Despite being rich in diversity, jazz has had its share of racial controversy.
Entertainment Cruise Productions
Our Take: Finding Context, Not Excuses
To me, there is little difference between racism and prejudice. In either case, someone is judging another person based solely upon their ethnicity or religious beliefs, thereby assigning a particular set of beliefs, actions or mannerisms to an entire group of people without differentiation. Though clearly a form of hatred, racism or prejudice is also intellectual laziness or ignorance at the highest level. Regardless, there is no room in society for this type of thinking.

Racism is back in the news. Actually, it never leaves, but sometimes it goes into remission. Remission occurs when racist folks, for whatever reason, hold their tongue. Their actions are still racist, but it comes without the fanfare of damning words. Times are bad when folks feel empowered to say the words, or at the very least, are unafraid of the consequences of expressing racist words.

That is the world in which we live right now. Just this past week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi defended the anti-Semitic words of Representative Ilhan Omar as being "a different experience in the use of words ... some of them are fraught with meaning that she didn't realize." Omar has criticized former President Barack Obama as well.
"Racism is wrong. Prejudice is wrong. It is not up for debate, suitable for nuance or excusable in any way.
To attempt to explain it away is to neglect its harm and give it breath that it does not deserve."
Jazz has had its share of racial controversy as well. From the time when the music was condemned as the "devil's music," a thinly veiled attack on black musicians worldwide to the strange situation of Gilad Atzmon, a highly regarded British saxophone player, who despite being born in Israel to a secular Jewish family, denounces Judaism, Zionism and what it means to be Jewish. Does the world of jazz contain more bigotry or religious intolerance than other genres? Definitely not.

But, given the disproportionate number of Blacks and Jews who make up the world of jazz, you have to wonder why it would occur at all. The stories of how Nat King Cole was treated, how Black musicians were forced to live when on the road ("Green Book" is a must see) and the marginalization of Black musicians as drug addicts is a stain on the history of America.

Jews fared no better. Jewish composers had difficulty gaining a foothold in any establishment element in early 20th Century America. There were more Henry Fords than people willing to accept a Jew into their world. It was natural for the Jewish composers in America to latch on to jazz, the newest and most American of sounds. As Howard Reich wrote in the Chicago Tribune (2018), "Take away the music of Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne and others, and a large chunk of the jazz repertory would be no more."

The Great American Songbook would be a lot shorter without Jewish composers, but it would not be empty. Cole Porter, Jimmy Webb, Dave Brubeck, George M. Cohan and Stephen Foster were prolific composers as were several others.

But, it is difficult to imagine jazz without the brilliance of Black musicians and vocalists. If you take away Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and so many others, it is difficult to determine what remains. Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett were amazing, no doubt, but the heart and soul of the music was nurtured in Black America.


As a young boy, my family drove from St. Louis to St. Petersburg to watch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals train in Florida. The Cardinals were an interesting contrast in terms of race. Famously, they were one of the most hostile teams toward Jackie Robinson, but, in 1964, they won the World Series over the predominantly white New York Yankees, ending that segment of the Yankee dynasty. The Cardinals did so on the backs of four great black ballplayers (Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood and Bill White). If you can, read David Halberstam's account of this battle, aptly named "1964." My ability to move from jazz to baseball and back to jazz with the ease and quickness of Gene Kelly or Ben Vereen is as close to being graceful as I will ever be. Actually, I am not sure that I know anything other than jazz and baseball.

Back to the point. During that road trip to St. Petersburg in 1961, we stopped at a gas station somewhere in Alabama and I went to the back to use the restroom. There were three choices: Men, Women, and Jews and Blacks, though the language used for that last choice was more graphic, a lot more graphic. They say that Louis Armstrong wore a Star of David his entire adult life as a tribute to the Jewish family that helped him launch his career. Maybe that was why the Alabama gas station owner thought that Jews and Blacks should share a restroom. Believing that would be just as naive as Nancy Pelosi's attempt to minimize Representative Omar's comments.

Racism is wrong. Prejudice is wrong. It is not up for debate, suitable for nuance or excusable in any way. To attempt to explain it away is to neglect its harm and give it breath that it does not deserve. I do not care what side of the battle you are on or think that you are on. Stop it! Now!


Our Take is written by Michael Lazaroff, Executive Director – Jazz of Entertainment Cruise Productions. Feel free to express your views or pose questions to him at michael@ecpcruises.com.
 
Blue Note at Sea headliners!
BLUE NOTE AT SEA '20 OFFICIAL LINEUP:
TUESDAY, MARCH 19

For months now, you have known that Blue Note at Sea '20 will feature some of the most iconic and popular performers in the world of jazz. There is simply nowhere else in the world where you can see all of these superstars in one place in the intimate setting of a cruise:

Marcus Miller   Robert Glasper   Don Was
(Co-Hosts)

Gregory Porter   Melody Gardot
Christian McBride   David Sanborn

Kamasi Washington

(Special In Port Guest)
 
Kamasi Washington's band is so large that we needed to make them a special in port guest similar to how Wynton Marsalis and The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performed this year. All the other superstars are sailing with us for the entire week.
 
The rest of the exciting lineup is now complete and we will launch that phase of the program on Tuesday, March 19, with an announcement of the full lineup. Be on the lookout for that email and the additional information that will be included about the cruise.
 
We are very excited!
 
Keeping Up With Alonzo
Want to see Alonzo?
 
Can't get enough of Alonzo Bodden on the cruises? Neither can we, which is why we have decided to track him down on a weekly basis and share his whereabouts with you.

He loves when the cruisers come to his show, so if he is near you, take in the show and let him know you are in the audience.

NEXT SHOW: March 21 – 23, 2019
CITY: Atlanta
LOCATION: Punchline
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Jazz at Lincoln Center Celebrates Miles
The legacy of Miles Davis will be celebrated this month at Jazz at Lincoln Center with two very different presentations. We encourage our friends in the New York area to check both out, but those of us who won't be in NYC can enjoy them as well.

On Saturday, March 23, Jazz Cruise regular and former Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra member Sean Jones will lead "Who Is Miles Davis?" — a concert in JALC's Jazz for Young People series. There will be two shows — at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

A week later, our very own Marcus Miller will present "Electric Miles" – an exploration of the trumpeter’s electric years (1969-1991) – in two very special concerts on March 29 and 30 at the Rose Theater. Few people know more about this subject than Marcus, who performed and recorded with Miles during the last decade of his life. The concerts are certain to include material from the album Tutu, perhaps their greatest collaboration.

Performing with Marcus is his working band, familiar to Blue Note at Sea and The Smooth Jazz Cruise guests: Brett Williams (keyboards), Alex Han (saxophone), Marquis Hill (trumpet), and Alex Bailey (drums).

Click here for tickets or check out Jazz at Lincoln Center's web streaming options by clicking here.
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