On Jazz Hype and Antihype

Below is the first two paragraphs from Tom Gsteiger’s comments about jazz in Switzerland. 

I think he’s right on…  <http://www.hathut.com/home.html>


Bloom Time for Jazz from Switzerland
by Tom Gsteiger

Prelude: Hype/Antihype

Switzerland is a jazz paradise! Forgive my blatant words, but as I’m writing these lines on August 1, the Swiss national holiday, I expect a bit of patriotic exuberance is in order. Moreover, the tone of jazz reports has become rougher, too. If you want to be heard, you’d be well advised to write your messages with a sharp pen and roar as loud as possible. “Pimping” half-baked theses into dogmatic principles and conjuring up a culture clash between the US and Europe, music critics like Stanley Crouch or Stuart Nicholson have poisoned the climate and stand in the way of a more sophisticated view of things. Alas, their terrible simplifications go down well and encourage copycats. This is why we cheerfully push the repeat button: Switzerland is a jazz paradise!

Of course, Switzerland is far from being a jazz paradise. Just as New York is no longer the epicentre of the jazz world … and Oslo is not the new capital of jazz … and Italy does not have the best jazz scene in Europe … and neither E.S.T. nor The Bad Plus have revolutionised piano trio jazz … Apodictic exaggeration keeps the hype machinery running and in doing so distracts people from the sheer wild complexity of artistic creation (as unfortunately do polls, which are widespread in jazz). People want the best and end up consuming what somehow or other appeals to the majority – instead of letting themselves be guided by their own curiosity, they are satisfied with the lowest common denominator (e.g. Robbie Williams or Fischli & Weiss or Esbjörn Svensson). What does the Swiss writer Urs Widmer think about it? In literature, unlike professional sports, it’s not about being the best, it’s about having as many writers as possible who are good in every possible way. It’s exactly what we find in Switzerland today. Many authors are good in their own way. This statement can also be applied directly to jazz in Switzerland.

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