As detailed in the section of the Ka-ching epilogue devoted to the politically charged (in the sense only of implicitly defending the neoliberal status quo) curiosities of the jazz calendar, April 30 is International Jazz Day (IJD), a UNESCO production whose 2014 edition is, unsurprisingly, the same Hallmark card to some vague touchy-feely notion of “globalization” that’s been IJD’s standard fare since its debut in 2011.
Check the International Jazz Day site and you’ll find, in addition to the series of cluttered collages that are the new stamps the United Nations Postal Administration has issued to honor IJD (one is seen here), the ever reliable Ken Burns doing his usual jazzocratic strut: “Jazz is a spectacularly accurate model of democracy and a kind of look into our redemptive future possibilities”—gotta love that qualifying “kind of.” Bassist Marcus Miller chips in with an expanded version of the Burns policy, toeing the standard individuality-plus-teamwork line:
Jazz is a beautiful, democratic music. It encourages musicians with very strong, and many times, very different points of view to work together as a team while, at the same time, giving them the space to express their individuality. It’s a very important art form and can be used as a model for different cultures to work together.
In addition, there is this typically boilerplate sentiment from UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova:
The history of jazz tells of the power of music to bring together artists from different cultures and backgrounds, as a driver of integration and mutual respect. Through jazz, millions of people have sung and still sing today their desire for freedom, tolerance and human dignity.
But of particular interest is the 2014 interview with UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue—gotta love that Orwellian title too—Herbie Hancock (whose artistic career peak, many will agree, was way back in the ’60s when he played with Miles Davis), described as the “force behind” IJD. In response to the loaded question, “What are the values of jazz?”—as if it’s a given that music has “values”—Hancock begins, “Living in the moment, working together and, especially, respecting others. Music, and jazz in particular, is an international language that represents freedom because of its origin—growing out of slavery.” OK, forgetting all the blather that precedes it, he scores a point for mentioning slavery. He continues on with the usual “mutual cooperation” routine, which I note simply for the record:
Jazz is in the moment, and it’s non-judgmental: when you’re playing on the stage, you’re not judging what the other musician plays. What you have in mind is to be able to enhance it—whatever a musician plays, your job and your desire is to be able to help it to blossom. It’s not about “I don’t like what that person played,” because as soon as you have that judgmental attitude, it actually stops the flow of the music. There’s a sense of mutual cooperation. Those values are not only wonderful values to have for the creation of music; they are wonderful values to have for daily life.
Then, in response to a question about his latest world music record, he pops the G-word:
One of the issues of the day is globalization, which is a process of human beings adapting to a sense of this being one world with one people. We are all human beings. . . . I wanted to show the incredible potential that globalization holds for us, if we create the kind of globalized world we want to live in. We don’t want a selfish, greedy world. We want a world where people are not just thinking about ‘I’, but thinking about ‘we’. Imagine a world like that. That’s why I borrowed the name of John Lennon’s song “Imagine”.
Give him another point for touting Lennon’s atheist anthem, but his take on globalization, needless to say, is several worlds away from reality. I’m not going to go on about what’s generally known as the anti-globalization movement here—Seattle 1999, anyone?—nor is it reasonable, of course, to expect IJD to in any way stand in opposition to economic globalization. I’m simply noting jazzocracy in its official neoliberal international iteration.
This year’s IJD host city, by the way, is Osaka—a bold move, perhaps, since it’s a mere 348 miles from Fukushima, and who knows how much of Japan has been poisoned by radiation at this point? The 2014 All-Star Global Concert, streamed live from Osaka, appears to be a resolutely mainstream/smooth, Esperanza Spalding-style affair—again, not a big surprise—with Wayne Shorter being about as far-out as IJD will go. While it is understood that this is clearly not Victoriaville, still, if IJD is all about “one world with one people,” where are the avant-garde people?