposing of his hidden desire to be a hip hop artist. He was not impressive vocally.  Some songs were separated with lectures about life, and given in poor English. Several times, in the same sentence. he spoke of God and said the ‘F’ word with the ‘M’ modifier in front of it.  Blasphemy!  It was offensive, it was blasphemy . . . but . . . we’re supposed to accept it as art, right?

Funny, if I offend you, even unintentionally, it’s wrong; but when you offend me, premeditated and intentionally, its ‘expression’ and ‘art’ . . . and ‘speech’.

I looked around, and some looked unimpressed, but a large number of people were loving it. Young Mr. Queen and I listened and watched stone faced. I went through a great deal of trouble to bring my son to what I thought was going to be a display of how sophisticated people have a good time without being vulgar. I wanted him to witness jazz culture, which is black culture. I longed for Robert Glasper to come out and set this right.

Finally the Chicago guy was done, and after thirty minutes of stage crew setup, Robert Glasper and his band came out.

Glasper must have missed laundry day, he too looked like he was there in whatever he woke up in. But he got right to work, and for the next hour and change I heard for the most part the artistry I enjoyed from “Double Booked”, “Black Radio”, Black Radio 2″, and some of the Live clips I saw on YouTube. He blended jazz and funk and the J. Dilla style of smooth Hip Hop beats and finally I was having fun.


But then he brought out the Chicago guy AGAIN.  More cursing.  


I thought this was a jazz show?

He brings out Lalah Hathaway

and she was alright, but I think she sounds better when she works with Marcus Miller. Her voice was not strong, maybe she’s been touring a lot.

BTW, These pictures are not the Lalah I saw, she too was in her laundry day outfit! WTH?


Then this Chicago guy comes back out, more cursing mixed with spiritual guidance from BJ, who knows how we should be living our lives.

Next, Bilal comes out sounding like he needed rest. And he didn’t have the decency to do his best songs from his early work.

And then it was over.

It took one hour and ten minutes (!) to set up for Anderson Paak, and after one song from him we had enough of this and took off at almost nine thirty.

I’m still not sure if this was a jazz artist featuring rap acts, or a rap concert featuring a jazz artist.

There were advertisements everywhere for Robert Glasper’s ‘residency’ at the Blue Note, a club whose name is in the history of jazz music. The advertisements boasted along with him, Mary J. Blige, Nas, Snoop Dogg (?) and a litany of rappers who have NOTHING to do with jazz. I was, and still am, heartbroken. In a time when decent culture is dying, when young people desperately need a culture that is not tied to street culture, there is a movement looking to contaminate jazz with this anti-establishment cabal. I’m shocked at this perversion of jazz–How could this be happening?

I’m angry with the extremely talented Robert Glasper.

I expected better than this. Is it because the art form isn’t making enough money, so the strategy is to bring in this element? I hold him, among others, responsible. Some of Hip Hop has a smooth jazzy feel to it, so when he collaborates with Common or Talib I get it. 

But this foul mouthed stuff is not what jazz is about.  This is the work of a heretic. And in between the musical pieces, his ‘inspirational’ audio snippets that lectures all of this is ‘Black Culture’ is unacceptable.  In the photo below left he sports a t-shirt emblazoned, “I Have Every Right To Be Here” and in small letters, “Every Black Man in America”.  The audience was a heavy NYC progressive mix of every ethnicity/race, all there to see a show that was EXCLUSIVELY BLACK MUSICIANS AND NON-DIVERSE.  Go back to the crowd picture above and look who dropped up to $146 a ticket for this show.

By the time we left there were easily five thousand people in attendance, at $110 a ticket, so my anger won’t mean much to him, or them. They made their money.  Add to that the exorbitant concession prices, and the promoters of this event were well rewarded. But I’m done with him.  By him being not just a part of this, but in the vanguard, means he cosigns it. I brought my son to what I thought jazz culture used to be: class, decency, musicians who aren’t chasing fads, respect for the listeners. I got: the hood, arrogance, and selling out listeners like me.



If this is the future of jazz, then I’m an old man that needs to get out of the way, and tell my son to forget about everything I told him about a future with sophisticated behavior to match sophisticated music.

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