Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In Simple Reply


If I get another threat because of this post, your email will be sent to the police. Free speech is the essence of our country.***

This is in reply to a blog on Darcy James Argue's Secret Society Site:

...a little about me.
I’m a chick, under the age of 33, sleeveless shirts just aren’t my thing and I write about jazz in a very serious way. My last name does not end in Blumenthal, Yanow, or Ratliff.

I am a jazz writer, despite the opinion of others who share this title.
I have broken through this "glass ceiling," in a very big way.

My first book, the New Face of Jazz (www.newfaceofjazz.com) is due out in the summer of 2010. And I DID NOT get this by blowing an editor or my looks. I got here through doing honest hard work and I've done it in a little over a year. (over 400 interviews with musicians around the country, traveling over 4 of these months, compiling a manuscript of over 120K words and an appendix that makes jazz accessible to the layman in over a dozen cities around the U.S.) I’ve been working on writing for quite a while and this doesn’t mean I've only been a "fan or critic" of jazz for a year either. Hardly.

I stepped on the scene as a player in college. I was a jazz studies major at the University of North Florida I played trumpet, lead trumpet to be exact. Don't play much anymore, but that's fine with me. I love to write. Google my name and you’ll see. I grew up with jazz all around me. It's a part of my DNA. I'm also white. I am not a ball busting bitch nor do I dress butch.

Now, I'm not accusing you guys of saying this at all. BUT. I've been through the ringer with the boys club, and I have the feeling it's only getting started, seeing as my pub. date isn't even until next summer. (We're working on cover art now and edits)

So where do I begin?

Let's start with sarcasm, move to biting humor, you know, the kind that leads to bloodletting and end on a note we can probably all agree on.

The review...you can read my reply to his words, if you even want to call them that, are sitting online beneath him as comments. Was he drunk? Maybe he was being a self-righteous bastard who deserves to live in the bowels of writing hell. I’ve sent out an email to every woman in jazz I know and even those in the pop, hip-hop world and more that will hopefully strike against this asshole. Including Maria herself. She is someone I consider a gift to artists everywhere. I’ve spoken with her a few times and not once would I consider her anything less. Diversity? Yeah, whatever.

For the record, I've written better reviews (and I’m not one to go willy-nilly on bragging, but I think anyone with a writing skill level over the age of six or seven could qualify to say this too) and articles for certain jazz establishments and been told to rewrite or no thanks. Again and again and again. Then I’ve been ignored repeatedly when emailing the said person I was supposed to email and finally got a disgruntled, harried response basically saying nothing but we'll deal with you later. I've asked/queried, even with the recommend of a well known jazz writer for other established publications/circles etc and been blatantly ignored, dismissed, or told to direct my concerns regarding subscriptions elsewhere.

So where does that leave the “female jazz critic?” Bare armed and alone with her stiff movements.

My own take on Maria’s music, since a couple of you have addressed this, is this: She lends a deeply personal and spiritual level to even the most simple melodies thus making them relatable to almost anyone. Each musicians she pens reaches with an individual touch, turn or brush of the beat. She’s the one person that changed my mind about what jazz could be. She is also the person who taught me that I had a long way to go as far as my listening skills. Even if a musician or listener does not agree with her music, they can not deny the skill she demonstrates in her sustained and remarkable craft.

Issue at hand: A lot of the musicians I spoke with throughout my journey writing this book, and these were not fluff interviews, spoke of racism, financial issues, and the lack of respect among our culture at large. Not a single male spoke about the lack of females in the art. Not a single male musician I met in my early days as a musician, unless my gig bag was slung across my back, thought I was a horn player. I was obviously the singer. Right?

It hasn’t changed much. When I first started out as a jazz writer it seemed like it was going to be the same. I had a few believers. Marcus Printup, Doug Wamble, and Vince Gardner, whom I know very well, believed in me. They said sure, come on out to NY, we’ll talk. I relied on known contacts to get to those I didn’t know...I slowly was able to infiltrate inner circles. But what I got was not exactly friendly fire.

I heard everything from comments such as, hmm, imagine that, a white girl writing about jazz all the way to, what do you want, a picture with me? or had I known you smelled or looked like that we could have spoken a lot longer etc...So you ask, where are all the female jazz critics?

I’m still standing.
I’m sure there are others.
There’s got to be.

It took me MONTHS to get over this. Not personally, but professionally. When a certain jaded and tainted and manufactured presence is placed upon your shoulders, that weight begins to cause indentations that cut all the way down to your fucking bones. But my bones didn’t break. I had a support system of men and women, sitting on top of the world, waiting, marching in place, thank god.

The women I interviewed weren’t catty, snarky, or any of the other attributes many paint us as having. Many of them are mothers, some grandmothers, sisters, at the very least to eachother, and in ways beyond words, already connected to one another. They have the same common and dire need as the men I interviewed. One of connection, human connection, the need for respect and to get rid of that sense of futility the material world tends to shelter and harbor artists through and out of. It’s difficult enough to succeed in this world without other issues slapping you in the face. Being a woman shouldn’t be one of them. Sure, if you can’t play, regardless of your sex, hit the shed and work on your craft. Don’t sleep with the manager/director/CEO whatnot. Only thing that buys you is an STD and a plate of fertilized and over-easy eggs before the door hits your ass, if you’re lucky. It most certainly does not earn you a career and/or the respect of your peers.

But every woman also spoke of being assumed the less talented one in the group, the least likely one to get called for gigs, unless it involved little to no clothing, last to get called to solo, the inherit lack of mentorship and encouragement past a certain age of those that are considered masters and the disconnect that is going on with the community of artists at large.

Why are women not nurtured and taken under the wings of some of the greats as the younger men are in jazz or in writing or even in the business world? Would everyone really assume we’re sleeping with them or out to bust balls or whatever term? Would it be taboo or would the men’s wives be so insecure they couldn’t handle that closeness as artists? Who knows what the answer really is, but the way I see it, its the mindset that’s been beaten into us through the media, the mass-marketed self-help books, diet worlds and more as children, teenagers and adults that’s hurting us.

Women’s lib did a world of good for a little while, Martin Luther King did a world of good for a little while, Rosa Parks did a world of good for a small amount of time too. But as we’ve seen, these issues will ALWAYS creep up if we let them. Unless there are innovators that come along and say fuck you, I’m sick of waiting on you/the system/others to change like those mentioned above did, we’ll always be stuck in this position.

So you ask, and I’m not apologizing for my tirade, as it needed to be said, what is it that dissuades the females from entering the music field as a critic? Hmmm, nothing. Not a single thing. We’re out there, we’re writing our asses off and I’m just one hard working gal that happened to attract the attention of the kind editors at Random House with a high concept pitch that also happens to give a hell of a lot of myself in order to see the jazz world thrive. It’s up to the writer’s, artists etc, regardless of sex, race and age to become the most vibrant, tenacious and visible counterparts to those already succeeding in any field in order to obtain the most visible work. I don’t even think we have to work harder, we just have to figure how much shit, just like every other adult I know, we can live being full of, and then purge the rest.

Women need to appreciate themselves for their own traits and attributes and then, and only then, will others, including other women be able to move on. Will this keep me from dressing nice and smelling nice, taking pride in who I am and my womanly side and making sure nice images are up at all times in my place in the public eye, certainly not. I have a level of dignity that needs to be kept. If those that have and expect that same level of dignity to be held in honor of their own names would just follow the simple rule, even those that review others and critique others, we wouldn’t have a need for this discussion today.


Ricky Bush said...

You go girl! Blues music is my forte and not jazz, but they are kindred spirits. I think that female blues writers and players face some of the same hurdles--and some wondrous talents have leapt all of them. Hang in there. Anyway--

Travis Erwin said...

Never anger a redhead!

Rebecca said...

Keep this up, great work done on this blog.

Hirdles are everywhere for women, but you show that it can be done!

michalgarcia.com said...

Cicily, I'm really impressed by this post. I suppose it's from growing up with 3 sisters but I don't have this poor perception of women that many people unfortunately learn. I think it has something to do as well with me growing up near poor, middle-class and wealthy people. I judge people by their character, not their bank account or what's between their legs. I'm nearly ashamed to hear people have threatened you for this note. It's very blunt, and I greatly appreciate that bluntness. Tell it like it is amiga!

Mike Marcellino said...

Hi Cicily

liked my visit here, your jazz book, and what to took for you to do it, quite a story, getting the story, er, book

cool stuff!

writer, poet of Split Pea/ce